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For: Mobile

Hiding behind the sofa, you'll enjoy being there

Product: Nowhere | Developer: DeValley Entertainment | Publisher: In-Fusio | Format: Mobile | Genre: Adventure | Players: 1 | Format: J2ME | File size: 189KB | Reviewed on: N70 other handsets | Version: Europe
Nowhere Mobile, thumbnail 1
When it comes to trends in horror films, there's a slow but sure progression similar to the shambling stagger of a pack of the undead. Ten years ago,  there was a revolution when a scary movie could consist of a guy in a funny mask making phone calls while attractive females jiggling their breasts around in fright.

It's taken a while for us to become bored of parodies of the parody. Since then however, the need to be scared has resulted in a more brutal attitude as hacksaws are applied to limbs.

Mobile developer DeValley has taken on the task of taming the public's lust for fear with its foray into the survival-horror genre. Nowhere is the result, and almost from the words 'the zombies are out to kill you', it makes oppressive thrills and downright confusion its signature tunes.

It's not an easy thing to achieve on a phone, but DeValley has stuck to its task by keeping the action fairly minimal. To all intents and purposes, Nowhere is a picture book you play a guiding role in. Thankfully it's also one that entertains from beginning to end.

Essentially, you play the role of one man – though he appears to have two lives. In the present day, he's Lucas, who works 9-5 and wines and dines his lady-friend Catherine at night.

But spicing up the story are what appear to be flashbacks to a previous chapter in Lucas's life. A character, John, who bears a striking resemblance to Lucas, spends his days trawling through woods infested with zombie-like creatures baying for his blood. The key to this division is determining just how and why Lucas and John's lives are linked, and that's something that can only be done by following Nowhere's strict rules.

In simple terms, Nowhere is a game of violent exploration. Viewed top-down, in turn, you guide Lucas and John around the environments.

Playing as Lucas, the focus is investigation – interrogating characters scattered around the game, picking up newspaper clippings and other assorted trinkets, all with the aim of piecing together the game's narrative puzzle. John, meanwhile, is more action-orientated - collecting weaponry and taking down adversaries.

Both styles of play balance each other out nicely, but Nowhere isn't without fault. Combat, for instance, is fairly limited. It's a case of simply tapping the soft key at the right time when a weapon is equipped. Exploration also suffers from a lack of direction, despite the fact that it's almost entirely linear. While at certain points play is pushed in a specific  direction – interviewing key characters for instance – at other times it's left too open.

Equally, while the story is generally gripping, it's tempting to put it down and never return when you encounter one of Nowhere's flabbier sections. One typical pet hate is searching for keys, which are represented by a small sparkling icon – easily missed and often craftily hidden. Progress then stalls completely, and there's no way of finding out where you should be looking.

Those who pursue regardless however may find themselves trawling the game's map for the key – in every sense – using up their weaponry and health packs defending themselves along the way, leaving them entirely vulnerable to further attacks. Restarts, frustratingly, take you back to the beginning of the chapter where you made your last save, rather than the location of the save itself, making repetition Nowhere's uncomfortable bedfellow.

That said, those with an aptitude for detection may never encounter such stumbling blocks, instead basking in Nowhere's supremely tense and tight atmosphere. It's hard to fault DeValley's efforts on this front, with the sometimes bizarre and frankly chilling musical score combining with bleak and grey visuals to convey a real sense of the peculiar. And it's this hook which really keeps the game ticking over, and is prime evidence of the developer's genuine love for survival-horror titles.

Far from flawless, nevertheless Nowhere manages to get the keys things right; namely, it's unsettling from the word go, and has a plot that will draw you in and an atmosphere that will freak you out. Play it with the lights out.
Reviewer photo
Keith Andrew | 16 January 2008
Dry and disturbing from the word go, Nowhere suffers from slightly sloppy direction but is gripping and scary enough to keep you playing
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