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htoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary (PS Vita) Review

/ Feb 27th, 2015 No Comments

The PS Vita has been a mixed bag when it comes to new games. Most of its library is composed of ports from various other consoles or mobile games. While this often nothing to complain about, the lack of original titles makes a sad comment on the health and viability of the system. Thus, when an original game actually comes out for the system and utilizes the console’s unique touchscreen and rear touchpad features, it is exciting.

htoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary shows a good deal of promise for an original PS Vita, but it ultimately disappoints. The look and vibe of the game is excellent, but the actual gameplay aspect is substandard due mainly to poor touchscreen and touchpad mechanics.

A Monster Like Me

What is most captivating about htoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary is the superb presentation. The art style and atmosphere work together to create hauntingly beautiful visuals. Each level contains a “pink memory sprout” that tells a bit of the main character’s past. These past memories show the main character’s home life with her parents, who are seemingly normal on the surface.

htoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary

There is a great glitch effect that happens when a memory is triggered.

However, once players complete the task for each memory, something rather disturbing happens to suggest this girl’s past is much darker and sinister than originally thought. When entering into memory, the visual style switches to a pixel-esque look, which manages to be more evocative and chilling given the subject of the memories. Searching out these memories in each stage is worthwhile, even if gaining access to them isn’t always the easiest.

A Problem Experiment

Where htoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary both fails and is commendable is its controls. The game uses the front touchscreen to control the main character. Sliding your finger across the touch screen allows you to direct the girl when you want her to walk, move down ladders, push or pull objects, or sit down. A green firefly moves across the touchscreen with your finger, acting as an indicator for all these actions.

htoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary

Moving around in the game requires moving the green firefly via the touch screen.

The other side of things is using the shadows and the rear touchpad. Tapping on the rear touchpad moves a purple firefly across shadows on the level. The purple firefly can only traverse shadows starting from the girl’s, so if you see an area you want to reach and there isn’t a shadow connecting you and it, then you need to maneuver the girl to a point where the shadows connect. In the shadows, the purple firefly can interact with glowing purple spots to manipulate objects in the light world. Perfecting this mechanic is necessary to figure out puzzles and move forward.

All of these commands and how they relate to levels are straightforward at first. It isn’t until the levels become more complicated and hectic that the controls and fidelity of the touch controls breaks down. Many of the puzzles and challenges in the game require speed, but for some reason, despite the Vita’s good touchscreens, the controls are unresponsive. This causes many stages to become a series of trial and error until you break through.

htoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary

Get used to seeing this if you want to get down and dirty with htoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary.

An early boss fight where players are being chased and need to utilize both the light and shadow world to fend off the hulking shadow beast becomes much tougher due to the lack of responsiveness in the controls. However, worse than that, there is a lack of intuitiveness to the gameplay design. There is a specific point to switch to the shadow world and manipulate a purple spot that is almost insanely easy to miss. This results in numerous deaths until you noodle around enough, and even then it is a short window to pull off the move. There is a difference between difficulty and lack of knowing what your mistake is.

There are also other issues of having to make sophisticated moves with either the touchscreen or touchpad that mar the experience. It is the games where the touch controls work on the Vita that makes people want more opportunities that take advantage of these unique features. When they don’t work, it makes you wonder why you’d want them at all.


htoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary misses the mark. While artistically it looks fantastic and has plenty to draw players in, it never fully captures its audience. That is mainly due to wonky controls that ruin the immersive experience. Despite boldly using the Vita’s touchscreen and touchpad in a clever manner, the mechanics are loose, resulting in an inordinate amount of trial and error.

There is a good deal to like here, but unless you have the patience to combat the controls, you may never find it.


Kalvin Martinez

Kalvin Martinez

Senior Editor at Gaming Illustrated
Kalvin Martinez studied Creative Writing at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He writes reviews, prose and filthy limericks. While he is Orange County born, he now resides in Portland, OR. He is still wondering what it would be like to work at a real police department. Follow Kalvin on Twitter @freepartysubs
Kalvin Martinez

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There are plenty of good ideas at work in the gameplay, but it falls apart with unresponsive controls. It is not unplayable by any means, but making progress sometimes will feel like ramming your head against a wall.


What is most captivating about htoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary is the superb presentation. The art style and atmosphere work together to create haunting and beautiful visuals.


The music in htoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary works well with the visuals and atmosphere of the game to create a sense of uneasiness and danger, which is what the main character is up against.


htoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary succeeds in telling a subtle backstory of the main character that allows the player to infer meaning on their own. The change in visual style also works well with the minimalist nature of the backstory.

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