There’s no nice way of saying it, but Vroom! in the Night Sky is one of the worst games I’ve had the ‘pleasure’ of playing. The fact that it came as part of the Nintendo Switch’s rather subdued catalogue of launch titles only makes that worse.
The very first impression is a bad one, as the game quite bafflingly defies conventions on a Nintendo system and uses B to select menu options. That might be the most familiarly placed button to Xbox and Western PlayStation owners, but it’s also just wrong when taken in the context of the rest of the system.
Pressing the wrong button led me to mistakenly skip the tutorial, but even with that, things don’t get much better once you figure out how to get past the main menu and into the actual game. Luna rides around on her scooter initially, grabbing large floating Keystars and smaller shards of stardust dotted around the level. Collecting all the stars in a level unlocks the finish gate, with finishing as quickly as possible helping to earn you more stardust.
Each of the levels has a separate theme, whether it’s the woods at night, desert, factories, city, and so on. There’s a fairly pleasing colour palette, but there’s not much else of merit in the overly simplistic art style. Luna’s cape doesn’t flap in the wind, it just juts out from her back like it’s made of wood, the chunky polygonal levels are flat and uninspiring, and it’s hampered by a short draw distance and pop in.
The flying scooters and bikes all handle terribly, with awful turning circles and they take an absolute age to climb or descend. You can pull handbrake turns, but the camera doesn’t keep up with the manoeuvre, making it impossible to aim where you want to go next, and while the boost helps to speed things up, it can also see you pull a vertical spinning jump or drop that keeps catching me out, tied as it is to the position of the left analogue stick.
Your rival for the stardust on the level is another Magical Girl name Shining Star, who appears around 40-60 seconds after you’ve started. She ambles around, but rarely does anything of note, only managing to grab one of the complete stars on one occasion, simply because I’d been dawdling. That forced me to chase her down and repeatedly shoot my fairy at her until she yelled “Screw you!” and let me have the star I needed.
I wish I’d been able to simply play through the eight levels, grab all of the stars and be done with this nonsense, but after the first five levels unlocking in series, they mysteriously stop doing so. What does the game want me to do? Replay the previous levels? I tried that and it did nothing. After a while I figured I’d visit the shop and see what it was about, only to discover that buying unspecified faster bikes with all the stardust I’d accrued could unlock the next level. The one after that required another, even more expensive bike, and so on.
Eventually, I happened upon the best way to grind stardust to make this all fly by. Simply blazing a trail through the first level time and again using a faster bike and ceaseless boosting to collect the five stars and reach the magical finish gate in around 30 seconds. The dull monotony at least netted me a not inconsiderable 50,000 stardust each time, which when the most expensive bike costs 2 million at least kept still meant 40-50 minutes of repetition.
Though just as awful as the actual gameplay, there is some amusement to be had from trying to decipher the text dialogue that bounces back and forth between Luna, her fairy, and her rival. “I’m cute than you!” one of the Magical Girls says, “I’m more cute than you!” the other retorts, with the fairy proclaiming “Draw.” Then again, what would the fairy know? Another time it says “I swallow whole a palm fruit.” to which Luna rightly replies “swallow whole?!” Every single line in the game has been shoved through what appears to be a second rate translation engine, but this is the case across the entire game, with oddly named levels, menu options and so on.
One minor positive is that Poisoft aren’t simply walking away from this game, with a patch coming early in April to address some of the issues, from reducing the cost of some bikes, to making the jump boosts less sensitive and removing some of the worst spelling mistakes. Unfortunately, these aren’t the real reasons why the game lacks merit.
A few weeks after the console’s release, you have to scroll a little way to reach the bottom of the Nintendo eShop’s Recent Releases list to find Vroom! in the Night’s Sky. Don’t bother. It’s complete bobbins.