In terms of development, Nippon Ichi Software has become known mainly for two different genres of game. Since the PlayStation 2 era, NIS has been best known for its Role-Play Games such as the Disgaea series. Lately, however, the developer has also begun to dabble in the realm of Horror Adventure with games such as htoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary and the Yomawari duology. With the release of void tRrLM(); //Void Terrarium, NIS has brought together both blends of games.
Developed by the same team as the aforementioned htoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary, the equally difficult to pronounce void tRrLM(); //Void Terrarium is a roguelike RPG infused with elements of Horror.
Is void tRrLM(); //Void Terrarium the Frankenstein’s monster of NIS’s greatest strengths?
The player takes the role of Robbie, a lone robot emanating some serious WALL-E vibes. After being coincidently woken up by vermin à la Avengers Endgame, Robbie finds potentially the last child of man. Realizing that Toriko would likely be unable to keep herself alive on her own, Robbie sets out to extend her life and expand her living arrangements.
Despite being a Role-Playing Game, tRrLM(); //Void Terrarium is quite light on the story. To be fair this is not an uncommon occurrence for roguelike and roguelite RPGs alike outside of Pokémon Mystery Dungeon games. The main motivation of the game is to farm materials required for Toriko’s survival. As the game begins, Robbie is tasked with finding materials to build furniture and decor for Toriko’s terrarium of a room. This is easier said than done, however, as Robbie must always prioritize Toriko’s diet and sanitation over the appeal of her room.
Extreme Makeover: Home Edition
Toriko’s terrarium serves as the main hub of Void Terrarium. It is here that Robbie can craft materials, take care of Toriko, and speak with the genocidal factoryAI. While initially feeling like an interactive Game Over screen, more options become available throughout the game’s main campaign.
Once unlocked, Item Craft and Customize Robot become essential tools within the home menu. In addition to crafting items for Toriko’s living space, Robbie can also create Knacks and Custom Parts. Knacks represent Robbie’s loosely defined class. While gaining skills, Robbie will learn random skills that can help with offensive, defensive, or item-based needs. By assigning a Knack such as Fighter or Gaurd in the Customize Robot menu, Robbie will more likely learn offensive or defensive skills respectively. The player may also grant Robbie combat Skills by equipping Custom Parts. At first, Robbie will only know one Skill by default. By acquiring Blueprints within the various dungeons, Robbie can craft new Skills essentially for his survival.
Fans of roguelikes and roguelites should have a pretty good idea of what to expect in terms of gameplay. Despite the illusion of being played in real-time, each step, attack, and item use takes up Robbie’s turn. Simply clearing each dungeon is uncommonly the main objective. Instead, Robbie must survive until he acquires key items hidden on specific floors. Luckily, factoryAI usually has a pretty good idea as to which floor the requested item may be found. Between Robbie’s health, Robbie’s energy, Toriko’s hunger pangs, and the sheer difficulty of each dungeon, simply conquering each dungeon is by no means a simple feat.
Enemy units and traps can chip away at Robbie’s health in just about every room. In addition, Robbie’s energy levels decrease with even the simplest of actions. Walking or running will naturally decrease Robbie’s energy. In addition, powerful Skills require relatively high energy costs. Reckless dealings of powerful attacks can easily lead to Robbie’s demise. While roguelike and roguelite RPGs generally include randomly generated dungeons, Void Terrarium feels a bit crueler than most. It is very common to become surrounded by mid-boss level enemies within narrow hallways. This is even worse when they follow insect enemies that poison all nearby squares. There’s nothing like watching two machine-type monsters go into defense position just to see Robbie die from a passive poison trap.
Much like Reimu Hakurei in Touhou Genso Wanderer, Robbie’s level will drop to one each time he leaves a dungeon. It does not matter whether he cleared the dungeon or was defeated in the process. Because of this, all increased stats and learned Skills will also be lost between each dungeon crawl. In addition to Skills manually equipped through Customize Robot, Robbie can bring home a few select items: building materials and food. Failing to bring uncontaminated food home to Toriko can lead to a nauseating game over screen.
