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Lora's Adventure Game Reviews: Nibiru


Nibiru

Nibiru (Game release date: 2005)
Poor game design and writing keeps this intriguing supernatural adventure game feeling like a clumsy first effort.


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Highlights: Dramatic tension, gorgeous graphics, interesting premise Lowlights: Lousy pacing, awkward writing, little player input

Seeing that Nibiru was released two years after Black Mirror by the same game designers, it's logical to jump to the conclusion that this is the Pekarek brothers' second graphic adventure game. Unfortunately, that isn't quite accurate. This is their first graphic adventure game--Black Mirror was the second. The original game that Nibiru was based on was released in 1998 (in Czech only). Improved graphics and some game engine advances were included for this updated version, but you just can't shake that awkward first-game feeling. The plot is vague; when I reached the end, I didn't feel like I knew why anyone had done any of the things they had. In the English version, at least, it's never even explained what the planet Nibiru IS. (You have to quit the game and load up Wikipedia if you want to know the New Ageish prophecy the game is based on.) Nibiru is even more linear than most graphic adventure games, with no conversational choices, no optional actions, and not very much for the player to do in it at all. There's a lot of expository narration, and a lot of watching Martin walk around talking to people on his own. Transitions are awkward, and the ending's very abrupt.

This isn't a bad game, in other words, but it isn't a great one. The voicework is better quality than in Black Mirror (mercifully), but the suspense never rises to the same masterful level. Nevertheless, this is a decent adventure game with lovely visuals and some interesting puzzles to solve, and most fans of the adventure game genre will enjoy spending a few evenings with it.

Style: Nibiru is a third-person puzzle-adventure game with a 3D point-and-click interface. You control a single character. The plot is a murderous conspiracy and there are supernatural and science-fiction themes. The game is untimed except for a couple of realtime puzzles, and no manual dexterity is required. Combat and leveling are not elements.

Series: Nibiru is not part of a series. It is a completely stand-alone game produced by the prolific Adventure Company.

Finding Nibiru: This is a relatively recent game which can still be found in many software stores. Here it is for sale on Amazon. If you're a fan of graphic adventure games in general, this is one of the games included on the Adventure Collection DVD, so you could pick up five decent-quality adventure games for less than $20.

Getting Nibiru to Work: Nibiru is a recent game and I encountered no gameplay bugs while playing it. It can be a bit of a system hog, though; if your computer doesn't meet the "recommended" system requirements on the box, make sure you go into the Options menu and turn off shadows to keep the game running smoothly.

Hints For Nibiru: You can check out my low-spoiler page of Nibiru hints if you like. There is also a good hints page at UHS which reveals only one hint at a time, so you won't accidentally learn the answers to future puzzles while scanning for the one you're stuck on.

Pitfalls In Nibiru: There are a few places in this game where your character can die if you don't act swiftly enough; however, if you die the game will automatically restart you at the beginning of the challenge to let you try again, so you don't need to worry about replaying large parts of the game if you make a mistake (a really nice feature.) Subtitles are available for the game's dialogue, but there is one puzzle that relies on audio cues, making the game aggravating for players who can't hear well or are trying to play with the sound off.

Game Length: 15 hours, a bit short for a graphic adventure game.

Age-Appropriateness: Nibiru is rated T (for 13 years old and up) due to mild swearing ("hell" and "bastard") and murder investigations including dead bodies.

Lora's Nibiru Review: Rating: 6 out of 10 (Good)

2 out of 5Plot and Quests: The plot is exciting enough to keep a player interested for the duration, but it's rigidly linear, and unlike Black Mirror, there really aren't enough clues to figure out the solution on your own. The supernatural backdrop makes little sense, and the ending is vague and somewhat unsatisfying.
3.5 out of 5Puzzles and Mental Challenges: Most of this game consists of rote inventory exercises that pose no challenge at all, but there are a half-dozen true puzzles including a couple of tough spatial ones and a complex math problem.
2.5 out of 5Characters: You only get one PC in Nibiru, and you cannot customize or develop him at all. You don't even have the choice of conversational options to help you feel ownership of his personality. Some of the NPCs are interesting; I wished I could have interacted with them more.
2.5 out of 5Gameworld: Nibiru is set in a strangely generic version of Europe. It's only mentioned in passing what country you're supposed to be in at any given point--Czechoslovakia, France, Mexico, another location I never did place--but every individual you talk to has a different hammy accent and there's never any sense of place.
1.5 out of 5Gameplay: Except for the puzzle interludes, this game could be played by a trained monkey clicking randomly around the screen until something happened and the next cutscene was triggered. The PC makes most of the decisions in this game without even consulting the player, and at best you're left trying to figure out a way for him to achieve a goal that he seems to have randomly decided is important (like staying the night at a particular hotel that is booked up, for example.)
4 out of 5Interface: Nibiru's game interface is graceful and unobtrusive, with invisible menus that appear to clutter your screen only if you mouse over them. The game runs smoothly with few frustrations, though having to click on everything in sight with both the left and the right mouse button is a pointless annoyance.
4.5 out of 5Ambience (Graphics, Sound, etc.): The graphics are beautiful, with remarkable use of ambient details (leaves rusting in the wind, a trolley passing in the street.) The music swells nicely at dramatic moments. The voice acting is much better than Black Mirror's, but the quality of the writing is so poor that there's often not much they can do with their dialogue. There's something ironic about the fact that they apparently got Czech speakers to inadeptly translate the lines into English, and English speakers to inadeptly deliver them in fake European accents. If they'd had those actors rewrite the lines and those translators do the talking, it would have been a much more immersive experience.

Lora's Recommendations: I would primarily recommend Nibiru only for people who are already fans of the graphic adventure genre-- the excessive linearity and main character whose actions you can barely control make Nibiru a bad entry point to graphic adventure games, but the gorgeous graphics and smooth interface will make it a short but fun journey for adventure-game veterans.

If You Loved Nibiru: Then you will probably really love The Black Mirror, whose flaws are similar to those of Nibiru but whose artistry and suspense level are higher. For an absorbing computer game with greater interactivity, it's hard to beat The Longest Journey. Other recent adventure games you may enjoy include the supernatural adventures Seven Games of the Soul and Dark Fall, and the charming techno-fable Syberia. If you loved being scared by a computer game, I can also recommend the surreal psychological thriller Sanitarium.



For a more detailed review of Nibiru game including spoilers, plot holes, and impacts it could have on the adventure genre, please see my Backseat Game Designer page. Enjoy the game!



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