If charm is the currency of the indie game, Nairi: Tower of Shirin is rolling in dough. Witty dialogue, talking animals, great artwork, talking animals—what more could you want? More talking animals? Agreed! Seriously though, these animals in Nairi: Tower of Shirin are cute.
Nairi: Tower of Shirin is a Point-and-click Adventure developed by Home Bear Studio released for Nintendo Switch and Steam on November 29th.
As I spent my opening minutes of Nairi: Tower of Shirin engaged in the dialogue between a wide-eyed young girl and the gang of talking rodents she befriends, there was an ever-present feeling of charm. From the get-go, the combination of art, writing and score pulled me in. I realized that this game is, by far, the most charming game I’ve encountered in some time. As the setting changed, as the plot developed, and as even more species of furry or scaly gangsters emerged within the story, the charm kept coming.
The game follows Nairi, a girl from the wealthy district of Shirin, who is forced to make a quick escape in the night. Out on her own for the first time, she must navigate the underbelly of Shirin, make deals and friends with the cutest gangsters around, and puzzle-solve her way back home. Nairi is ever-optimistic throughout her journey, despite the dreariness of her situation, and it’s mostly because of the few friends she comes to depend on. It’s a whimsical journey through a land populated by people and talking animals alike.
It isn’t often that we get a quality, modern point-and-click adventure, and it’s probably for good reason. The current trend of gaming calls for bigger experiences, and the technology allows for the most brilliant 3D worlds, so to see this type of game with hand-painted artwork and the most basic of controls seems odd. It’s even more odd when you consider how successful Nairi: Tower of Shirin is at executing that. Initially, I was excited to play a point-and-click game, but was wary that it would work out. By the end of the experience, I was impressed and wanted more.
What’s great is that we’ll be getting more. Nairi: Tower of Shirin is only the first part of the story, and it leaves us with a lot of unanswered questions.
The writing and artwork are by far the most shining elements in the game.
I typically do not skip dialogue in games. For me, games always start with the story. There’s exceptions—some games are just addictively gamey—but I always gravitate toward the writing and story. A lot of talented people come together to make games, and just because the trees physics are so impressive doesn’t mean that the dialogue doesn’t deserve a listen, too.
That being said, there are some titles where the writing is obviously not worth experiencing, and therefore, a scene-skip is acceptable. Nairi: Tower of Shirin is not one of those titles. In fact, the writing and the artwork are the most important parts of the experience. I could easily have foregone all of the pointing and clicking elements for a simple interactive graphic novel experience, and I usually do not go for those.
It felt like every moment where we were treated to more conversation between Nairi and her friends was perfectly crafted and thoughtful. It’s sometimes deep, often funny, and always charming. Of course, a major contributor to the joy of those scenes is the close-up artwork for every character with a speaking role. If we weren’t treated to the delightful characterizations of the many furry people throughout the game, Nairi: Tower of Shirin would not be nearly as good as it is.
Get in real close and cozy with this game.
There is a closeness in Nairi: Tower of Shirin that a lot of games don’t give us. Popular titles can fall into a trap of creating something so huge and on such a massive scale that they don’t sink into our hearts the way indie titles can. There’s just no way—they’re too big and our hearts are so small! No matter how engrossing they are, they seem somewhere else.
Nairi doesn’t do that. Nairi draws you in close. It’s cozy. If ever there was a game that felt like a nice, warm bowl of soup, it’s Nairi: Tower of Shirin. Maybe this is because I’m playing it completely handheld. That means sinking into a nice chair, and even my bed, and experiencing the game comfortably, within my personal space. I can see my hands—I’m literally holding the game in them. There’s no detachment. Now, I would absolutely positively love to reach out and pet Nairi’s furrier friends in the game, but if the closest I can get is holding my warming Switch in my fingers, I’m fine with that, too.
This might be simply a praising of the Switch’s ability to bring games into your personal space, but regardless, it worked so well with Nairi: Tower of Shirin. By simply bringing the game into your cozy personal space, you’ll really get more out of it. I tried briefly one day to play it with the Switch in its dock, but it just didn’t feel the same. If you want to feel the warmth of Nairi: Tower of Shirin, definitely go handheld.
The puzzles in the game are pretty easy, until they aren’t.
While I never felt annoyed at the game in any way, and was completely under its charming spell for the duration of my playthrough, I did find most of the initial puzzle elements to be a little on the easy side. I never found myself thinking too hard about any one scenario I was placed in, and often enough, the solutions were very obvious. It kept on this way for most of the game, but suddenly, they crank the difficulty way up.
I’m specifically speaking about the very end scenario of the game, here, where the challenge difficulty because almost jarringly harder. There is a certain back and forth way that most of the puzzles in the game are solved, and they’re almost entirely item-based. Enter a room, see that something is needed to solve a puzzle, find that thing out in the world somewhere, backtrack, puzzle solved. They’re never really brain-busters.
The end scenario, however, throws most of that away. You’re in a designated area, with only so many rooms to visit, and you’re required to do some unique thinking to solve the puzzles at hand. It still involves some item-based retrieving and inserting, but you’ll have to rely on some actual clues in the environment if you’re going to complete the game. Nairi: Tower of Shirin doesn’t necessarily hold your hand early in the game or anything, but there is a pace set throughout the game, and the end disrupts that somewhat. Get ready for a huge spike in difficulty toward the climax.
That being said, these puzzles are still solvable. The last few rooms of the game may take a little more energy to complete than those that come before, but they’re not impossible.
Give Nairi: Tower of Shirin a playthrough, if only for the story and art.
Nairi: Tower of Shirin is a whimsical little gem with some superb artwork and even better writing. The puzzles may sometimes seem a little easy, and they’ll get way harder, but solving them is only a means to an end. The real experience in this game is having fun in the role of Nairi. She’s on a journey to learn more about her world, both past and present, and find her way home. There is no fast-paced, reflex-driven gameplay here, no side quests or skill trees. There is only Nairi and talking animals, and Home Bear Studio has proven that’s all you need to make a game great.