When I first saw Vroom in the Night Sky appear in the Nintendo E-Shop I was confused. A Magical girl flying on a motor bike? No clear objective in the ad-reel? The price tag read $10. I was intrigued. I wasn’t interested, but I was intrigued. So I waited. I thought on it for a week and read other people’s reactions to this game. Metacritic panned it, other youtubers didn’t play it, how is this not getting any attention? I asked myself. My intrigue got the better of me, and here we are.
Let’s start with an overview: Vroom in the Night Sky follows Luna, a “magical girl” who does “magical work” flying around on her magic motorcycles collecting star-dust. It’s a cute collect-a-thon that incorporates jazzy music, an easy play-style, and little comedic moments between the heroine and her fuzzy fairy friend “Coachin”. The goal of each level is to collect star-dust, as well as gemstones scattered around the map in a reasonable time-frame, and then finally make it through the floating goal high in the sky. Occasionally, your rival will show up and try to beat you to the stardusts and the goal, and you have the ability to FIRE MISSILES AT HER AND BLOW HER THE HELL UP! … And that’s about it.
I should point out early that I believe this game is intended for much younger audiences. I can imagine that a small child might be invested in the “story” (using this term loosely here, there isn’t one) or gameplay (also loosely), as it’s filled with bright lights and shiny objects, as well as a catchy theme song. From this perspective I’ll attempt to judge the final product, because to look at it as an adventure/puzzle game for adults would be to condemn it to the place where bad indie games go to die pretty much immediately after launching the game.
Controls: Each bike varied to degrees of speed and “handling”. The starter bike you get in the tutorial is a slow and clunky scooter. It has a top speed of 76 kph and an apparently infinite fuel tank. Insofar as a first time player or younger gamer is concerned, it handles like a brick. Sharp turns won’t be a thing, and because your top speed is relatively low, crashes are pretty lackluster. The controls are: press B to go forward and A to brake. Couple that with the control stick and a follow cam that makes having the ability to use the right stick to look around the map entirely unnecessary and you’ve got the gist of the entire game. A good example might be an original N64 version of Mario Kart. Simple controls, easy gameplay and not really a whole lot going on (at least in terms of driving style). Vroom adds the slightly complex variation of adding vertical axis of movement, but really driving remains unchallenging unless you acquire one of the faster bikes. There isn’t really a huge desire to acquire a faster bike, except to let you leave the level a bit quicker than before.
Gameplay: Collecting items is as easy as flying into them (although it’s unclear why you need to do this, beyond it unlocks the next level when you do). Children should have no difficulty completing each level. When your rival shows up, (who is a clone of you, but purple instead of your standard pink) you have the ability to shoot her down using magic missile. (Finally something I can relate to!) Your magic missiles are homing, and so long as you’re looking vaguely in the direction of the rival, your shots will take her out after about 10 hits. You can spam the fire button and destroy her almost immediately after spawning. It’s implied through the text in the training missions that you want to take her out, because if you don’t, she will collect the stars and gems faster than you. It’s unclear why I need to care about this however, because her path finding (if you can call it that) is non-existent. She doesn’t interact with the player in any way, and can’t navigate to the things she’s supposed to steal. The Rival implementation felt more like a last second tack-on character using the same models and pack-in cereal box acquired AI-code than a proper bot.
The Rival will only show up after you’ve collected about 8 out of the available 10 stars, so, really the level is almost over by the time she shows up to “make it difficult”. For an average gamer: not even a little bit of a challenge. For a kid, probably still not even a challenge. The one positive thing about her is that she will hurl insults at you in each level, which is sort of hilarious. Each insult is badly translated, as english is not the first language of the game developers, so you’ll get things like, “Hey Tsuki-chan?” “Eh?” “Your weight is growing!” “Hey!”. The rival won’t fight back or shoot missiles back at you though, so each time she’s destroyed by your shots (which you can spam by smashing the Y button), you question your motives and whether or not she’s the baddy or you are. (hint: it’s you)
Difficulty: The ultimate goal of the game is to collect star-dust, which is scattered around the map in little shiny gems, and BIG-stars which are the 5-10 items needed to unlock the gate in each level. Finding and collecting the stars on each level can be done in under 3 minutes. It is assumed that less coordinated players (younger) might extend this timer to closer to 5 minutes per level, especially if they aren’t super concerned with collecting all the items, and more interested in looking around listening to music. This, again, is what I assumed to be the goal of the game, as well as the target audience. Not a challenge for any age group. This is EVERY level. Of which there are a whopping 7 stages, and 2 of them are not playable somehow. This brings your total number of playable levels (not including the driving school stages) up to 5 playable levels. Average play time to completion: 15 minutes. (probably can speed run the entire game in under 8 mins if you get a fast bike).
The star dust can be used to purchase bikes, which have odd names and all start with “magical”. Immediately I selected the Magical Naked 4000. A dirt bike with a high top-speed and overall standard control scheme. There were other bikes available, but since they weren’t “naked” I wasn’t interested. There are loads of bikes to choose from, but this serves only to confuse me more about the intended audience. If it’s for children, there are far too many options, if it’s for adults, then WHAT ARE WE DOING?
