the-nightjar_431598741_ipad_01.jpgBenedict Cumberbatch.
Those two words sold this game for me the second I heard it was coming to the US App Store.

I have been a huge fan of Benedict Cumberbatch since I first saw the BBC series “Sherlock” where his portrayal of a modern-day version of Sherlock Holmes blew me away with a level of depth that most depictions could not achieve. Many people now know him as the villain in the new Star Trek Into Darkness film – another a great example of his character work.

Get used to him – well mostly his voice, since he is your only friendly companion in The Nightjar.

The Nightjar is an audio adventure for iOS where you “see with your ears.” Rather than a complex UI, this adventure simply has three controls: Two panels that represent your feet, and a dial that controls your orientation. No health bars, nothing. You must “see with your ears” (this is a common repeated theme in the game, since it pretty much is the entire game.) as you walk, often stumbling over your own feet as you become accustomed to this unusual universe of blackness.

the-nightjar_431598741_ipad_03.jpgYou guide yourself towards the destination, usually a beacon you can hear pulsing in the distance as unimaginable creatures lay in wait between you and your only chance for survival. This description does not do the game justice as it is truly terrifying to hear these ….things..all around you, and trying not to jump out of your skin when something falls right behind you.

The Papa Sangre engine powers the game and does things that seem simply incredible with sound. Every sound is perfect and there is no extra noise or anything that would imply laziness or cheapness in the sound design department. Every time you make a bad step and are devoured you may have to check your limbs to make sure they are still attached.There were many moments where I closed my eyes and just played in the darkness to get that fully immersed feeling of “Oh my god, what’s that behin….OHCRIPESIMGONNADIE” every few minutes.

The game is a bit short, about 2 hours or so, and broken into very reasonable chunks, but this is where I ran into some issues.

the-nightjar_431598741_ipad_02.jpgI discovered in our always-on world it is incredibly difficult to find time to dedicate all your senses to a game and nothing else. Much like most adults, I tend to have short bursts of time that I can get some gaming in, but I never realized how distracted I really was when I thought I was “just gaming”. Various needs of the family as well as phone calls, texts, emails and other game notifications would take me out of the game, causing me to become more determined to get more Nightjar time as this review became more and more delayed. Eventually I was able to steal some quiet time super late at night to play through more of The Nightjar. Unfortunately some plays would creep me out enough that getting to sleep became difficult.

The game basically requires you to have a decent noise-cancelling headset, or earbuds at the very least. I tried 3 different types and found the earPods worked the best for me to turn off the world around me and get into this terrifying space misadventure.

In Conclusion

So if you like survival horror that puts you directly into the action, you can find a few hours of truly alone time, and you have a strong heart for horror, then download The Nightjar.

Consider Benedict Cumberbatch’s voice as an awesome bonus.