Nocturnal Review—It’s Really Dark in Here

NocturnalTitle

It’s been a while since Gameshastra has graced us with a Mini. Nocturnal, though, is not a new game but a port of one of their PC titles, Nocturnal: Boston Nightfall from a few years ago. It’s a hidden object game, a staple of casual gaming. Basically, you are presented with a scene and given a list of objects to find hidden within that picture. A handful of these have been ported to the Minis program, including Gameshastra’s own Route 66, which was one of the first Minis to be released.

As far as hidden object games (or HOGs) go, Nocturnal is very basic. You have a comic book panel telling the story, then a hidden object scene, then another story panel, followed by another object screen and so forth, until you finish the game. In the PC version, there was apparently a minigame thrown in the mix as well, as a way to replenish the hints, but that is missing here. Route 66 did the same thing, leaving no way to actually get more hints. Here they are automatically replenished after each level, though they don’t carry over from each one to the next.

This is not the Minis version. Not sure which version it is. Picture it zoomed in, and you have the Minis version.

This is not the Minis version. Not sure which version it is. Picture it zoomed in, and you have the Minis version.

Other aspects of the Minis conversion are similarly decent but somewhat halfhearted. For instance, you play the game from a zoomed-in view, making the game more playable, but other HOG conversions from other companies featured both a zoomed-in view and a view of the whole scene, which is handy if you are playing this on a PS3, not a PSP. The controls are workable—the D-pad scrolls the screen around, and the analog nub controls the cursor. Just tap X when you think you’ve found an object, or O when you want a hint.

The story is probably not the most original. It tells the tale of a newly turned vampire named “Claire,” who really looks like a waitress that you would find at an all-night diner. As someone who read a lot of trashy vampire novels when I was younger, I can’t really say anything too snarky about this, other than that it’s perhaps not the most original anymore. The real trouble is that nothing all that interesting happens in the story. About the most exciting thing that happens is she goes swimming. Once in a while, the dialog balloons are obscured by the buttons to explain how to move through the panels.

Either she's become a vampire, or she was out with one of the Kennedys.

Either she's become a vampire, or she was out with one of the Kennedys.

The object-finding scenes don’t seem to be all that related to the story, though. They seem a bit random—for instance, a comic panel is set in a nightclub, and then you go find objects in a museum—as do the objects you find scattered about the screen. Some games try to put objects on the screen that make sense, while others just pile them up like some sort of hardware store drug trip. This is firmly in the latter camp, though there is one common factor: all the scenes are really dark. I suppose that should be expected from a game called “Nocturnal,” but still, it’s annoying. I had to look at my PSP from an angle to see the screen better (doing that shifts the colors, in this case making it lighter).

The other notable thing is that the game is timed. You only have five minutes to find the objects on the list. This actually isn’t too bad, since you only need to find eight items, plus you have the two hints, so it’s really only six. With that said, on a few occasions I did have to replay a scene, though mostly because the screen was so dark. Most of the time, it took me two minutes or less to find all the objects, and bear in mind, I’m probably average at this sort of game.

There are thirty different levels. So at three or four minutes each, it’s probably close to two or three hours of gameplay. And because the object lists are randomized, there is replay value. It would have been nice to get to read the story in its uninterrupted entirety once you beat the game. It might make more sense that way. Not that it was confusing, but every so often this other vampire lady would show up and trade insults.

Why there isn't a Sanford & Son hidden object game is beyond me....

Why there isn't a Sanford & Son hidden object game is beyond me....

Nocturnal: Boston Nightfall is pretty much a run-of-the-mill hidden object game and, for that matter, vampire story. It’s not terrible, but it is lackluster. If they had spent more time making it more coherent, tying in the scenes in the story with the playing field locations, adding some sort of conflict or mystery to the story, it would have been a lot less mediocre.

Most of the level design is also haphazard. On a few levels, about two thirds of the way in, there actually is some clever placement of objects, so at least one person put in some effort. But too much of it is an assembly line product, simply churned out rather than lovingly crafted.

Still, if you are a HOG fan, this might be worth a look simply because it’s such a scarce genre on traditional gaming devices, and you don’t have many other options on the PSP/PSN.

5.5/10

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Comments

3 Responses to “Nocturnal Review—It’s Really Dark in Here”
  1. thumbbandit says:

    I bought this game on day one, and have to say your review is spot on.
    If you really want a good HOG to play… then get Real Crimes-Jack The Ripper instead.

  2. onmode-ky says:

    “Once in a while, the dialog balloons are obscured by the buttons to explain how to move through the panels.”

    I don’t understand this. Obscured by buttons? There are on-screen buttons in a PSP game?

    By the way, is there any sound in this kind of game?

  3. thumbbandit says:

    It’s obscured by an image displaying the buttons used to navigate.
    Yes, there is sound in the game… but it’s sparse.
    Both the sound and music in Real Crimes-Jack The Ripper are far better than what’s on offer here.

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