Void Terrarium (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Eric Ace 26.08.2020

Review for Void Terrarium on Nintendo Switch

The actual title, void tRrLM(); //Void Terrarium, follows the convention of the absolutely crazy namings coming out of Japan, but don't let that fool you - there is a surprisingly subtle emotional tale here. Made by NIS (more known for their Disgaea series), compared to some of its more zany high-action games, this story is far more subtle, dark, and engaging. Taking place in some unknown apocalypse where humanity was killed off by a fungus, a non-speaking robot finds the last girl left alive, and it mist then try to build a terrarium for her to survive this harsh world.

Crazy names aside, void tRrLM(); //Void Terrarium, is actually one of the more subtle games that have come out in a very long time. Taking place in a future where humanity was killed off by a fast-acting fungus, an unnamed robot finds the last girl left alive - infected and on the verge of death. Tasked with trying to save her, it sets the stage for an emotional tale and a dungeon rogue-like adventure. So called rogue-likes seem to be enjoying a massive resurgence as of late, with the simple but engaging gameplay of battling through random floors balancing ever dwindling life while trying to make their way to the end. What is different about this is the way it weaves gameplay into the story.

The player's robot, who is eventually named 'Robbie' finds an A.I. robot, who serves as the only talking character, and together they want to save the nearly-dead girl. The world is hostile, and they have to slowly start building a terrarium (a type of land-fishbowl for those that do not know what this is) for the girl to live in. At first the tasks are purely emergency (make medicine for the girl, build her shelter, etc.), but later it is things like comfort like bedding or places to sit.

Screenshot for Void Terrarium on Nintendo Switch

One of the strong points of the story is an irony and inversion of what the player is doing. For those that do not remember, there was a fad about 20 years ago (that arguably led to Pokémon) called Tamagotchi (also later Giga Pets were popular), where kids would have this little electronic toy pet. Every hour or so they would have to clean up its waste, feed it, play with, it and try to keep it alive. It was surprisingly hard, and they typically died in about a week - an oddly grim toy for kids thinking back on it. The reason this matters, is the game is essentially one of those in reverse.

In the harsh world, robots are the only thing that can live. So it is the girl that is the fragile thing needing food, and cleaning, and avoiding sickness. One of the tasks is to make a literal Tamagotchi to watch the girl, while the robot is in dungeons. It shows her health, if she is sick, shows her doing simple animations like walking or sleeping, and occasionally needing cleaning. The inversion of a robot having their 'human pet' is masterfully done, and the irony of a real life player playing a game about a robot taking care of a human is enough to make some heads spin.

Screenshot for Void Terrarium on Nintendo Switch

Dungeon crawling is purely average. It does a few things right, but nothing that stands above the competition in this regard. It is very by-the-book of take a turn, enemies take a turn, and so on. Like most, early on battles are slug fests of punching each other and watching dwindling HP. One reason rogue-type games are popular, is because of the tension between moving, fighting, and trying to recover life. Two major changes is having the scanner about the girl's health keeping players on their toes of trying to find food to feed her (which is surprisingly hard and causes tons of tension); and secondly random skills from levelling-up.

The two major reasons for heading into the wasteland is to find parts for the girl's home, and also finding her food. The wasteland is contaminated, and when the girl is desperate for food it feels exciting finding a bug to feed her, only to be disappointed when the bug is heavily contaminated. Now, the player has to decide about feeding her a poisoned item and her getting sick, or simply letting her die. It is a very gripping emotional situation, for how simplistic it seems.

Screenshot for Void Terrarium on Nintendo Switch

In battles after a level up, players are given a selection of two random skills, and these range from very bad small stat bonuses, to absolutely crazy ones like leeching life, hitting twice, hitting every square around the player, and so on. As life goes in these games, sometimes everything goes right, and sometimes it all goes wrong. Permanent progression is unlocked while building things for the girl, and players can customize to some extent the selection of random skills they unlock in battle.

Emotions run pretty high for how little text there is in-game. The A.I. character does all the talking, explaining what happened, and how the current situation got to be, but beyond all of this, there is something pulling about taking care of that little girl in her fishbowl you made for her against this cruel world outside. What really makes this is how well it breaks the fourth wall without a single word. After all, you are taking care of a virtual girl against the harshness of the world outside - it is impossible to not have existentialist ponderings come up while playing this game. For that reason alone, it really rises above many other games.

Screenshot for Void Terrarium on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

It is exceedingly rare to have a video game bring up what essentially amounts to existentialism, and raise questions about a player's own life, all with very little dialogue. The emotional engagement for having the two primary characters not talk was stunning, and the inversion of real life pet toys was an interesting irony this played with very well. The setting, atmosphere, and story, were the high marks of the game, and while the actual dungeon crawling is purely average, having the girl back at home that constantly needed taking care of, added a needed sense of tension. Being able to raise deep concepts about duty, life and entertainment, makes this stand far above many other games.

Developer

Nippon Ichi

Publisher

Nippon Ichi

Genre

Turn Based RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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