The Nightjar is a game unlike any other I have ever played. It is set on a spaceship that has experienced a catastrophic failure and is slowly drifting into a black hole. Alone on the ship in the pitch black, you (known as “The Passenger”) must try to navigate through this darkened environment on the basis of nothing more than the sounds around you. You are guided by two voices, one is the voice of the ship’s computer and the other is the voice of a man who says he is part of the team on the way to rescue you. But, who should you trust? And, how long will you be alone?
Despite its understated graphics (you really only see bars of light representing your footsteps and an arc of light that you can swipe to turn to the left or right), the game manages to be extremely engaging and creepy. As is befitting of a game that makes use almost exclusively of sound, the sound effects are quite impressive. The game requires headphones and once you have put yours on you will understand why as the sounds appear to surround you. Listen to your own footsteps change as you traverse different surfaces and build a mental image of your surroundings as you hear doors open ahead of you and close behind you. It is hard to believe how much imagery the game designers have been able to pack into these 3D sound effects and it is definitely the most impressive part of the game.
Beyond these unique gameplay elements, this app also offers a lot for genre fans, from the science fiction concept of trying to escape a dying spacecraft, the horror elements inherent in creeping through a pitch black and possibly hostile environment, to more specific references to pop culture. Fans of the Portal series will almost certainly see echoes of GLaDOS in the voice of the ship’s computer which frequently points out facts that you may prefer to ignore (such as how cold it is in space and how you shouldn’t trust what you hear) and fans of the BBC’s Sherlock may be excited to discover that the mysterious figure who may or may not be trying to help you escape from the ship is voiced by none other than Benedict Cumberbatch.
Nightjar is one of the most unique games I have found for mobile devices; I found it both interesting and entertaining. I’ve tried the game on both an iPad and an iPhone 5 and while it works on both, it is actually quite a bit better on an iPhone (at least on my iPad it occasionally crashed between levels). I am typically hesitant to try apps that aren’t free and even more hesitant to recommend them here, but if you are gamer who is always looking for games that make use of new and unique elements, Nightjar is definitely worth its $4.99 price tag. Check out the game trailer below: