Nott Longa

PC, Linux, Android

Set in an abandoned arcade game, Nott Longa is a lofi black-and-white adventure game, that elusively explores issues of nostalgia, hope and time. Surrounded by ghosts of a forgotten retro world, this is an intense and peculiar experience.

It’s funny how one bad section can really colour how you feel about a game. Until Nott Longa‘s massive misstep, I was so enthralled and excited to write about it. After it, I’m frustrated by how much one bad experience dominates my impressions. So let me shake that off for a moment, and talk about why this is absolutely worth your time, despite it.

Rendered in black and white scritchy pixels, you find yourself in a desolate world, purportedly the remains of what happens to a retro arcade machine when left fallow for decades. The place is falling to ruin, an ennui across both its land and inhabitants, but for the most part eschewing the most direct cliches of such an idea. There are glitches, but that’s not the theme – this is instead about an all-encompassing tiredness.

It plays out, I suppose, most like a point-and-click adventure. However, it’s played with the arrow keys, Z and X. You speak to people, reunite them with lost items, and attempt to solve puzzles to reach new areas. But none of it ever quite feels like that – instead, it’s ethereal and all mildly unsettling.

There are children separated from toys, from light, and from hope. There are giant, uncomfortable apparitions, perhaps once boss fights, now meandering presences with no purpose. There’s an alien who just wants to smoke a cigarette. Quite how involved you get in all their situations is up to you, with the game possible to complete without helping most of them. The more you do, the more you change the summary of events at the end.

Progress, in all but one part, feels surprisingly coherent giving the setting and ambience. Except for, well, that one part. It’s a labyrinth sort of thing, in which you’re being pursued by a ghoulish creature through the remains of an abattoir, attempting to find a missing item for one character, then to escape. The issue is, you can see so little, and dead ends are so profuse, and wander into any of them and you’ll get caught and forced to restart.

I must have played through it 25 times before I learned the single correct route, and it was precisely zero fun after the second. So obnoxious was it that I became deeply frustrated, having enjoyed this game so much until now, so keen to write about it here, but feeling that I may have to abandon it. (I am not alone.)

I did stumble my way through it in the end, but what a shame it’s there. Still, if you decide to grab this (and I hope you do), feel free to hit me up for directions.

The whole game is a twisted tribute to Italy’s Ravenna docks, and Romagna mythology, as well as an almost impenetrable folkloric cautionary tale about nostalgia and its erasure of time. Which isn’t something I’ve been able to say of any other game. I love the artistic choices made, and still don’t know if the game suffered from translation issues, or if its blending of English and – think – Catalan was a deliberate decision – I liked it about it either way.

It’s only £4, and reasonably short. And hey, if we can get enough eyes on it, perhaps we can motivate developer Amhardcore to improve that maze!

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  1. Since you mention Romagna, you may be interested to know that the developers’ name Amhardcore seems to be a pun on Amarcord, which is the title of a Fellini movie about his memories of growing up in those parts, and means “i remember” in dialect.

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