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htoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary is a puzzle platformer that was originally released on the PlayStation Vita in 2015. Though the name may raise some eyebrows as it appears to be jumbled computer code, the game features beautiful artwork in its 2D visuals and post-apocalyptic world. Directed by Masayuki Furuya, The Firefly Diary also known as “Hotaru no Nikki” is now available on Steam for the PC gaming community.

The story tells the tale of Mion, a young girl with amnesia who awakens alone in a dark and desolate world. She is guided by a green firefly named Lumen at the start and ventures on a journey through the underground ruins as she searches to escape her imprisonment. Along the way, she encounters evil creatures, grisly corpses and eccentric machinery as she struggles to survive and regain her memories. Assisted by Umbra, a purple firefly travelling in the shadows and the compliment to Lumen but one that returns to Mion’s side in times of trouble. Lumen and Umbra are polar opposites with respect to light and darkness but the two fireflies are essential to solving simple and complex puzzles. Whereas Lumen guides and directs Mion in the natural light, Umbra stays within Mion’s shadow and is confined to the darkness around her. Mion relies on the fireflies for survival as she will not move or act on her own without instruction.



As this game was reviewed using the Xbox 360 controller, the controls are smooth and easy to navigate to move the fireflies using the analog stick. Different perspectives are obtained by freely switching between Lumen and Umbra to solve puzzles and acquire items. When Mion interacts with a select item, the game will revert to a flashback of past events which will unlock her memories upon successful completion. With Lumen guiding her path, Mion can push boxes, climb ladders and ledges and pull switches to overcome obstacles and challenges. The danger lies in perilous situations and enemy encounters that will put your wits and reflexes to the test. By tapping Mion, she will sit or stand as you use your logic and intuition to solve complex puzzles. Trial and error is prevalent in this game there is much to see and discover.


Mion is a frail and naïve girl trapped in a mystical world who requires guidance and direction at all times. Firefly Diary quickly grows eerie and sinister with a variety of monsters, puzzles and death traps awaiting you at every turn. Even when you are pursued by monsters, Mion is not able to run forcing players to endure her agonizing and slow paced movement. This gets frustrating in the latter half of the game as puzzles get more difficult with select areas of the game that demand near perfect timing and precision. Mion has a tendency to pause at inconvenient times between actions as you do everything in your power to protect her from harm. There is no health bar so any slips, falls or direct contact with monsters results in a quick death with an automatic repeat of the last puzzle. The environment of the game is reminiscent of games like Ico with its visual charm and minimalistic design as you seek to find answers to who Mion really is and how she came to be trapped in her predicament. Most of the challenge lies not in solving the in-game puzzles and obstacles but in getting Mion safely from Point A to Point B. 



Visually, the game is striking as the dark atmosphere lures you into its world of wonder and intrigue. Despite the company of the two fireflies, you are motivated to persevere through the game’s daunting challenges to lead Mion to safety and obtain as many fragments as possible to piece together her memories. The soundtrack is fitting and appropriate for the game as you feel the ambiance of the game with its written text and subtle sound effects. Neither Mion nor the fireflies, Lumen and Umbra, speak at all and this helps to promote the game’s dark and mysterious atmosphere.


htoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary is a challenging game with a lot of potential. With its ethereal world and ominous atmosphere, it’s a game I thoroughly enjoyed as the controls are a vast improvement over the original Vita version. Although the game feels short in length, Firefly Diary requires much patience and persistence that is not for the faint of heart. The replay value may be lacking but it is ultimately Mion’s adventure and the journey through it all that makes it worthwhile.



PROS: Great Visuals, Challenging Puzzles, Intricate Plot


CONS: Short Game 



SCORE – 7.5/10


This review is based on a digital copy of htoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary on Steam provided by NIS America.

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