Publisher: Storm in a Teacup
Developer: Storm in a Teacup
Confession: Journey kind of weirded me out. Sure, in a lot of ways it was a magical, incomparable experience, but at the same time, the whole concept always left me feeling a little on edge. The whole notion of other players just being there, wandering through your game without you having any way to communicate with them…I don’t know, every time someone appeared, I’d feel a little bit more tense.
This is relevant to Nero because, for a big chunk of the game, you’re followed by a hooded, unspeaking figure. He/she/it is in no way a malevolent creature, as far as I can tell, but every time you turn around, (s)he’s waiting for you to move. You can run as fast as you can, or around corners, or do whatever you want, but no matter what, the second you turn your gaze in a different direction, you’ll see that familiar figure looming nearby in a black and gold cloak.
Basically, cross Journey with Creepy Watson, and that’s a good approximation of what’s in store for you in Nero.
That’s not all it is, though. The game also describes itself as both a first-person adventure and a visual novel, and both of these descriptors are true to varying degrees.
Take the “adventure” half of the equation. Nero does contain puzzles to solve and focuses on exploration rather than combat, so in that sense, I guess, the game has more in common with an adventure game than it does, say, a fighting or action game. At the same time, though, these puzzles are ridiculously easy. As long as you can figure out a) how to throw blue light balls at yellow spots and b) occasionally order around the aforementioned follower, you won’t have any trouble here. As for the exploration part, it only goes so far; the fact that every step of your journey is signposted by big, glowing letters means that it’s less about exploring and more about having your hand held as you make your way through a somewhat interesting world.
Nero as a visual novel is a little easier to see. While it’s not like the kind of games you’d usually associate with the genre — when I hear “visual novel”, I think of very Japanese games like Xblaze Code: Embryo or Hakuoki: Demon of the Fleeting Blossom — its primary focus is to tell you a story. Not only that, it’s all laid out in a pretty linear way — as I said, you just follow the big, glowing letters. It’s definitely a Westernized way of approaching the visual novel, but if you look at it just so, you can see how it might fit in that box.
Mainly, though, Nero brings Journey to mind. It’ s significantly less magical and significantly more creepy, but as you make your way through the story, I think it’s a comparison that’s impossible to avoid.