One of the benefits of Steam is the stack of indie games they make available. I’ve been slow to look into such things, but this week have been enjoying some Nightsky.

It’s a puzzle-platformer – popular format amongst indies, I hear? The idea is you have to navigate a sphere across the screen whilst obeying realistic laws of physics. There’s no “jump” button, your basic controls are just roll left or right, so to accomplish that you need to take a run-up (rollup?). If you can’t do that, probably have to go another way something else.

It’s not just about jumping gaps – you get subtleties like the ball rolling onto a car (transferring momentum). Or having enough momentum to follow a wall and roll along an ceiling briefly. Or releasing other movable items to clear a path. The game likes to show off its physics especially when you get a feature like two platforms hanging from one chain strung across the sceren. Which you might have to navigate carefully or you’ll just go tumbling off.

There are no bad guys, the only way to “die” is to fall off the bottom of the screen. But then you just start again from the start of that little section. That leads to a fairly relaxed pace. There are some fiddly\twitchy bits but they tend to come in short bursts, and you can usually sit still a moment to figure out what to do next.

On those ground we’d have a fun little distraction, but Nightsky also has a really distinctive design style. It’s all in monochrome, with a backdrop of sunset hues. The soundtrack is ambient and moody. So it becomes a quiet, introspective experience. Even if it’s just a game about, er, a big marble, you feel like he’s diligently rolling his way home across a world that’s forgotten and empty. Now there’s just owls and the occasional creaking leftover piece of machinery.

So it’s a very “evening” game, and has helped me relax anyway after a shitty week. £6 on steam, if you fancy a look.