Very Teleportant: Saira

By John Walker on December 14th, 2009 at 3:20 pm.

Cor, that's a bit lovely.

So my plan to have a quick play of the Saira demo turned into my whole morning. A new game from Nifflas is a reason to sit up straight and start downloading. The creator of the gorgeous Knytt Stories has created his first commercial game, and it’s a rather beautiful thing. For those familiar with his previous games – tiny slivers on the screen, creating platforming worlds with the barest few pixels – you’ll be pleased to learn that while it’s technically a lot more advanced, it remains completely true to his themes and style, and a lot more involved.

You’re one of the very few survivors in the universe, it seems. Equipped with a spaceship and a teleporting device, you must visit a series of planets in a collection of galaxies, each containing challenges and puzzles, along with a consistent platform design that lets you leap, climb and bounce through smartly laid out floating rocky platforms. The movement lacks the wonderful Knytt double-jump, but instead you can briefly run up walls, before bouncing off them again. There’s also the occasional ability to turn into a ball of barely controllable light and zip off in an otherwise unreachable direction.

Each galaxy has at least one planet with various tasks to solve, puzzles to decipher, or time-based challenges to complete, and another planet containing energy for your ship, thus allowing you to travel elsewhere. Then there’s a camera to take photos of puzzle clues with, your in-built teleportation system to work with, and a larger puzzle of building a more complicated teleporter on your starting planet with parts found elsewhere in space. This is all for the overall goal of finding your missing buddy – perhaps the only other survivor of whatever terrible thing killed everyone else.

It’s tough. Splendidly tough. Some of the puzzles span across multiple planets, and involve spotting tiny details, applied logically. The platforming itself also requires a deft hand. Especially one timed sequence turning on a series of devices in the correct order. I almost broke down completely in rage at myself and the sadly rather stupidly mapped keyboard controls before finishing that one. And sadly they are very stupidly mapped. Movement is on the cursors – all good. But then you have your camera on A, but also the zippy light flying thing on A as well, so long as you’ve jumped first, which is S. And then D, D will use machines or activate your PDA and lets you activate checkpoints. Trying to open your PDA to teleport to the last checkpoint, to discover you’ve just selected the one near to you – that’s not a great moment. And the number of times I pressed D instead of A when trying to fly – ARGGH! The other big niggle is the inability to control a skid. If you’re running in one direction, hitting the other direction hard doesn’t stop you from falling off ledges, which in a game that requires some pretty precise jumping is infuriating. If I’ve hit the key in time, at least let me not slide off.

Here's a puzzle thinga.

However, those irritants aside, and mostly they are just an aside, this is a really special thing. Nifflas has an amazing skill with platform design, and it’s lovely to see that applied to something that – while still 2D – is bigger, more detailed, and absolutely lovely. The design is splendid, merging paper-crafty characters and aliens against rendered backgrounds and really clever use of perspective. And this is all just in the demo – it’s enormous. Pay $17 (£10.16) and there’s another three galaxies to explore. Definitely check out Saira – I’ve a sneaking suspicion you’ll fork out for the full game once you’ve spent long enough in the huge demo. In fact, if you do you can spend an extra £1.20 and get a second serial code for a buddy.

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28 Comments »

  1. Harmen says:

    Just when I’m thinking it’s about time for another nice indie, this comes along!

  2. rei says:

    Sounds nice, apart from the time-based stuff, which I generally hate. More often than not it’s just an excuse for lazy puzzle design.

    You didn’t mention the music, so I’m going to assume it’s nothing special. My main reason for loving Within a Deep Forest was the amazing music which really perfected the atmosphere. Still, definitely giving this a try when I have some time.

  3. AiglosCelt says:

    Nifflas is the best game designer in the world

    That is all

  4. Hyudra says:

    I glanced over the screenshots on indiegames.com and almost didn’t download because the ‘standing straight as a rod’ look was so unrealistic. Then I saw the name Nifflas and, well, that changes everything.

    As stiff as the ‘idle’ animation is, the game feels pretty good. In the end, it really is an exploration platformer. I’ve run into few designers who could match Nifflas for atmosphere (The Ico series being the nearest step up) and while I don’t think this game quite matches up to Knytt or Knytt stories, it definitely does capture that ‘exploration’ vibe. There was an area with limited oxygen supply where I found myself holding my breath at my computer, I was so caught up in it. The jumping/wall jumping felt less like Mario or Jumper and more like Parkour, to me.

    The balance of puzzles seems pretty nice – there was nothing I wasn’t able to do once I figured it out. The platforming seemed well balanced to me too – more an exercise in thinking ‘how do I do this’ than a test of reflexes and pixel-perfect skill.

