Welcome to the world of ht243L1jvIk#cvaTd$6c7y#i%Q^, which I’ll go ahead and just refer to as Firefly Diary from now on. But wait, since when could fireflies keep a diary? Since December 31st, 9999 apparently, because that’s when this game takes place. The antlered and amnesiac protagonist Mion wakes up on that day, a million miles underground in Rubble World, and sets out to uncover the truth of everything… Talk about waiting until the last minute!
Ever since this game was first announced, I looked forward to it with great anticipation. When I saw those first screenshots with that beautiful, haunting art style… it was love at first sight! This looked to be a very atmospheric horror game with an interesting puzzle-solving mechanic–something different from the norm, and exactly my Sort of Thing.
And that’s what I got! I pre-ordered the limited edition physical set (BTW, thank you very much for that, NISA), which included its great soundtrack and art book. And as for the game itself, I quite loved the experience The Firefly Diary presented. It’s definitely not a perfect game though, and I intend to be fair about this sort of thing whenever I post a review.
Firefly Diary is not a terribly long game, but considering its low price it felt like a fair length to me. There are also a bunch of memory items you can go back and collect via level select, for those who wish to get the full experience. There are some good challenges to be had over the course of this game, and for the most part I found them enjoyable to work through.
The gameplay is a sort of cross between Dokuro (which I reviewed yesterday) and Ghost Trick (which I will review later this month, during “ghost week”). You do not control Mion directly–instead you control two fireflies to guide her along (either by touch controls or with buttons–I suggest using buttons, as that’s easier to see and maneuver with). The “light” firefly directs Mion to where you want her to go (a la Dokuro), while the “shadow” firefly resides in the shadow realm and activates various objects to affect the environment around Mion in specific ways (a la Ghost Trick). I thought it all controlled well enough–you simply have to get used to the fact Mion is a slow walker and plan accordingly.
This is a challenging game, but its difficulty for the most part did not feel unfair to me. There is definitely an element of trial and error that is required to figure out how to get past various enemies (shadow creatures, evil plants, etc) and other obstacles (giant blade saws, flame throwers, etc). Mion will get to die many gruesome deaths! But such is life, and such is the nature of Firefly Diary. You gotta be bad, you gotta be bold, you gotta be wiser! And fortunately, the game is generous with its many save checkpoints, so you will rarely have to replay through too much following your untimely demises.
Some of the toughest parts of the game come in the form of boss battles, which take form in an interesting variety. For the most part, the game does well at setting things up for the player so that it’s possible to figure out what to do–usually by requiring the player to achieve a specific task beforehand, and then requiring an application of that knowledge in a similar situation later. There is also one boss in particular that I felt did an excellent job of creating a truly horrific situation, which I greatly appreciated. Firefly Diary manages to earn decent marks in the horror department, not only for just how vulnerable Mion is in the dangerous post-apocalyptic landscape, but for the rather morbid and ghastly imagery presented at key scenes in the story’s progression. The game does not hold back as much as you’d perhaps expect, given the sort of “soft cuteness” present in the art style. The contrast works great.
What I’m getting at basically is, if an indie-esque horror setting puzzle platformer sounded exciting to you in the first place, you’ll likely quite like Firefly Diary. (If that doesn’t sound interesting, then don’t bother. You will probably find it frustrating.) It takes some getting used to for the controls and for working out the type of puzzle-solving this title requires–and there are certain parts that I found pretty ridiculous to get through (namely one section near the end, in which you must quickly and perfectly navigate the shadow firefly through a very complex and narrow passageway)… but these are just a couple (fire)flies in the ointment. The overall experience is not a revolutionary one, nor does it stick with me quite as much as other 2D horror games I’ve played through–but it’s still a good and unique experience worth taking part in, so long as you’re up to the challenge! It’s a nice little Vita exclusive that fans of horror should definitely consider picking up.