I’ve never played a game in which struggling to hold the controller to play the game was not only the point of the gameplay but also a remarkably enjoyable challenge at that. NYAN-TECH is a platformer which challenges players to activate those platforms by pressing or holding various buttons on the controller. The goal of the game is simple: guide a catgirl to the key and bring it to the exit door. Numerous spikes and pits stand to make the journey dangerous, and the player will have to manipulate platforms to escort her to her goals. Often times multiple buttons will need to be pressed to clear a path, turning NYAN-TECH into a sort of digital Twister with players wrestling with the controller, trying to figure out how they will manage to keep the necessary buttons held while still being able to move and jump about the level. It’s convoluted and awkward, and it’s one of the most novel and fascinating concepts to be see in a platformer in some time.
The 40 levels are separated into four groups of ten, selectable via the difficulty options on the title screen. A tutorial explains to the player in English the controls and object of the game. The catgirl can jump and double jump with the A-button, but every other button (save start and back) is used to trigger the platforms on the level to allow her to advance. Sometimes a button will be held to clear an obstacle, too, resulting in situations where the player is forced to hold, say, LB, RT, Y, and B while still having enough fingers free to manipulate the analog stick or D-pad and press the jump button. It’s a trying experience but an oddly enjoyable one due to the unique challenge it presents. Pushing the player along is a generally generous time limit which ticks down only when the player moves the catgirl, but occasionally the game will throw players a puzzle which forces them to collect diamonds to add precious seconds to the clock to allow for enough time to reach the exit. It’s a somewhat odd design wrinkle to include and not as interesting as the more intensive controller Twister play found throughout.
Japanese Developer dot zo games has been publishing its charming titles on the Xbox 360 for a couple of years now, four games in all with the last three starring ninjas. NYAN-TECH, the fifth dot zo game, puts the ninjas aside for a moment in favor of a cute catgirl but still carries the same overall sense of style. NYAN-TECH’s levels feature simple 8-bit style graphics sparse on detail over a flat black canvas. The levels each take place on a single screen, and there’s nothing beyond the color of the walls and changes in layout to distinguish one stage from the next. Despite the simplistic approach, the main character sprite shows a nice amount of detail and animation on the sprite ever splurging on an idle animation. The player activated platforms include easily overlooked details which indicate whether a button needs to be held or just pressed to trigger them. All in all, NYAN-TECH presents a very simple package of competent pixel graphics, but it is the gameplay which is the highlight of the game by far.
NYAN-TECH is a wonderful, experimental game which unfortunately ends all too quickly. The brevity of its challenges ensure the game can be beaten completely within an hour or so depending upon the player’s ability, and the game ends just as the player begins to understand and appreciate what NYAN-TECH is all about. The innovative platforming still makes the game a worthy purchase to platform fans despite the length, and while the unique gameplay concept may not be for everyone, NYAN-TECH is an experience which needs to be played.