Niko: Through The Dream by Studio Paint is a puzzle platformer about Niko, a young woman who, after some tragic events, goes out into the world in search of… something. This journey takes her through an abstract dream world.
There are a lot of puzzles of all kinds: some classics, some platforming, some obstacle courses, some avoiding enemies etc… The game often had you figure out everything on your own, which I like, but did also have some cinematic interruptions to show an important, but distant change, which soon became annoying: I think it would have sufficed to show it only the first time — or, better yet, not at all, and show it some other way if really necessary (like maybe adding a cable from the control panel to the thing it controlled or maybe add an icon to show what the button or switch does). There is no fall damage or penalty for dying (except in one case), so you can experiment without risking anything.
The game starts out looking very stylish and clean with its use of white, black, gray, and some colour for added contrast. The art style develops through the game towards a more lavish use of colour, breathtaking scenery, and more organic shapes like nature and water. Later, when rainbows are introduced, the style almost becomes kitchy, although the change does serve a purpose, so it’s sort of forgiven — and, anyway, who doesn’t love a good rainbow every now and then!?
The story is presented via short hand-drawn animations, and felt optional, because you had to wander off a bit to find them. The story was also partly presented through the gameplay and via the intro cinematic, also hand-drawn, which I felt was a little long, because I expected to play a game, not watch a movie, so maybe that could have been shortened and instead presented by adding to the animations found while playing. On the other hand, the intro does explain why I’m on this journey of mine, so maybe it wouldn’t have worked to present it in-game.
The platforming was what I enjoyed the least, because it got very precise at times, and precise platforming requires precise character control, which wasn’t always the case: one suggestion is to lower the walking speed for more precise movement (and then add sprinting for when you want to move faster). Another issue was that I inadvertently fell off a box while moving another, which made things more frustrating than it had to be. A third issue was not being able to interact with switches (at the water filling puzzles) unless I was standing at the exact right spot and looking in the exact right direction.
The music was okay, but nothing remarkable (competently complementing the game in the background). Oneironaut (“Dream Traveller”), played when you enter the shadow play level, was one of the better; sad and happy at the same time.
There are quite a few bonuses and achievements, and I found most of the ones I found during my second playthrough. I enjoyed the game (enough to play it twice); not so much for the story (it felt a little anonymous, like it was there, but didn’t make itself heard that much), but for the puzzles and the art style. Recommended.