Recently I tried out a promotional demo for a new kickstart by the name of Nin. Nin calls back to the Playstation 2 era of 3D adventure platformers and looks to bring that form of gameplay to a new generation. With Resident Evil style static camera angles and cinematic platforming not unlike Prince of Persia, it looks like developer Vagabond Games is well on their way to doing just that.
I was lucky enough to get in contact with Vagabond and ask them about these inspirations. When asked about why these games specifically, they had this to say:
> “We grew up playing Prince of Persia and Resident Evil, both of which cater to a mature audience. They left quite a lasting impression on us because of their difficulty and brutal themes. Now we are trying to recreate those experiences, but it in a way where it’s more suitable for everyone to play (i.e. not just for a mature audience).”
As someone who was too young to play those types of games when they released, I find it admirable that Vagabond is trying to bring us that style of gameplay in a family friendly way.
The promotional demo took me around ten minutes to complete - it is fairly short as most of the game is still being developed - however, I can safely say that it did its job of making me want more.
It starts you off with a very simple objective: get Nin ready for the day. Though this isn’t a normal morning routine, Nin is a plush toy. Items that we use in our everyday life are massive to him. He lives in a cardboard box, he uses a cork as a stool, and the pencil he uses to write down his to-do list is twice his size. Also, it’s dark in his box, so before I can do anything I have to turn all of the lights on.
This simple task is made exciting due to the fact that everything is huge compared to our plush friend. I was forced to re-frame how I see the world and think about it from the perspective of someone small.
Armed with a jump button and my knowledge of these objects, I slowly but surely found each item required to light up the box. Each light I plugged in added a new sound layer to the catchy backtrack - a fulfilling touch that I hope to see carry on into the full version.
Lighting up the box lead to some interesting discoveries about Nin’s life as well as some ideas about future game mechanics. Like real plush dolls, Nin can get damaged and must be stitched up to prevent falling apart.
He has a workbench in order to create tools, hinting at some sort of crafting system. Though no tools were available in the demo, the Kickstarter page shows off a grappling hook made out of a jack and a spool of thread for example.
Once I explored most of the box and checked off the tasks on Nin’s to-do list, I was ready to venture outside and explore the world. It was here that the demo ended, but I was given a small glimpse at what was to come.
Like the games that inspired its ideas, the aesthetic of Nin comes from the 90’s and early 2000’s. Knock-offs of the brands from the period absolutely litter the area outside Nin’s box. A “Busterwolf Video” case is propped up against the wall in a very recognizable font style. Nin’s home is built out of “Reboot” and “Inverse” shoe boxes. A pile of “Spinechills” lies behind them, and that pagoda is most definitely made out of Lincoln Logs.
Vagabond wants players to feel like they are in the age of the games Nin is replicating, and I give them props for putting so much heart into their creation.
> “In our opinion, the 90’s were the golden age of game development. Several games from that era were such a phenomenal hit that even today are spawning sequels (e.g. Resident Evil). We are also fans of 90’s pop culture and nostalgia, so much that we wanted to create a game that paid homage to that time.”
The final version is bound to have more of these references and it seems like trying to find them all will become a game in and of itself.
The demo didn’t have much to say in regards to the story, so naturally, I was curious to see if there were plans to implement one.
When asked if the game will be story heavy or focus more on the player creating their own experience, Vagabond gave me an answer I was happy to see:
> “The main gameplay is indeed story-driven, but there will be times when players can stop and smell the roses. For example, you might encounter a walkman during exploration. You can try to get it working so that it plays a 90’s tune in the background, or continue the game in silence.”
I had already experienced a few of these optional moments in the demo. When exploring the area around the lamp, there is a photograph the player can admire, prompting a haiku to appear for us to read. In that same area, there is a bean bag chair Nin can sit in and just relax.
My overall opinions of Nin are very positive, and Vagabond seems to have a very clear vision of what they want to accomplish here. I wish them the best of luck in development, and I look forward to seeing more of Nin and his world.
Nin is coming to Windows, Mac, and Linux via Steam Greenlight, and also plans on distributing through Humble Store and GOG.com.
By Max Moeller