The Entire World Is A Lie In VVVVVV Creator’s Naya’s Quest

By Nathan Grayson on September 23rd, 2013 at 9:00 am.

Well excellent, because I'm totally stuck

Naya’s Quest, the latest from VVVVVV and Super Hexagon creator Terry Cavanagh, is an incredibly stressful game. You know that whole relationship you have with your eyes where they by and large tell you the visual truth of a situation? That thing your entire basis of reality is more or less founded upon? Yeah, well, forget about that. You play as a girl (presumably named Naya, unless even that part is an insidious trap door of a lie) who seeks “the edge” in a world that’s falling to pieces. So you hop between squares and everything is just dandy until – if you’re anything like me – you fall right through the ground. Or so you think. But actually, the isometric viewpoint just made it look like a square was right in front of you. In reality it was above you or on the other side of the level or in outer space. And that is when the (exceedingly nauseating, nerve-wracking) learning begins. It’s occasionally frustrating, but also frequently brilliant.

Aiding you in your/Naya’s quest to not plunge eternally into a wireframe oblivion is a scanner device that reveals the world’s true nature. It takes some getting used to, but before long its ability to plot out which squares are actually in your walking/leaping range becomes indispensable. Even then, however, levels quickly become downright diabolical, sometimes even rendering the scanner’s information nearly impossible to parse. This is one of those games like Antichamber, The Swapper, or Portal – one where you have to become fluent in its intimidatingly foreign brain language before you’ll ever have any hope of progressing.

And then there’s the third area, the details of which I won’t spoil here. But basically, the mechanics you’ve finally, painstakingly mastered go utterly bonkers. Each level is practically its own game genre. There are certainly some frustrating spots, but much of the design here is utterly masterful. Bravo, Terry Cavanagh, you madman, you.

That said, Naya’s Quest does include one needlessly frustrating element. The checkpoint system sets you back one room before the point where you died, meaning that you have to replay sections you’ve already conquered each time you run out of lives. This happens for no discernible reason other than arbitrary punishment, and having to re-figure-out a previous puzzle totally tosses a wrench in gears that have started churning on another. Put simply, it breaks the flow. It’s a small flaw in the grand scheme of things, but it got my blood a-boiling nonetheless.

This one is, however, without question worth playing through. It’s more ruthless-yet-fascinating Cavanagh genius, but in a genre far removed from anything we’ve seen him turn to gold before. Give it a try here, and remember: always, always, always look before you

 

 

 

 

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52 Comments »

  1. Low Life says:

    I find it quite difficult to just wrap my head around the basic control scheme in a game like this. Maybe having room on the desk to rotate my keyboard would help.

    • ikbenbeter says:

      That has been my major gripe with the game so far. The tilted screen causes annoying screwups because up isn’t always up and the alternative control scheme with sides to turn, forward to go forward doesn’t work.

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    Lambchops says:

    Screenshot makes it look like “Island of the Dome of the Slate” fleshed out into a whole game.

    • Syra says:

      I thought it looked like princess bubblegum trapped in that one VR episode of Adventure Time.

  3. GallonOfAlan says:

    Reminiscent of Spindizzy

  4. gwathdring says:

    I want it. This looks awesome. Exactly my kind of game.

    • realitysconcierge says:

      It’s free silly!

      • gwathdring says:

        Damn, I’m quite silly. I thought this was an impending release announcement for some reason. :P

      • zapatapon says:

        And the ‘free’ tag is missing, which is regrettable since it is a useful tag to do a search for.

  5. HeroJez says:

    Played a bit. The three lives felt punishing, especially if you didn’t use X to reveal the route.

    I think it almost falls between two stools. One the one hand, the trial and error could be fun if there was some suspense to it, but the fact that you only have three lives means that you only really get 2 goes until you have to press X after every section to complete the screen quite easily.

    Some changes I’d recommend would be something like:

    Have some ‘wind’ that shifted the blocks a small way and then back again at the start of every room. Players could then try and remember (judging from the direction of the wind) which blocks were affected first and guess their way without using X (which should have charges – say 2 per room.)

    The great thing about games like Trials and Hotline was the tap to restart, infinite lives of games where you could mess up after half a second. Naya seems similar, and unless played in trial and error just feels more like Press X to win?

    Maybe I’m missing something… but it’s either horribly punishing (3 lives, no clues) or ridiculously simple and almost pointless (press X to win…)

    Nice that there’s a story and three control schemes, though. Having I, K, O and L as directional keys might feel more natural (considering the perspective, too)?

