Play Nairi: Tower of Shirin for the Amazing Puzzles (and Talking Cats)

With so many unusual indie titles constantly hitting the Nintendo Switch, it's always getting harder to know which ones are work getting and which ones simply aren't worth my time.

When I first stumbled across Nairi: Tower of Shirin, I almost passed on it—but a second look at the game's visual style made me change my mind. With ultra-cute characters that totally drew me in, I was happy to accept when the creators offered me a review key for the game. After checking it out, I was really glad I did.

Nairi: Tower of Shirin: Main title

(Nairi: Tower of Shirin via Another Indie)

The Story

Nairi: Towers of Shirin takes place in a desert city where humans and anthropomorphized animals coexist. It follows the titular Nairi, a sheltered but feisty young girl from Shirin's wealthy district. When her parents are arrested—and with authorities after her next—she manages to escape, only to find herself in the custody of a gang of bandit cats.

Nairi: Tower of Shirin: Eating with cat bandits

(Nairi: Tower of Shirin via Another Indie)

When Nairi uses her wits to break out of their hideout, she wins their respect and their trust. Unable to immediately return to Shirin, she spends weeks with them and learns their cunning ways until she believes it's time to head home and set things right.

With the help of a wise mouse named Rex, she seeks answers by diving into the town's history. As she deals with strange masked baddies, she finds out there's way more to Shirin than had been revealed in her lessons, including a devastating storm that ravaged the land. She also discovers that her own family has a very special history with the city—and that her connection with Shirin grants her special powers that are necessary to unfold the truth.

Nairi: Tower of Shirin: Nairi and Acolyte

(Nairi: Tower of Shirin via Another Indie)


The Gameplay

Nairi is a point-and-click puzzle game done right. It feels like a combination of Professor Layton-style exploration, but with puzzles more akin to solving a Legend of Zelda dungeon.

The Nintendo Switch gives players a few options in terms of navigation. In handheld mode, you can use the control stick to move around a cursor, and select objects with the A button, or you can simply play by utilizing the touchscreen. When you play on the TV, you can play by pointing a Joy-Con controller on the TV like a pointer, but I've found that this control scheme is less precise, and definitely prefer playing it handheld.

Nairi: Tower of Shirin: Duck bar

(Nairi: Tower of Shirin via Another Indie)

Playing Nairi is all about surveying your surroundings and knowing which action to take next. By clicking on objects you can either learn more about your situation, interact with them or pick them up to slot into your inventory. For example, you may discover a key, and to use it, you'll want to open your inventory and click and drag the key over the lock to open it. Sometimes, objects can also be contained. When you get a pot of glue in your inventory, you never know what strange items you might be able to fuse together.

Nairi: Tower of Shirin: Inventory items

(Nairi: Tower of Shirin via Another Indie)

But mostly, Nairi is about solving unique logic puzzles, and it's where the game really excels. In terms of point-and-click adventures, it strikes a perfect balance between being far too easy and being so mind-numbingly hard that it's frustrating. Figuring them out simply requires thorough exploration, knowledge of the tools at hand and some clever thinking. I also found that it didn't hurt to have a pen and paper by my side for certain puzzles, too.

If you get stumped early on in the game, you're out of luck, but once you meet Rex, you'll also have his book of hints at your disposal so you're never too far away from the next solution. But even if you never get stuck, they're worth looking at because they're all adorable and bursting with personality.

Nairi: Tower of Shirin: Vision hint

(Nairi: Tower of Shirin via Another Indie)


The Style

From the opening screen showing off developer HomeBearStudio's logo, I knew I was in for a visual treat for this game. It was extremely charming, and a precursor for everything that was to come after it.

Nairi: Tower of Shirin: HomeBearStudio logo

(Nairi: Tower of Shirin via Another Indie)

This game would be great even if it only focused on the character design (which is some of the cutest I've seen all year), but the backgrounds are completely stunning as well. It's clear that a lot of care and attention was put into every graphical element of the game, making it worthwhile to pore over every detail. Encountering gorgeous new areas really added to the atmosphere and made every part of Shirin feel like a real place.

Nairi: Tower of Shirin: Pool filling with water

(Nairi: Tower of Shirin via Another Indie)

Of course, the characters are the most irresistible part of the game's look. Every character's personality shines through both their actions and their look, and each character is crafted to be totally distinctive and memorable.  Even when I had only briefly known certain characters, I was sad to see them part, and when certain characters needed something of me, I was eager to do so—not only to advance the story, but also because I liked them so much.

Nairi: Tower of Shirin: Nairi says goodbye to cats

(Nairi: Tower of Shirin via Another Indie)


The Big Picture

Overall, Nairi accomplished more than I ever hoped it could. Rather than being a blank canvas for players to project themselves upon, Nairi herself was a fully fleshed-out character who I rooted for every step of the way. She's an adventurous, spunky spirit who's totally unafraid to speak her mind, and I loved the relationships she developed as the story progressed.

Nairi: Tower of Shirin: Nairi bored with homework

(Nairi: Tower of Shirin via Another Indie)

Without being heavy-handed, the game touches on the struggles between Shirin's different classes in a compelling way while painting the story of the strange way their pasts are tied together. It helps that you discover all of this as the rest of the story unfolds, with the game's core mystery driving the narrative. And it's all really funny, too.

Nairi: Tower of Shirin: Priest hiding key near butt

(Nairi: Tower of Shirin via Another Indie)

Of course, every game has its flaws. I have a pretty horrible sense of direction, and when I traveled around the map, I didn't always wind up facing the direction I thought I was facing, which resulted in a lot of going back and forth to orient myself and figure out where I was.

Nairi: Tower of Shirin: Orb in secret room

(Nairi: Tower of Shirin via Another Indie)

The game also makes it extremely easy to accidentally click back into another room. Since each screen takes a couple of moments to load, it can be a huge pain, and it eats up time every time I click in the wrong place.

The controls can also occasionally be a little imprecise. In one early area, I obtained a crowbar and thought I knew exactly where I'd need to use it. When I did try to utilize it there, the game told me that it didn't work. Only until I tried it again about 10 minutes later did I realize that I'd probably clicked in the wrong area the first couple of times. Other times, I had trouble progressing because I was missing an element that I could click on. Sometimes, finding a solution meant gathering everything I needed by randomly clicking around an area.

Still, the game more than made up for it with its great puzzles. One part of the game had me rig together a device to safely rappel out of a window, combining a bunch of items I'd gathered up until that moment to do so. Despite being pretty straightforward, it made me feel really clever and was super satisfying to put together.

And a couple of times I was completely stumped, only to come back after a break and find the glaringly obvious solution right in front of me in just seconds. This game is full of aha moments that make everything worthwhile.

If there's one big bummer about the story, it's that it isn't fully resolved at the end of the game. Still, I'll be among the first to check out the sequel because I really want to see how things pan out. If it's anything like this game, I'm going to be obsessed with that, too.

Nairi: Tower of Shirin: Nairi looks shocked

(Nairi: Tower of Shirin via Another Indie)

You can pick the game up for $9.99 in the Nintendo eShop.


If you can't get enough of puzzles, click HERE to read my review of The Room.