As luck would have it, Robbie can effectively monitor Toriko even mid-dungeon crawl. Early in the game, Robbie needs to build a Pet Nanny per factoryAI’s request. This Tamagotchi-like device displays a chibi Toriko throughout the majority of the game’s terrain. In fact, the only time that it isn’t visible is when visiting Toriko herself in the terrarium. The Pet Nanny display’s Toriko’s health and a sanitary meter. At the cost of Robbie’s energy, the player can clean up sanitary deficiencies at any given time. If Toriko ever needs urgent attention, Robbie can also initiate a self destruct sequence. This would allow the loyal robot to respawn by his human’s side.
In terms of design, void tRrLM(); //Void Terrarium features something of a false start. The tutorial section and Toriko’s terrarium plays out like a 2D side scroller. they look like something straight out of htoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary or A Rose in the Twilight. Robbie moves left and right to interact with Toriko and factoryAI. Outside of Toriko’s room, the game is made up of dark dungeons. Each dungeon is presented in a top-down display. While the quality of graphics remains the same, the level design naturally takes a dip.
The main objective of the game is to makeover Toriko’s terrarium into a proper bedroom. Because of this, the design should improve as the game progresses. That is, assuming that the player likes their very own custom layout. The game’s dungeons, however, are all randomly generated. On top of that, there isn’t much variation in the color of textures. While each dungeon will never be built the same, each room and hallway individually certainly does. Even if Void Terrarium takes place in a post-apocalyptic world, a greater selection of eye candy would be welcome indeed. One of The Firefly Diary’s greatest strengths was how twisted the world became the deep Mion dived. In Void Terrarium, however, each new dungeon looks more or less the same.
Children’s Cold and Cough
Perhaps the greatest design choice in NIS’s “spooky” series is that of their young leads. Whether it be Yomawari, The Firefly Diary, or A Rose in the Twilight the (human) characters all look as cute as a button. This trait is carried over to young Toriko of Void Terrarium. Her cute smile when head patted and pouty face, when given crushed insect remains, is enough to warm even the coldest hearts. Admittedly, the game is not all sunshine and rainbows and a bleeding heart may cause unforgettable trauma in-game and out.
NIS is not shy concerning body horror involving children. Though Toriko won’t be maliciously attacked by enemies, she can easily get sick. While seeing Toriko fight the common cold is disheartening enough, just about any other disease she can endure is downright disgusting. To truly keep Toriko safe, the feeding of any contaminated food should remain off the table. The consequences could be dire.
Beeps and Bops
Despite including light background music, both the Yomawari duology and The Firefly Diary are better known for their ominous sound effects. Nothing compliments a midnight drive like syncing one of these bad boys to a car radio. Despite being something of a spiritual successor of The Firefly Diary, A Rose in the Twilight, and The Liar Princess and the Blind Prince, Void Terrarium takes a different musical direction. Rather than focusing on a scary selection of sound effects, Void Terrarium puts its Original Soundtrack on full display.
Void Terrarium’s soundtrack is a mix of classical piano and electronic instruments. It all sounds like something between Hyperdimension Neptunia and Death End re;Quest. Considering the setting, the music fits quite well. The synthesized instruments almost sound like the robot denizens are beeping and chirping to the beat. That said, there is something admittedly unsettling in the sound department. Void Terrarium’s audio is full of high pitched notes. These can sound similar to horror movies and ultimately remind the player that all is not as it seems.
Overall void tRrLM(); //Void Terrarium is a unique blend of Survival Horror, Simulation, and Role-Playing genres. Robbie’s role as Toriko’s nanny allows the game to stand out amongst the plethora of recent roguelike and roguelike titles already on the market. While the game is more difficult than Pokémon Mystery Dungeon, it is arguably easier than NIS America’s own Touhou Genso Wanderer.
Hey! Hey!! Listen!!! gives void tRrLM(); //Void Terrarium 7.8 canned foods out of 10!