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      DrScuttles says:

      Using the scanner is almost a press X to win scenario (though it did take me longer than I’d care to admit to process how the scanner related to the tiles despite being embarrassingly obvious once you’re used to it) earlier on. There’s three main sections in the game; I felt during the second that it was slightly running out of steam and that I’d seen pretty much all that could be done with the mechanic. But do stick with it to the end. The final section is great and in my mind works particularly well having reinforced one play style up until that point.

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        VelvetFistIronGlove says:

        I didn’t get past the first section. I found the whole thing quite frustrating. The only way I found I could play it was by scanning on almost every tile. Scan. Step. Step. Scan. Jump. Scan. Turn. Step. Scan. If I didn’t scan that often, I’d just fall to my death somewhere, and the limited number of lives meant I couldn’t even use trial and error to learn the real layout.

        It feels backwards. I think maybe lives should be infinite (and restart you at the beginning of the room, as Nathan says). Scans should be a limited resource. If I only had a few scans per room (only refreshing on each room, not on each death), I think I’d find it a little more interesting.

        • ChrisGWaine says:

          Why not scan as often as you need to? If you would risk dying if you didn’t scan, then scan.

          With limited scans and cheaper mistakes, that would just shift the game away from being about its mechanic, toward trial and error.

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            VelvetFistIronGlove says:

            Why not? Because it seems to defeat the purpose. But more, because it’s tedious.

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      cpt_freakout says:

      I don’t know if my eyes are stupid or what, but the scanner was far from ‘press x to win’ for me. I still died a lot, but since I should be working I was also paying less attention than what this game needs, I guess.

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      Csirke says:

      I don’t think using the scanner should be thought of as “cheating”, I think the game was fun with always using the scanner on every tile :)

      Also, I can recommend also playing through on “New game+”, I think it’s actually easier than the normal game, but allows you to see the real structure of the levels, which makes it pretty awesome :)

    • King in Winter says:

      As far as I can tell, using the scanner is neither cheating or click-X-to-win. It merely shows you a cross-section of the area, and further areas need quite a bit of searching around to figure out the correct path. However I only played up to where the map tiles turn hexagonal and stopped because I didn’t want to learn a new method of walking around and figuring how the scanner works with the hexes.

      • Mana_Garmr says:

        There’s only one hexagonal level, fortunately. So you learn the new movement method, and promptly find it useless once you’re through.

        If all the levels had been like the final level I think I’d have finished the game in less than half the time.

    • The Random One says:

      I imagine you either didn’t play very far or are incredibly lucky, because pressing X does not “reveal the route”. All it does is display all of the tiles that are in the same direction as you currently are. This helps you figure out that, for instance, that a block that appears to be adjacent to another is in fact two diagonal spaces far and three spaces below you. Some of the levels are unplayable without pressing X (as some rooms contain more than one square on the same space, on different elevations, and the fact that some squares appear when you are on different lines or columns during the cross-section is your only clue to that).

  6. Spacewalk says:

    So it’s a bit like Landstalker then.

  7. Danda says:

    Yes, the checkpoint system is quite annoying.

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      VelvetFistIronGlove says:

      Which is odd, considering how perfect the checkpointing in VVVVVV was.

      • scottyjx says:

        I would be interested to hear Terry’s explanation for the 3 lives thing, but I kinda liked it. It forced me to actually stop and think things through in a logical manner. As far I recall, there aren’t any levels where you *have* to take a step/jump where the outcome is unknown (well, the very first level of the third section). So, the 3 lives stopped me from making it a trial and error situation, and made me reason each level out.

        • The Random One says:

          I can see how failure taking you back to an earlier room would be a good way to ‘prime’ players by having it be an ‘antechamber’ to a next, difficult room, then have the player figure out the room they keep dying on by understanding the previous room well enough that they can navigate it without cross-section (what a tortuously constructed sentence). But in the final level it just meant that failing to figure out a room on the first try would force you to replay rooms that were only interesting the first time (if that) and then an annoying exercise in clunky gameplay. Or maybe my brain is broken. (Or maybe MINE works well, NERDS.)

  8. ChrisGWaine says:

    I think the lives are to stop you using trial and error. It wants you to look at what the scanner tells you and put that together so that when you make a move it’s because you think it’s right, rather than because you might as well give it a go.

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      li says:

      I second this, it would be too ‘easy’ to brute force if you had infinite lives on a level.
      That definitely put the pressure on your concentration when you think you almost got a level, especially when the heart starts to beat on the last life.

      Well, with this checkpoint system, worst case scenario is that you have to brute force two levels in a row, which is definitely doable since you had to solve that bloody previous level..

