If you’re the kind of person that shies away from games if you can’t pronounce the title, chances are you aren’t into Japanese games, much less roguelike RPGs in the vein of the Mystery Dungeon series. This is a very niche genre, perhaps more so than most of NIS’ other games, and that’s saying something. But this offers more than that, and it caught me off-guard on several occasions.
void tRrLM(); //Void Terrarium begins with a lusciously painted feel as you revive a robot, who is affectionately named Robbie. This is who you’ll be exploring dungeons with, as well as building up the terrarium for the girl you happen upon. As you find out later, the world was infected by a fungus that ended up resulting in an apocalypse (I assure you I’m not talking about that other game accidentally) and driving the human race underground. Things are pretty dire, and life isn’t looking too exciting for this human girl – luckily, she has Robbie to take care of her.
As with any roguelike, there will be lots of death and flawed attempts at progressing the story. Sometimes it feels like failure is necessary to progress, as frustrating as that is. Early on this is not a big deal, as it adds enough new things to make you forget the frustrations and look forward to getting better. The game even has its own Tamagotchi aspect, which served as a nice piece of nostalgia for a brief part of my childhood. However, it’s not as simple as just feeding, petting, and cleaning up that you’ll have to do here – you also need to build a suitable habitat and make sure the girl survives sicknesses. Your Pet Nanny well alert you when she’s not feeling well, and your robot friend will diagnose her, letting you know where to go in order to acquire the necessary medicine to cure her. These little breaks aren’t especially different from the majority of the game, but it does give you a slight urgency in what you’re doing.
If you’ve never played a game like this, it’s essentially a turn-based board game where every time you move, so do the enemies. At least, they take a turn – some enemies require two turns to move, attack, etc. You start at a base level each time and all the abilities and most of the items you pick up are gone once you die or complete your goal. Key items stay with you, as do food items if you put them in your vault opposed to breaking them down for resources. So you’ll explore each level and proceed when you feel ready, although sticking around for too long isn’t recommended – in addition to health, you have energy, and this is consumed with any action you take, especially when using special abilities.
A key portion of this game is item management, as you’ll need to juggle the likes of batteries to continue exploring, tool kits for when traps and monsters gang up on you, and weapon items for those giant monster house parties you’ll regret crashing. As you level up in a run you can get upgrades for added items slots, making this process a bit easier. You also get crafting bonuses when making things outside of the dungeon, which are how Robbie gains additional stats through his many failed runs. The gameplay loop for this genre has always been very hit or miss with me, but this one kept me coming back, which was surprising even to me.
As is the case with most of these games, the dungeons become a bit too repetitive early on. Not just the layouts or the enemies, but the traps and way to proceed as well. There’s not a whole lot of differentiation, which can make the grind a bit more tiresome. While I kept coming back to it, I was playing in very short bursts, and often streamed it to my phone as it felt more at home there. I’d say the Switch is probably the better platform for this out of your two options, as it feels like a portable game. The writing is certainly a nice way to break up the game, although I feel like it may have benefited from more. It doesn’t take itself seriously all the time, which is nice given the situation the world is facing.
If you have been looking for a new game in the vein of the Mystery Dungeon series, but a bit darker thematically, look no further that void tRrLM(); //Void Terrarium. While it lacks boss battles and the staying power to keep you playing it for hours on end, it has enough uniqueness to make you say “just one more run” in the hopes of building some more items to boost your stats, allowing you to get further in the next attempt. Not overly difficult, but hard enough that you’ll die if you let your guard down. Not my favorite game of the year, but most likely my favorite in the genre.
7 out of 10
- Beautiful Art Direction
- Fun Writing
- Addictive Gameplay Loop
- Trial and Error
- Failure to Progress Gets Old
- Repetitive Layouts, Enemies, Traps
void tRrLM(); //Void Terrarium was developed and published by Nippon Ichi Software (NIS) in conjunction with Nippon Ichi Software America (NISA). It is available on NS and PS4. The game was provided to us for review on PS4. If you’d like to see more of void tRrLM(); //Void Terrarium, check out the official site.
Here at GBG we use a rating method that you are more than likely familiar with – a scale of 1 to 10. For clarification, we intend on using the entire scale: 1-4 is something you should probably avoid paying for; 5-7 is something that is worth playing, but probably not at full price; 8-10 is a great title that you can feel confident about buying. If you have any questions or comments about how we rate a game, please let us know.