Review: htoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary
The Firefly Diary opens as Mion, a young girl with antler-like horns, awakens in the midst of dangerous ruins. Two fairies, one that works in the light and the other in the darkness, accompany Mion as it is up to them to lead her to safety. Throughout the game you’ll control both fairies, switching between light and darkness, as you keep Mion safe and attempt to guide her out of the labyrinth.
It’s important to note immediately that the game’s default touch controls are not responsive and will likely make this game far more frustrating than it needs to be. The ‘C’ version of the controls will allow for full button/analog stick controls and works much better. This doesn’t clear up all of the issues within the game, but it does help tremendously.
Progressing through the game requires that you simply guide Mion through each section while avoiding whatever traps and enemies await. You’ll sometimes come across pretty simple puzzles, but for the most part you’ll need to use each fairy to help keep Mion safe. The Light Fairy can be moved across the screen to guide Mion in a specific direction while the Dark Fairy can be moved through shadows to interact with specific objects. (Lowering ladders, activating switches, etc.) The frustration comes into play when you consider that The Firefly Diary often requires quick reactions and a good bit of luck. More than a handful of times I found myself completely stuck in an area, dying over and over again, simply because the controls aren’t suitable to the kind of maneuvers you’ll need to perform. The touch controls, due to how unresponsive they are, can make these sections far worse which is why I don’t recommend using them at all.
Boss fights in the game for the most part are pretty well done as they play to the strengths of the game. (Specifically manipulating things with each fairy.) Unfortunately two boss fights in particular lead to a lot of deaths that felt pretty cheap. In these two fights there are moments in which dangerous debris will fall from above (or spikes rising from the ground) that will kill Mion instantly. These are typically telegraphed a few moments before anything happens giving you a fair warning. However, I noticed a number of times in which nothing was ever telegraphed causing me to die instantly without much of a warning. Even if you do see some debris falling from the sky Mion moves far too slowly to get out of the way in time.
Needless to say you’re expected to die a lot in The Firefly Diary and I don’t really mind that, but my frustration lies specifically in the fact that so many of my deaths felt cheap/unfair. To be specific there are moments where you need to be quick, you need to fit through tight areas, or you need to hope that you get lucky with the location of a particularly deadly saw. Mion’s speed and the controls (touch or buttons) just don’t work very well to this style of movement. It leads to deaths that feel cheap and makes the whole experience pretty frustrating.
It’s not all bad though, The Firefly Diary looks fantastic on the Vita. The distinct art style really shows well and every chapter features its very own area that feels totally different from the rest. There’s even short memory sequences that present an isometric pixelated view in which you’ll discover more of Mion’s back-story. There’s some incredible art direction going on with the vast majority of it being quite memorable. The art ended up serving to be the core reason why I kept playing the game through any frustration that arose. I needed to see what new area I’d find myself in next. This worked right up to the end as The Firefly Diary is consistently presenting you with new areas and a growing sense of progression through its art. The way it all comes together to tell a story, and where that story goes, is done very well.
For as great as The Firefly Diary looks it’s really unfortunate that the gameplay can be so frustrating. Cheap deaths, unresponsive touch controls, and a number of other smaller annoyances really hurt my experience with the game by the time it was all said and done. I’ve been excited for The Firefly Diary for quite some time and it sucks to say that I’m just left disappointed with how things turned out in the end.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes. For more info on our review policy click here.
What I Like:
- Great art
- Memory Segments
What I Dislike:
- Unresponsive touch controls
- Cheap deaths
- The game often asks you to do things that the controls don't work very well with.