Nightingale Downs is the latest creation from SimProse Studios, in which a deer must save the woods from the evil humans!
This game is special in its own little way, but maybe not in a good way. It has its charms, the pixel art graphics are decently pretty if you don’t play in full screen. The music is pleasant… Oh snap, I’ve run out of good things to say. I think the best way to review this thing is to just recount the tale of my journey. Don’t worry, it only took an hour to play so this won’t be long.
Nightingale Down started as all great games don’t with an underpaid, over dramatic voice actor telling me about how Grammu the forest chieftain wanted me, a deer, to investigate the humans. They’ve recently started building in the forest and for some reason humans are evil. So he sent me to investigate. I started out in a clearing outside the chief’s hut. Each area of the game is a single screen, like in the original Zelda only without any scrolling. The game pauses for about 3 seconds in between screens and in fact every time you want to open a menu or navigate through a list. Anyway, a dialogue box appeared telling me I should talk to the wise cow who would know where to go next.
I ventured one screen to the west and indeed the cow told me I needed to go north to find humans but before that I should head east to talk to the old sheep for some reason. This screen also has a bird who will give you level up points for karma, which is earned by defeating enemies, but we’ll get to that.
So, to the east then.
Every couple of steps I had to do battle with fearsome enemies like a wolf, an evil sheep and a lost puppy. They shouldn’t be able to kill me almost instantly but within 20 minutes of starting the game I had died three times. I tried again and got lucky enough to level up. My choice in stats wasn’t great. It’s got all the usual RPG stats, you know Strike for melee attacks, Resistance for defense, Belief for special attacks, Defiance for special defence… So anyway, I met the sheep and he straight up asked me to slaughter some pigs who tainted the local well. I spoke to him again for more info and he “heard I dealt with those pigs.” I amaze myself sometimes. I hadn’t moved an inch and somehow defeated the evil pigs and saved the town’s water supply. Well done me. On to face the humans!
I went one screen north but I couldn’t navigate the white water rapids blocking my path. Fortunately a turtle friend said he would help if I found him 3 worms and fed them to him. On my journey for worms I found a fox who had lost his magic gold lamp. He said he had a key that “looks like something humans would use to lock something up.” That could be handy so I decided to help, not even stopping to wonder why a fox has a magic lamp or why despite his sentience and intelligence he seemed only quite sure what a key is for.
Then a fire pit appeared from nowhere (like everything else. Quest related items only appear once a quest has begun.) My deer instincts told me it was a sign humans had been here. Crafty bastards had made a fire and burnt it out in the time it took a fox to convince me I needed to find his magic lamp.
I continued my search. I noticed another fire that wasn’t there before. I went to investigate and was set upon by evil sheep and dirty pig. They had stolen the lamp and I stole their blood! I mean literally. Despite being described as “not particularly violent” my three attacks were Hoof Punch, Rabid Bite and Blood Pummel, which involves beating an enemy senseless and restoring my life power with their blood.
Anyway, after the feast I returned the fox’s lamp, got the key, fed the turtle some worms and he gave me the secret to crossing river rapids. Further north I entered a “jungle” that looked suspiciously like a forest but slightly darker.
Naturally as soon as I got there a bunch of animals needed my help for more
fetch quests heroic adventuring. A horse needed me to find his squirrel buddies and I did. They then “ran off in a joyous manner.” I defeated a haunted tree who told me I needed to plant 3 magic seeds, which I won from an elk in a card game version of rock paper scissors. He thought he had the upper hand but then I had infinite attempts at the random guessing and kicked his ass on the third go. I proceeded to plant the seeds which “transformed the earth in a most permanent manner.” I think I found the author’s favourite phrase. I’m also pretty sure their favourite book is a thesaurus. Everything sounds like it’s trying to sound lofty and as though it was written in a most beautiful manner. The Steam page does say it’s got “novel quality writing.” What a shame it couldn’t be the quality of a good novel. Whoops, I got off track. Back to the adventure!
So the seeds made some vines appear which somehow helped me get over a hill that brought me to the human settlement. I met a hungry chicken who said if I fed him special mushrooms he’d give me something to sabotage the humans HQ. I had to journey for a whole 30 seconds back to the starting area to find them but oh boy was it worth it. The chicken gave me a stick of dynamite and told me how to light it and everything.
I strode up to Human HQ to
commit genocide… terrorism… do valiant heroics and save the forest from the humans. To hell with negotiations and talking. What would they want with a bunch of sentient animals anyway? This was the time for action! But alas, my way was blocked. There was a traitor in our midst.
Sasquatch you son of a bitch you’re one of us! “Look at you standing there in a most dastardly manner”, I thought as I approached. He just wouldn’t budge so I sasquashed him into a fine paste. The door was open. Now was my chance. I lit the dynamite and bolted out of there, safe in the knowledge there would be no more destruction of our forest.
You know, when you think about those humans tearing down the forest it makes you wonder who the true mindless beast is. It’s the deer. It’s definitely the deer that bites people with its rabies infected mouth, feasts on their blood, commits genocide and brags about it to his kids.
And that’s the game. That’s it, literally every quest done and dusted. At the end of the game it’s revealed that the deer became chief and is reading this story to his children. He’s not telling it, he’s reading it. The damn ego on this guy. First he just assumed the humans are evil and murders the lot and later in life reads is own biography to his kids as a bed time story.
Don’t play this.