Part of the early wave of PlayStation Mobile releases developed using Unity, it will come as no surprise to many of you reading this to know that Night Climb is another variant on the endless runner theme that has been so prevalent on PSM lately. Not the only release of it’s kind that week, at least Night Climb attempted to do something a little different with the format to disguise its true origins and lift it out of the monotony of so many games that have come before it…
As with many of the initial wave of Unity-based PSM titles, Night Climb is actually a port to the Vita – this time of the author’s own browser based game. While as a rule I’m not particular enthusiastic about being charged for free games, this does have a low asking price and does have the convenience of being portable. Also, it’s not available on any other mobile platform and the author is asking for donations should people like the game enough. Onto the game itself though and it takes the endless runner idea and twists it on its head – quite literally. Rather than playing the game horizontally or in a 3D environment, Night Climb takes the game just as the title suggests – upwards.
The game puts you in control of a small creature (I’m not too sure what it is supposed to represent to be honest) in a seemingly never-ending tower. You have to ascend the tower from the inside and climb as high as possible but the only way you can do this is by jumping, bouncing off the two opposite walls making your way upwards. That would be easy enough but scattered at random along the wall are spikes and obviously coming into contact with any of these will mean certain death. If you need to catch your breath for a moment you can stop jumping and you will hold onto the wall you’re currently on but gravity will quickly take its toll and you’ll start to slide downwards… reach the bottom of the screen and again it’s game over but this soon becomes an essential manoeuvre that you’ll need to master to avoid some of the spikes that descend at different speeds.
There are two ways that you can increase your score. The first is based on the distance that you travel upwards but the biggest contributor to your scores comes from various coins that drop down the tower as you make your way upwards. Three different coloured coins randomly fall down towards the ground – bronze, silver and gold – each worth an increasing number of points and these add an extra subtle layer of depth to the game. It’s entirely up to you while playing whether you concentrate on distance or coin collecting but sometimes jumping for that one extra coin could send you crashing head first into a spike… but is the lure of those extra points worth the risk?
While this has been developed in Unity it certainly doesn’t look and feel like it. The graphics are quite simplistic and have an 8-bit feel to them and the main character looks rather bland and quite primitive in his design. The tower is really little more than grey columns with moving diagonal lines to represent climbing motion and the spikes are a rather plain design single colour affair so the game isn’t anything to look at in particular and the coins… just different coloured circles but they’re easy enough to differentiate from one another. Sound does fair much better though with a reasonable mix of sound effects and a good chip tune that plays throughout the game and menu screens.
What matters though is the game itself. It’s incredibly easy to control – a single button affair just using X to jump – and despite being another addition to a growing line of endless runners on PlayStation Mobile, it’s fiendishly addictive and is one of the best we’ve been treated to so far. Just like Thomas Hopper did before with Sea Run adding extra elements to the game with coin collection, adding that here really does bring a new twist. More often than not I find myself playing chasing after coins rather than going for long distances and I find that adopting that strategy has got me into trouble on more than a few occasions but the fact that as a player I’ve got a choice of how to play the game really does give it that added appeal. It is difficult for one endless runner to stand out from the rest but Night Climb manages that and it’s one of only a few that I have found myself wanting to return to for repeat play sessions.
I mentioned earlier that it’s a port of a browser based game (that uses the web-based Unity engine) so comparisons are obviously going to be made and it has to be said that the PSM version is superior on every level. While many of the improvements may seem minor, it all adds up to making the game more enjoyable and giving it more longevity. Visually the game has a much larger display area running in a widescreen environment rather than a square mode presented by PC monitors (and the PC version runs in a small window anyway although this can be blown up to full screen but is simply zoomed in so offers a very pixelised look to the game). Still with the visuals, during play itself, the game frequently stutters on the PC – nothing that affects the speed or play of the game at all but does make the visuals “tear” slightly throughout and I’d say that this is an issue with running through the web based Unity engine than anything to do with the code itself as the game runs perfectly on the Vita without any issues.
Next is the sound and this seems to be crisper and just of a much higher quality on the Vita than on the browser version. It’s the same music and same sound effects but it just sounds better. Next is the difficult level. I can’t quite put my finger on it here but the web version seemed to be a lot easier. For games like this I want them to offer more of a challenge as I don’t want to be reaching massive scores quickly and easily and on my first attempt I beat my PS Vita high score. And that brings me to the final point… naturally, the PSM version saves high score records so you have a reason to come back for repeat play as you know what your personal best score is and for me that’s an essential feature for a game like this. The web version has no score records so each time you play you’re looking at a blank high score. As I said, these may seem petty but add them all up and it becomes a clear choice over which is the obvious version to opt for.
It’s a very basic game and I do wonder how long it will be before the single button gameplay concept will wear thin but I can’t deny the fact that this is a very addictive game. It’s probably the one I’ve put the most time into over the last few weeks on PlayStation Mobile and it’s fantastic value for money. It’s great for quick games any time of day or night and something that you’ll still be coming back to months from now. One of the best PSM games to be released recently and a purchase you won’t regret.
At A Glance
- Title: Night Climb
- Publisher: M3
- System: PlayStation Mobile
- Format: PSN Download
- Cross Buy: N / A
- Cross Play: N / A
- Online Multiplayer: No
- Memory Card Space Needed: 42Mb