I’ll say it again. This game must be built for kiddos. That’s not a bad thing, it’s just not what I expected. As far as a game designed exclusively for listening to music, scooting around in the sky on a fast bike and collecting stars game goes, it delivers, sort of. The trouble is that it isn’t clear that it is intentionally designed for this age group. And moreover, it’s not clear that kids would be able to easily navigate through the menus and large number of text walls that allow you to play the game itself. Were I to start up the game, skip through all the context menus and instructions, and just hand the controller to a younger player, I could see them having fun for an entire 10-30 minutes depending on skill and age. The game isn’t particularly big on challenge or hidden objects. It’s really about getting lost in the zone while searching for items to hit in the sky, and.. that’s it. When I was a kid, the best kind of games weren’t super difficult; the kind I could mindlessly play after a long day and not really worry about and just have fun. This isn’t one of those games though.
Storyline: There isn’t one. If we are looking at overall presentation, I’ll allow for the fact that the intention may be to have a calm zone-out experience where you collect stars and listen to the looping 3 minute soundtrack song. In the lower left hand corner throughout the game, your main character Luna and her little helper “Coachin” the fairy exchange broken english dialogue every few seconds. This is probably my favorite thing about the game. Coachin actually says “what are you talking about” to luna mentioning something about the sand on the ground. I’m with you little furball.
Level design: SUPER basic. Each level has a few objects in it to avoid, like low rendered trees, a generic cruise ship, high-wall mountain map-edge. The only thing I can call attention to is that the stages are wide, and vaguely have a different theme on each. Mountain. Village. Nuclear waste facility. Ocean. Nothing with too many objects in it. It feels like they paid by the asset and decided that 25 objects was pretty good considering you get a group rate after 20 digital items. That is to say: SPARSE.
Graphics: The game plays and looks like, an early Tony Hawk Skateboarding title. Nintendo 64 era “Tony Hawk 64” actually probably had better graphical impact and pulled harder on the GPU than Vroom in the Night Sky. Your home-brew potato with a ram-chip slammed into it could render this. It’s actually really interesting that this was a Nintendo Switch exclusive, and when compared to the graphical power of Breath of the Wild, it’s enough to make you question what console you’re playing on.
Probably too powerful for Vroom.
So, what did I like? The music is actually pretty catchy and well designed for a loop of music. It leans towards an anime or kids show and you’ll find yourself bopping your head along unintentionally. I can’t get it out of my head. There’s only the one song in game, and menu music backtrack, so while there isn’t much in the way of variety, it’s decently done where it’s implemented. Which is everywhere.
I also enjoyed the small Coachin thing’s dialogue, since he/it was the only person in the game that seemed to discuss how utterly ridiculous it is. The dialogue in the game is clearly best-guess translated with an online program, which leads to unintentionally hilarious statements like: “Sand Sand Sand!” “It’s a desert.” and “My Hair is Sticky from SeaBreeze!” “Let’s Take a Magical Shower”.
Having said all that, there are some actually serious criticisms that the game should not escape:
First and foremost, there are two levels that I was completely unable to unlock in the story phase. It’s possible that these require some serious hardcore drifting and high-scores to unlock, but somehow I doubt that my score did not meet this criteria, judging by difficulty of other levels to complete. They do not provide any context about how to unlock them, but rather have question marks over the detail splash page and look like they weren’t implemented into the final build of the game. Missing or unavailable content can and should be patched out, but when it looks like the game was made in a game jam, there’s no reason why two entire stages should be missing from the final build at launch.
Secondly, the training missions within the “Driving School” segment of the game. Challenges ranging from “Hit X to boost and hit 3 stars while you do so” Easy, to “Drive fast past this pillar doing a drift turn acceleration and then do a backflip” Advanced. The challenges are not ultra difficult, it’s just that complicated later moves are designed to generate star-dust, which implies that you should be going for a high-score on each level like a trick game. Therefore I can only assume that players are supposed to be able to do all of these tricks, or at least want to attempt them, which personally makes me raise the bar on the game’s intended age audience, which detracts from it being a kid-focused title. So, it’s a kid-focused relaxing drive and collect simulator, coupled with SSX Tricky. Why? Why would kids (anyone) want to do this, when the huge amount of stardust given by completing the level is already 100,000+ points each round? The numbers don’t matter so the challenge is wasted.
Lastly and most importantly: the length of time to beat the game. It took me 20 minutes to complete the game. I played every training mission, every stage available. I explored every menu and did every challenge. The video is embedded below to give a sense of how fast I flew through this. I’d encourage you to take a peek at the gameplay through my perspective to get a sense of what I’m talking about here. Even if we’re talking about buying this game to hand to your kid to play, there are hundreds of other games out there that will provide greater value
It’s hard for me therefore to apply a score to this game. I can’t rate this as a game designed for me or even most gamers. Do I ultimately think this game is worth $10? No I do not. $2 might be closer to the mark, but again, it depends on who you are buying the game for, because you won’t be buying it for yourself.
Final score: 1.5
OK for family with YOUNG children who need a quick distraction. Catchy music and non-existent gameplay. So-So for humor value and maybe playing while intoxicated. Basic rushed level design and lack of gameplay coupled with missing content and just over 15 minutes of engagement total. $10 for unfinished game is far too much, which perhaps is why the final product grates as much as it does. Perhaps worth picking up if your child enjoys shiny object collection and just got finished watching Kiki’s Delivery Service.