    Complaints? I did have two instances in the demo where I really could have done well without the skid after jumps. I think the idea was that the player was supposed to just run over the edge of the platforms rather than jumping (letting momentum and the angle of the platforms put Saira where she needed to be), but that’s a bit of a pain. Also, the puzzle I found myself doing last, the quiz – you’ll know what I mean-, was not a fun puzzle.

    Did I enjoy the demo? Heck yes. Will I shell out $17 for the full version? First game in a long time I’ve considered doing that, but I’ll have to get back to you on it.

  5. Mike says:

    Knytt was fantastic, I’m very excited to hear about this.

  6. FhnuZoag says:

    I wish there was an easy mode. Oh, also, the water effects cause slowdowns for me.

  7. ourdreamsoffreedom says:

    The demo doesn’t seem to work in wine, unfortunately.

    Considering the graphical simplicity of most indie games and the tons of great cross-platform game libraries, you’d think indie developers would be friendlier to other systems. I don’t know they’re not, but both sides are losing out because of it.

    • James G says:

      Most of Nifflas’ previous games have been made in multimedia fusion, so porting them isn’t really in his power. Not sure about Saira yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised.

  8. noom says:

    Downloaded, but it’s crashed on me a couple of times in the 5 minutes i’ve tried playing. Shame because it does look interesting.

  9. TwoDaemon says:

    Downloading immediately. New Nifflas? Awesome times. I like the extra-copy-for-$2 thing, too.

  10. mcnubbins says:

    Cool game, probably the most promising indie game I’ve demo’ed all year, but is it as good as (or better than) Knytt? Not sure yet, but I will probably buy it and find out.

  11. Patrick E says:

    Just a heads up: V1.1 is out and allows you to re-jig the controls to your liking, so any complaints about the key mapping is basically a moot point. According to rumblings in the forum there also seems to be plans to up the performance a bit depending on when the next MMF2 update arrives.

    Concerning the time-based puzzles, which i normally can’t stand, i found them quite exhilirating in this game, reminded me of early tomb raider for some reason.

    • Clovis says:

      Having a bad default keymap is still annoying though. It sounds like one problem was that D did so many different things. Can you now map those different functions to different buttons? If not, that’s still a problem, but obviously not a dealbreaker.

  12. Stuk says:

    Ooooo, definitely getting this. Nifflas is amazing. Anyone who doesn’t want to shell out should at least do themselves a favour and download Within a Deep Forest, which is free. It features some of the best ambient music + puzzles I’ve ever had the pleasure of listening to and playing. <3

  13. jsutcliffe says:

    Aw, excellent. I was wondering a couple of weeks back what Nifflas was up to since it’d been a while since Knytt/Stories. I’ll have to check this out later.

  14. White Noise says:

    I can’t seem to complete the Haaken system – I find all these frozen thingies, but can’t do anything thing with them.

    • Hyudra says:

      In the Hakkon system, there’s a terminal that records the crystals you’ve found and examined. Once you’ve found all of the crystals (seven total), the terminal should activate for you.

  15. Jochen Scheisse says:

    I’m done with the shareware version, very nice. I had no problems with the skidding, i just jumped on to avoid it. Will I buy it? Probably not, but just because I hate online transactions with a passion.

  16. PC Monster says:

    Simply wonderful. [adds to Santa's list]

  17. EaterOfCheese says:

    Lovely game. Dig the puzzles and cool takes on password entry :)

  18. Igor Hardy says:

    Pretty cool game. I love the complex yet very user-friendly controls.

    However, after a while I start getting bored by wandering similar looking passages. Maybe that’s just because I already spent several hours on Knytt and the worlds in those games has very similar feel.

  19. Hmm says:

    Played it. Liked it. Toxic planet. Quit.
    I am that fickle.

  20. Brulleks says:

    Hmm: likewise.

    I have no patience. This is not the game for me.

  21. Joseph says:

    Thirding the i-quit-on-toxic-planet. Frustrating to navigate and clues made no sense.

    • Joseph says:

      To be more constructive, I felt there was very little time to get from place to place without oxygen, and even though I could make it around in time on my second or third try for each checkpoint, it seemed an unnecessary hindrance to the exploration and fun that could have just come from climbing and jumping around that place. It didn’t help that once I made it to my destination, my reward was always only clue that I couldn’t understand :/ Things might have gone differently if I’d chosen the other toxic planet first, or even another star, one where you don’t have limited oxygen. Perhaps it was just an unlucky spike in the learning curve. Flying around seemed very limited too, which, perhaps just due to my lack of patience with the rest of it, was annoying.

  22. Saad says:

    Luv the game…..stuck on that computer where it asks the answers of 7 questions…

    can any1 gimme those answers?

  23. jsutcliffe says:

    (from TIGSource)

    In honour of his birthday, Nifflas is offering a discount on Saira for two weeks, reducing the cost to $12 til Jan 20th.