Mobile review: Hiversaires

It's difficult to describe a game like Hiversaires. The debut game from solo developer Devine Lu Linvega dips players into a nocturnal, ambient environment shrouded in mystery. And it's mystery in every sense of the word, thanks to a completely minimalistic presentation. It's sure to entice curious explorers seeking to unravel wide-open environments piece-by-piece, but it's also just as likely to turn off anyone that needs any sense of direction.


Hiversairies starts in an abandoned field--literally. There are no objectives given, no text offered anywhere in the game, no explanation of controls, and there isn't even so much as a title screen. The player is put in a first-person view and left to his or her own devices. The touch screen is used to move and it's also used to interact with pieces of the environment. The fun is in fulfilling that nagging sense of curiosity by exploring strange symbols and puzzles. Solving puzzles will open up new areas and because of the game's minimalist style, finding new places to explore feels like more of an accomplishment.

There's a vast world to explore in Hiversaires and that makes it easy to get lost. The first-person perspective makes it easy to forget where you've been and there isn't a trail of breadcrumbs to help you find your way back. The touch controls may not help in this matter, either. Since tapping the bottom of the screen will move you forward or make you turn, it's easy to accidentally move when you're trying to explore the spot you're currently in.

Also, Hiversaires is bleak. The sense of confusion is complemented with a black-and-white art style that feels like rain is coming at any moment. There's a depressing tone that persists throughout the game and feels amplified the farther down the rabbit hole you go. It's an artistic marvel, but the game starts to feel somewhat maudlin after a prolonged session.

After several days, I'm still unsure of what to make of Hiversaires. The black-and-white art style is pleasing to the eye and the environments offer plenty to explore. There's a genuine sense of wonder in exploring the world for the first time. And yet, I still have no idea what I'm doing or what the endgame is, if any. I feel like there's an objective somewhere, but I'm hard-pressed to find it and that's somewhat unnerving. That persistent sense of confusion could work as a detriment, especially when asking for $2.99 in a crowded iOS marketplace. Those that appreciate the exploration styles of a game like Myst or Proteus will enjoy Hiversaires, but be warned that it's definitely not a game for everyone. [6]

This Hiversaires review is based on a copy of the game provided by the developer, tested on a third-generation iPad and third-generation iPod Touch. The game is now available on the App Store (Universal) for $2.99.