Void Terrarium is a roguelike dungeon crawler that is the latest title published by NIS America on PS4 and Nintendo Switch. Those familiar with previous NISA titles will once again find themselves immersed in a post-apocalyptic world filled with terror, beauty and hope. Alternately referred to as void tRrLM(); //Void Terrarium, this Nippon Ichi Software game delivers more than one might expect at first glance.
The world is infected and overrun by toxic fungi that have wiped out human civilization to the ends of the earth. Among a dense scrapyard located deep in the underground wastelands, a lone robot awakes and finds a young girl asleep while wandering the ruins alone. With mushrooms protruding from her body, he quickly learns she will not survive long and aims in saving her from certain death. As time passes, the robot works hard to create a makeshift terrarium where she can rest and recover as he scrounges the wasteland for supplies. The health and well-being of this young girl named Toriko becomes your daily mission as you fight to protect her as she is the last known human alive. An antiquated system known as factoryAI offers to assist in your rescue mission to save Toriko by giving advice on the surrounding wasteland and how to navigate the terrain.
As a skilled janitorial robot, you must explore and search the wasteland thoroughly for food, medicine and supplies to ensure Toriko’s survival. Utterly defenseless on her own, Toriko remains in a terrarium as a home grown shelter to protect her from toxic spores, food contamination and risk of infection. You can build and improve the terrarium over time once the necessary resources are acquired. Needless to say, she won’t last long on her own with the clock ticking away. Dangerous fungi and reckless machines litter the landscapes that threaten to impede your efforts. Though safe from her external surroundings, Toriko is not immune to getting sick from food poisoning or poor sanitary conditions. The Pet Nanny device monitors her vitals and alerts you when her health is in immediate danger during the excavations.
Environmental hazards are not the only threats that can befall Toriko as she can be negatively affected by a variety of illnesses: zombification, bug infestation, liquefaction, bird flu, deep sadness and bone fractures. With zombification, Toriko’s body gradually decays whereas liquefaction causes her body to melt into a benign state. Bug infestations may lead to other infections and the bird flu causes Toriko to sprout feathers and wings that induces a lot of pain. Bone fractures require her to be stabilized while deep sadness can be eased by giving her a comfort item. All of these symptoms can arise at any time and this keeps you on your toes as you are carefully watching over Toriko.
Traversing the wastelands and scrounging for items can be done in separate zones with respective materials found in each area. Not all materials are simply picked up as certain tools may be required and these can be produced at the Manufacturing Plant. You will quickly discover the layouts and dungeons change with each visit leading to supplies, food and materials being randomized in their assorted locations. Memorizing a map derives little benefit as conditions can also change during excavations with no warning resulting in rain, thunderstorms or highly toxic zones. One needs to be careful when acquiring items as they may contain a high contamination rate that endangers the livelihood of the robot and Toriko in turn. As for the humble robot, it can be customized and upgraded with improved skills for higher rates of success in exploring the surrounding areas.
The terrarium where Toriko resides can be furnished and decorated with multiple items: makeshift furniture, plants, stuffed dolls and more. Depending on the décor, Toriko will have different reactions to her surroundings that certainly lends itself to trial and error. Any equipment obtained during your expeditions will be converted into resources that will gradually raise the number of slots available in the vault and inventory levels. Many items can be stored in the vault but be warned that food can go rotten and given the circumstances, it’s preferable to provide Toriko with fresh food. If she is afflicted with an illness, you can consult factoryAI for a diagnosis to identify the appropriate treatment.
Visually, the scenery and landscapes in Void Terrarium are very artistic and detailed. The bond between the robot and Toriko grows on the player as you work hard to protect her in the absence of any lengthy dialogue or conversation. Speaking primarily through one’s actions, the game is reminiscent of other titles like htoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary and A Rose in the Twilight that could be described as dark and hauntingly beautiful with respect to their atmosphere and gameplay.
Void Terrarium is an enjoyable game that manages to hold your attention with its soft charm and captivating soundtrack. Though the gameplay is challenging and the difficulty steep at times, it never feels impossible as you find creative ways to protect and take care of Toriko. As you progress, one can easily see the fruits of their labor with any minor gripes and frustrations quickly becoming an afterthought. The game starts off slow but is a memorable experience from the beginning to the end.
PROS (+): Engaging Gameplay, Colorful Visuals, Captivating Soundtrack
CONS (-): Steep Difficulty, Random Dungeons
SCORE – 8.0/10
This review is based on a digital copy of Void Terrarium on the PlayStation 4 provided by NIS America.