Sometimes you just need a break from intense, high-octane games and from the general stress of life. And Naiad already looks like the perfect game to do just that. Featured during a Nintendo Indies event at GDC 2023, Naiad is an uncomplicated, relaxing experience with gorgeous, painterly visuals that has you swim through a river as a mermaid-like water spirit. If you enjoy peaceful, meditative games like Journey, Flower, and A Short Hike, this will easily fit into your catalog.
Just around the riverbend
Spawning at the source of a bright, meandering river, you are greeted by a cloud that provides a short tutorial on your movement and explains that you were created to protect the stream. In other games, that might mean fighting off evil spirits or bad humans, but here your job is to spread kindness and joy. There’s no pressure to be nice if you don’t want to, but it’s hard not to guide lost ducklings back to their mother.
In the first few chapters I played, which had poetic titles like “the essence that was born when the rain kissed the rock,” I had the option of completing relatively simple puzzles. Right in the opening level, I paddled over to a few butterflies and sang a song to bring them together. I then escorted them over to some blossoming flowers so that they could eat some nectar. That unlocked an essence called petrichor, which means the pleasant smell that accompanies the first rain.
Beyond that, I guided a few frogs together by swimming in spurts (like a frog), formed a school of fish just for kicks, and healed some plants that had been harmed by pollution by singing them back to life. Bringing the ducks back together became a bit more challenging in later sections, forcing me to push away some floating sticks to make a path. There were also a few pools of sunlight that I could bathe in that extended the hair of the water spirit, working similar to the scarf in Journey.
Chill and relax
In later chapters, there may be more pollution that you’ll need to take care of, as suggested by a screenshot that shows the river passing under a highway. But the only human interaction I had in the demo was bringing a flute to a boy who lost it in the river. This led him to play a charming tune that I appreciated for a minute or two.
And really, the point of Naiad isn’t about completing goals and ticking off a list of objectives. There’s nothing wrong with stopping in place, allowing the water spirit to meditate, while you listen to the sprinkling water and the soothing music. Just float about and let your cares drift away for a spell. Take a moment for yourself and breathe.
Developer HiWarp is shooting for a three-hour runtime for Naiad, with the full release having five or more chapters. It is scheduled to release on PC, Mac, Nintendo Switch, and other unannounced consoles in 2023.
This preview is based on a short demo of the game on Nintendo Switch.
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