  9. welverin says:

    “You know that whole relationship you have with your eyes where they by and large tell you the visual truth of a situation? That thing your entire basis of reality is more or less founded upon?”

    Yeah, your eye do no such thing. All they do is tell your brain that there’s light, your brain takes that and makes a functional image, which is far from the visual truth of a situation, i.e. it likes to make stuff up if it makes things easier.

    • The First Door says:

      Well, to be fair, the brain doesn’t so much ‘make stuff up’ as make the best guess it can when it is presented with ambiguous, conflicting or hard to process information. Most of the time it makes sense too, like assuming light comes from above.

      Or, at least, it made sense before we started inventing things like light bulbs and video editing.

  10. linea says:

    Super Mario 3D land on the 3DS pulls precisely this trick from time to time- an isometric jump section which looks one way in 2D but then in 3D is revealed to be quite different. I think it’s possibly the only valid gameplay use of the 3DS’s 3D function I’ve seen.

    Not particularly PC-relevant but VVVVVV came out on 3DS too. I wonder if the scanner could be replaced in some way by use of the 3D functionality (or indeed maybe of 3D glasses or Oculus Rift on PC)?

  11. terry says:

    Lord, this reminds me of all those hours spent trying to wrap my brain around Rasputin or Knight Lore twenty years ago. I still can’t do it :(

    • Jonfon says:

      20 years ago? I’m sad to say that Knight Lore is nearly 30 years old and therefore you are 10 years older than you believed you were. Which is a horrible thing for me to do to a fellow OAG on a Monday morning :( I apologize unreservedly.

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        Big Murray says:

        I think it would probably be easier to assume that he played the game 10 years after its release, rather than that he has forgotten his age.

  12. LionsPhil says:

    Oh, so it’s a game focusing on the frustration of trying to line up underground tunnels in Rollercoaster Tycoon/Chris Sawyer’s Locomotion.

  13. rapchee says:

    it’s quite fun until the tiles start to disappear

    • zapatapon says:

      There is only one room where tiles disappear. It’s worth pushing on, in that level every room has a different mechanic, it is quite refreshing.

  14. AmBrew says:

    This reminds me of Solstice on the nes and its sequel Equinox on the snes. Both were brilliant games.

  15. BillyIII says:

    This reminds me of the “Dome of the slate” location in LBA 2. I had similar problems with with the lack of perspective there.

  16. deadly.by.design says:

    Diagonal tile platforming will always remind me of Snake Rattle ‘n’ Roll on the NES.

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      particlese says:

      Oh man, Snake Rattle ‘n’ Roll! That game was so good…hard, but so much fun, and the graphics and music were great. Rare made some amazing stuff back in the day.

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        Bluerps says:

        The final boss drove me nuts. I only defeated that effin foot with the help of a turbo controller.

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          particlese says:

          Oh, wow, nice! I couldn’t even kill that piece with a game genie. Must’ve depended on hits per second or something…

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            Bluerps says:

            Yeah, something like that. I think it regenerated to full health every time you stopped hitting it for longer than a fraction of a second.

    • Nick says:

      Head over Heels for me.

  17. Berzee says:

    Hmmm sounds like Bastion without guns amirite?

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    blind_boy_grunt says:

    although i agree that the savepoint was annoying at time( for me especially after having to go back from the hexagon movment back to normal and than back again), the playing the levels again part helped getting a better sense of the layout and thus making the new game+ really enjoyable, to see where you thought wrong or right etc.

  19. Baf says:

    I remember that Edge (the Mobigames game that’s probably most famous as the subject of a Tim Langdell lawsuit) played with this idea a bit. Not all the time, of course. Mostly it was straightforward about everything but hidden secrets. But I remember one particular level that looked exactly like Level 1, but was in fact completely different. But in that game there was always the minimap to show you were things really were.

  20. Baggypants says:

    I got through it!

  21. The Random One says:

    Isometric camera’s revenge.

  22. Gamera says:

    The ending sucks. No, you don’t find out anything about the mystery. Not even after Story+ mode.

    • Mazunga says:

      Ohhh! I just had to register to answer this!

      *Spoiler*

      *Spoiler!*

      The game is about pushing boundaries, where you think you’re close to the edge of the world and know everything about it, but look a little further and something new appears (and if you don’t push you’ll die a horrible death by stagnation like the last human village in the beginning). The whole third section shows the boundry change with a new mechanic for every level.

      Then when the game is finished we se that Naya continues ad infinitum and the last line is something like: “The edge is closer than ever.” Which it might be, but she’ll probably never catch up.

      Atleast that’s my interpretation… got more invested in the game than I should’ve.