It’s hard to piece together exactly what is going on in NO THING. It falls into the “other” category on the Xbox Store page, so there are no clues there. However, it doesn’t really matter. All you need to know is that you are an office clerk who is sent to deliver an important message to the Queen of Ice, and getting to your destination in each level is your only concern.
NO THING is a finite runner (if you like) where you need to traverse a winding track to safely reach the end of each level. There are ten in total on the road to reach the Queen of Ice, with a bonus level at the end of the game as the credits roll. The action takes place from a first person perspective, and you simply need to turn your character’s direction of travel to successfully navigate the path which lies ahead of you.
There are various ways to do this. You can use the thumbsticks, D-Pad, or triggers on your controller to turn left and right. Otherwise, you have no other direct control over your character. Occasionally there will be coloured diamonds on your path, of which the red ones slow you down and the turquoise ones speed you up. However, you will naturally pick up the pace anyway as you progress through each level.
The terrain isn’t always flat either. Ramps will fling you into the air when moving at speed, which requires you to have good reflexes and a little luck on your side to land back on the stage successfully. At times, the path ahead will shift or not be revealed until the last second, demanding you to focus at all times. Of course, if you fall off then you will die and be found starting the level from scratch.
A synthetic, robotic and at times unsettling narrator reveals snippets about the world, albeit in a very abstract way. It becomes clear that you find yourself in a totalitarian and arguably dystopian future society. Sometimes the mysterious narrator will offer useful hints as you play, at other times the commentary seems simply to serve to accompany a rather surreal trip (in both senses of the word).
NO THING looks quite distinctive, with its retro surrealistic 3D graphics. Your screen will also frequently change colour and distort, along with different images floating across your path in an attempt to distract you. It’s an eclectic and chaotic combination designed to probe the senses and test your concentration. You may even see a few familiar faces in the fray.
The pleasing on the ears, cold wave chiptune soundtrack reflects the visual style of NO THING, and completes its assault on your senses. I often talk of some games being an experience rather than just a video game, and this is one such example. You can’t do much more than strap yourself in for the ride and ponder what is about to be thrown your way.
The levels themselves offer a good few minutes of gameplay in each, which gradually get more challenging as you progress. The tenth is a real test of your skills and reflexes, as you climb up to “heaven” to finally meet the Queen of Ice, and by the end are zipping around from platform to platform desperately hoping the end of the level is in sight.
You’ll earn most of the achievements in NO THING simply by completing the levels, however there are two which can only be unlocked by getting high scores. This is done by putting in a strong performance and completing consecutive levels without dying. If you do, it will break your points chain and it’s back to square one.
There may only be an hour or two of action in NO THING, but it’s that rarest of things in gaming today. That is, a uniquely enjoyable experience which is difficult to put into words, but worth sitting down with and checking out for yourself. You could say there’s nothing quite like it.
Take in the surreal experience that NO THING poses to Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One players today