Nairi: Tower of Shirin is a point and click experience produced by the team at HomeBearStudio. It is out now on Nintendo Switch and follows our eponymous hero Shirin as she delves into adventure and sets out to reach the mysterious Tower of Shirin. Set in and around the mythical town of Shirin, this story begins in tragedy. Following a raid by the Royal Guard, Nairi has whisked away from her home and towards safety. What follows is a descent from well to do privileged into bandit country and back. On the way, Nairi encounters all manner of mystery, uncovers some truths about her own world, and meets more than a few unusual characters.
Cute Critters and Deadly Ducks
Character animation is one of the most obvious points of note when starting up Nairi: Tower of Shirin. While our protagonist is a young girl, all chibi proportions and huge eyes, the rest of the game’s cast are feathered, furred, or clawed. Don’t try to question why, nobody in Shirin does and this decision lends a sort of charming quality to the entire experience. The anthropomorphic ducks and sketch work cats that inhabit the world all have a rough charm to them that works well to remind players of Nairi’s fall from privilege. The set of feline bandits that Nairi ends up in cahoots with are a typical template for many of Nairi’s companions. Each of the animals that Nairi comes across has an aesthetic all of their own and an equally eccentric personality to match. From roguish ginger tomcats to the odd silly duck, the population of Shirin is far from dull.
This story of discovery is, ultimately, a mix of at least two distinct genres. Nairi: Tower of Shirin mixes a visual novel tale with a point and click puzzle adventure that is far above average. The 2D tale allows for a few deviations in character dialogue and a story that starts out as feeling quite linear, reveals some surprising depth. As Nairi and her companions delve into the history of Shirin, the game delves into an unexpected wealth of lore. Similarly, for all it’s cue animation, Nairia: Tower of Shirin manages to tackle some more mature concept in a way that is accessible to a players of all ages. While we do not find much in terms of immediate threat throughout this story, some memorable moments, interesting lore, and a quirky character roster keep things from becoming mundane.
The point and click puzzles that perforate Nairi: Tower of Shirin manage to strike an adequate balance between the mind-bending difficulty of Grim Fandango and the simplicity of most visual novels. Most puzzles that appear are some variation of a point and click collection system. A simple inventory system nests at the bottom of the screen, allowing players to gather up objects strewn around the environment and use them as required. This system could use a rope to climb down a ditch or keep hold of a dagger to wave in the face of the local ratbag. In the end, most of these puzzles are not particularly taxing and usually require players to simply click and drag until the right peg fits. There are a few stand out differences that make an appearance but these are rare. Where this type of challenge differs from a run of the mill adventures is the ability to at least complete some of these tasks in your own time. Just like character dialogue, there is some flexibility in the completion of these puzzles, allowing players to stumble through tasks that will have an unintentional impact further down the road. This is coupled with the occasional head-scratcher, such as an early memory test that unlocks an ancient tomb and throws players into a forgotten maze.
If any of these memory tests or point and click challenges is particularly challenging, then Nairi: Tower of Shirin does allow more than one player to participate in Nairi’s adventure. In a really nice touch, HomeBearStudio includes a local co-op option. By disconnecting the Nintendo Joycons, two players can swap control of the on-screen cursor, using each Joycon as a pointing device. This works really rather well on the big screen. The whole experience changes somewhat when lounging back on the sofa with a friend and sharing a quiet afternoon on the road to Shirin. The ability to mix up standard analog controls, touch screen, and pointing devices makes Nairi: Tower of Shirin a very accessible title for a range of gamers, and its a welcome touch that far too many point and click adventures forget about.
Where this co-op configuration does not work so well is on the small screen. The limited screen space on the Nintendo Switch makes getting around Shirin particularly difficult. In fact, the same problem barely ends when your friends leave. Taking Nairi: Tower of Shirin on the go makes problem-solving particularly difficult. The nature of point and click and hidden object puzzles results in players identifying minuscule specks on a small screen. Bits of rubble, coins, and similar environmental objects are not easily manipulated. This sort of situation can result in protracted instances of unstructured clicking, even making the wonderful, but short, soundtrack feel more limited than it should.
These instances are not too common, thankfully. At its heart, Nairi: Tower of Shirin is a magical adventure. It contains quite serviceable puzzles and a solid set of character dialogue that should hold your attention for most of the narrative. I might not personally pick this up as my own first choice but what Nairi attempts to do, it does well. If you are looking for a quiet afternoon on the sofa or something to play with younger audiences then Nairi: Tower of Shirin is a tale of adventure that will not disappoint. Nairi: Tower of Shirin is rated E, for everyone, and is out now on the Nintendo eShop.