Secret Shelf: Here Comes Niko! Is The Platformer For Sleepy People
Gaming is meant to be a hobby, right? Something we get to do in our downtime, to relax and unwind. Of course, there are narrative masterworks that demand more attention from the Naughty Dogs of the world, but the primary function of video games is to entertain.
While the cultural hive-mind’s gravitation to war simulators and blitzing battle royale games that favour lightning-fast reaction times has had its merits (Apex Legends, namely), not only have the likes of the 3D platformer been neglected in the process, but so have games that are just happy to help you relax. That’s where Here Comes Niko comes in.
Here Comes Niko - The Sleepy Platformer
The game, helmed by developer and composer Stijn Van Wakeren with lead artist Clear Eclair and published by A Hat In Time's Gears For Breakfast, is one of the sweetest I’ve seen in recent years. The story follows Niko, the new recruit and professional friend at Tadpole inc. As Niko, you’ll travel to six different islands on a quest to help everyone you can with their menial tasks, and make sure everyone’s having the best time - you included. Oh, and your boss is a frog. That seemed like an important detail.
The most striking thing you’ll notice about Here Comes Niko! is its unwillingness to overwhelm you. 3D platformers are often driven by their big and bombastic ideas, and as such require constant engagement. Van Wakeren was less willing to use such techniques.
“The main idea of the game was to be an action-platformer that wasn’t stressful”, they told GGRecon over Discord. “I remember playing most, but you just die - to lava, a monster, or something else. I always wanted to play platformers but some were so intense, and I just didn’t have the energy for it. I thought ‘why can’t I just run around without being confronted?’ Everything in the game is in service of that idea.”
No Deaths Required
Here Comes Niko! is Van Wakeren’s first development project, but you wouldn’t know it at the first glance. The polish in Clear Eclair's visuals is immaculate, and the style is so sleek and compliments the beautiful world so well that you’ll collapse right into it. The worlds of Here Comes Niko! are as colourful and welcoming as they come, and do wonders for Van Wakeren’s ethos of bringing a relaxing, stress-free platforming experience to those who just need a break.
Coming together with the theme of stress-free gaming, the game is pretty easy - but that’s not entirely by design, and according to Van Wakeren, it’s just a happy symptom of the game’s design. “The water [that surrounds the islands] came about so that there’s something to catch the player when they fall. I figured - take away the risk. The game isn’t naturally easy, but I make it as riskless as possible.”
Beauty Is In The Eye Of The Frog-Holder
“If you want [Here Comes Niko!] summarised in a word: atmosphere. I find a big part of it is its characters, and its humour, which became a big part of the game during development. I wanted it to be nice to you, to be a good ‘wind-down’ game. It’s like the tagline - it’s a platformer for tired people.” There are few better ways that the game can be described than its tagline, to be honest - the very essence of the game is its sleepiness, and its charm stems from its fluffy silliness. “I think it has a cosy, warm atmosphere that lets you feel like a deer frolicking around in a forest but it still allows for action gameplay”, says Stijn. “A lot of people think that action and relaxation seem to be polar opposites, but they’re not.”
It’s this attitude that’s helped to make Here Comes Niko! such a special title. It’s filled with mini-games, sweet dialogue interactions and a whole host of characters you’re bound to fall in love with - all without losing the action-packed platforming in the process, and without sacrificing a huge player-base by making it too difficult. Here Comes Niko! is made with love, and you’ll know it from the moment you start your journey as Tadpole Inc’s newest professional friend. All you dozy gamers, and those of you looking for a bold step away from the perilous gunfire of gaming’s leading titles - this one’s for you.
Here Comes Niko! Comes To Steam and Nintendo Switch on August 3.