The indie game revolution has exploded over the last several years. Ever since the launch of the Xbox One and ID@Xbox program, gamers have been blessed with titles we’d otherwise never get to play if not for the focus on smaller market developers. We decided to start a Weekly Spotlight program to highlight some of these games.
Many of these games have smaller price points, and rightfully so. These teams usually have smaller studio sizes and create shorter games. As a result, the studio ends up charging less for a game to attract customers that may not be familiar with their work. So, many of these games have gone under the radar the last several years as a result, and we wanted to pay homage to these works of art and the talent that exists behind them.
Without further ado, this is the Weekly Spotlight – Best Games You’re not Playing Under $15. Our first game is N.E.R.O. from Italian developer Storm in a Teacup -$5.
N.E.R.O. released in 2015 and had good success despite falling a bit under the radar. It features an incredibly emotional story that will truly touch you in your soul. There is virtually no dialogue in NERO, with its story being told in the form of a visual novel. It uses a first person format based in puzzles tied to the environment. Normally, puzzles stand by themselves in games. In NERO, it’s the total opposite. It’s colors are exquisitely bright and possess an astral, sparkly quality to them. To this day, I’ve yet to see a game with a color scheme as beautiful as NERO.
We play the role of a small child in a magical world and must explore this beautiful environment. In doing so, we are joined by an unknown escort covered in a dark robe. Our character also has the same robe, leaving only their eyes and hands available to see. The game’s story is its strong suit. There is virtually no dialogue and the story is relayed through text projected onto the screen. The colors of the environment are tied to the story and change depending upon the gravity of the moment. An example is as follows:
The entire story is told in this manner. It is unbelievably immersive and will leave you with a mixture of happiness, sorrow and relief on a level that you most likely never experienced before. The level of immersiveness from the environmental story is only enhanced by its heavenly colors. You can’t help but read every line of dialogue as a result, and have no choice but being drawn into the game itself.
Puzzles are solved using a ball of light which we shoot onto objects in order to move or activate. Some of these puzzles require the aid of our escort. These tend to be easier puzzles and will have you wondering why you need assistance in the first place. One puzzle near the end of the game, which is perhaps the hardest puzzle I’ve ever attempted in a game, was pretty frustrating. It was only once I realized that the ability to solve these puzzles was rooted in the type of emotional turmoil the game’s story would see you experience in real life that everything became clear.
It would seem obvious that the story has an emotional ending, and it does. But things are darkest before the dawn. Just when you thought you were simply awaiting a foregone conclusion in NERO – BOOM! It hits you. Ya’ know, just like life. The only foregone conclusion in NERO is that life has no foregone conclusions. It’s only at this point that you remember NERO is an acronym, because after all, Nothing Ever Remains Obscure.
Available now on the Xbox store for only $4.99, NERO is an excellent narrative driven story, and it’s one of the best games you’re not playing.