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The Student News Site of California State University, Stanislaus

Signal

The Student News Site of California State University, Stanislaus

Signal

What You See

Some ways into “Naya’s Quest” your character resolutely declares, “I only believe what I can see for myself, with my own eyes.” This should be an obvious red flag.
Independent developer Terry Cavanagh seems to be interested, on some level, with circularity. “Don’t Look Back” sends you through an Orphean to-the-Underworld-and-back-again trial, only to leave you the same destitute figure mourning beside a tombstone. “Super Hexagon” places players in endlessly spiraling death mazes as appropriately hectic chip-tune electronica loops and loops. In his more recent game, “Naya’s Quest,” remnants of this theme are still present.
In reductive terms, “Naya’s Quest” has you solving room-based puzzles. Cavanagh’s retro, minimalist aesthetic, refined over many games, imparts a sense of loneliness and mystery – complementing the game’s deceptively simple ruleset for its puzzles and its sparse narrative.
What story exists in “Naya’s Quest” is communicated by the player-controlled character (presumably Naya), a girl on her way to the edge of the world. We learn from her that world is shrinking. Walking through the final town before “the edge,” Naya reflects that it will disappear in a couple of weeks.
“Maybe one day the world will shrink to nothing,” she adds, crossing a minuscule bridge. Ones and zeros rain down from the sky.
You come across three separate “dungeons” at the edge of the world, each full of perspective puzzles. Things aren’t what they seem, and tiles arranged in vaguely Tetris-style shapes group together in misleading patterns, tricking you into falling to your death. Naya’s scanner helps you discern their true arrangement and reveals the actual path to each room’s exit.
Of course, things only escalate, and it’s difficult to illustrate to ingenious visual trickery of the later rooms. The world’s rules subtly change over the game’s short timespan, and the player’s interaction with them gets disrupted in ways that I’d rather let you discover on your own.
Like “Don’t Look Back” before it, the vague ending of “Naya’s Quest” didn’t leave me with a sense of resolution. Returning to the title screen reveals a “New Game+” mode – a return to the start. This time, the scanner tool has a different function, and you’ll have find new ways of seeing the same rooms. Perspective blurs with perception, and an old, recursive pattern steps just into view.
“Naya’s Quest” is playable for free in your internet browser of choice at terrycavanaghgames.com.

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