[Beyond PlayStation] Niche Review
Niche from Stray Fawn Studio is a colorful genetic survival sim out now on Nintendo Switch. Learn more about it in our Niche review!
In Niche from Stray Fawn Studio, you will be tasked with making the most of what this genetic survival sim has to offer, in order to breed and evolve a species of creatures so that they can manage to survive against the harsh climate changes, deadly predators, diseases, and more. This will be done within the confines of a turn-based strategy sim with roguelite elements. The game has a genetics system, which is based on real DNA, and the PC version is currently being used around the world in classrooms by biology teachers!
You can play Nichee either in Story Mode or in Sandbox Mode. The Story Mode is the mode recommended for new players since it will teach you the basics as you go so that you can learn what is to be expected from you to help your species survive. Sandbox Mode is different since it’s tailored for players who have previous experience with Niche since it allows you to select between an Easy, Medium, Hard, or Killer Island (the highest difficulty setting), as well as if you’ll be playing in a tiny green land, a peaceful meadow, a grass adventure, or an archipelago.
Sandbox Mode will also allow you to change different settings so that you can play in a setting that is tailored exactly to what you want to experience. You can change the duration per age level for the child, teen, and adult creatures, the duration of a pregnancy, how much damage enemies deal, the damage from hunger or environmental damage, as well as the effects of healing. You can also change the settings for genes, the amount of starting food or the nesting material, establish a size limit, the predators that will be present during your run, as well as what the winning condition will be.
In the Story Mode, Niche will spend a couple of minutes creating the world you’ll be taking on before giving you a tutorial to learn the basics for the game. You’ll move a cursor on the screen with the left analog stick so that you can navigate through the map, zooming in and out as needing by pressing up or down on the right analog stick. You can also rotate the camera with the right analog stick by pressing left or right. To select an animal, you will have to move the cursor on top of it and then press the A button.
The game uses a hexagonal grid and a turn-based setting, which means you can select any hexagon around an animal to then move it there – this is shown by way of a paw symbol. Each day, animals will have action points they can spend in different actions, and once they run out, you will have to end your day by pressing and holding down the X button. For animals to be healthy, you will need to feed them. Each animal can eat one food per day, so you will need to have enough food so that at the end of the day, all within your group can grab a bite.
As you probably guessed by what I mentioned about configuring your run in Sandbox Mode, animals will grow older and age with every day that passes. You can check an animal’s lifebar to see an animal’s current age and its overall lifespan. Something to consider is that each animal will have a variety of stats for you to keep an eye on. These include, for example, Speed (how far an animal can move in one action), Swimming (how well it can move in water), Flying (affecting its movement through the air), Collecting (how many resources it can obtain per action), Strength (how much damage it can deal per attack), Stealth (how silent it is), Insect Collecting(its ability to catch insects), or Fertility (its ability to produce offspring), to name some examples.
Since you’ll be mating with other animals, once one of them is pregnant, it will have to stay at a nest to give birth. Nests require materials for you to build them, so you’ll have to collect what is needed. They will also decay a bit over time, so you’ll have to repair them as needed. Once your offspring is born, you’ll have to review its stats and DNA to get an idea of its traits.
Each of these traits is defined by a pair of genes in an animal’s overall sequence, which it will inherit from its parents. Each of the parents will randomly contribute one of the genes in each pair. A gene with complete dominance will make it, so only the upper gene of the pair is activated. Incomplete dominance with blend both genes into the mix, affecting something such as the fur color of an animal. Co-dominance means that both genes are expressed separately, as is the case for an animal’s claws.
To give you an idea of how this affects animals, let me talk about one of the offspring I got. Due to the dominance of some of its genes, that particular animal had a considerable boost to its hearing, poison fangs to and a boost to smell, a medium body build, runner legs – from a co-dominance -, red-brown fur, brown eyes – since the green eyes gene was not dominant – normal blood clotting – so it could take low damage from blood loss -, high fertility, and a slight immunity to illness.
Each animal will also have two mutations slots. Mutations won’t affect that animal, and will instead dictate that animal’s offspring. This will give said offspring a chance to express the selected gene. Thanks to this, you’ll be able to bestow particular traits to each subsequent offspring based on your selection. You do need to know that once you’ve selected the mutations, it’s something that can’t be undone.
Niche certainly does its name justice, since it’s the type of game that is not going to appeal to everyone. I can definitely see how it’s a great teaching tool, but as a game, you’re either going to love it or hate it. Its roguelite nature is not going to appeal to everyone, nor is the almost turn-based boardgame-style nature of the gameplay mechanics. Niche is out now on Nintendo Switch with a $19.99 asking price.
This Niche review is based on a Nintendo Switch copy provided by Stray Fawn Studio.