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