I’m no stranger to puzzle games. Professor Layton is one of my favorite series of all time and I’ve also quite enjoyed other non-conventional titles in the genre like Rain and many others over the years.
So when I started playing through “The Firefly Diary” I felt like I was treading familiar grounds. However, it didn’t take long for me to realize that there was something different about this one. It was intensely difficulty and not in a good way.
Platforms: Vita Exclusive.
Length: 3-4 hours.
The premise of this title revolves around a little girl named “Mion” who the player is tasked to escort using two fireflies.
One guides her towards it with its light and the other stops time in order to move in the shadows and interact with a variety of objects/creatures.
The game is by default, selected to be played using only the front/back touch screens but luckily the USA version of the title allows for alternative control schemes – mainly, the use of the analog stick to control the fireflies and a button to transition to the shadow world.
When I first began the playthrough, I only used the default control scheme (I didn’t know I could even change them at the time) and ended up playing through over half the game in that manner.
My experience of that felt something akin to trying to throw a fuzzy line of string into a needle from afar and pricking myself every time I missed.
I put the game down, over and over again- pushed to the brink with the intent of giving up but I kept at it after cooling off for some time, determined play as much of the game as I could so I could write a proper review.
Had I not been reviewing this title, I would have given up on the beginning parts of chapter two and never looked back without feeling a hint of remorse.
To give an example of some of that difficulty, there was one particular section where I had to make it through a long maze without ever touching any of the walls in a very limited amount of time.
Using my finger to navigate the firefly naturally meant I was obscuring some of the screen, often the very places I was moving towards and given how quickly I had to move and how precise the movements needed to be, it resulted in dozens of retries.
With the whole not having to touch to walls mechanics, I felt like I was play “Operation”… with my fingers.
Luckily, there were unlimited lives and the checkpoint system was fairly generous so I was able to push through with sheer willpower.
When I changed the control scheme to analog stick & buttons, the deaths became much less frustrating but just as frequent as the structure of the difficulty was balanced towards trial and error more so than clever thinking.
I prefer puzzle games that tax my mind and reward out-of-the-box thinking and unfortunately “The Firefly Diary” does very in this regard.
While they introduce new mechanics frequently enough, the emphasis was always in the execution of the movement and dying over and over again just to figure out when you should be using the shadow firefly.
As for the story, it’s told through various flashbacks hidden throughout the levels but while they hinted at the greater picture, it never quite came together in a satisfying manner.
The Firefly Diary is a title that showed potential but was ultimately done in by its philosophy on implementing a needless level of difficulty to the experience.
Fun Tidbit: I’m being serious here, if you’ve broken a controller in frustration/anger, you might do well to stay clear of this game, lest some harm come to your Vita!
Review copy of game provided by publisher.