- Impressive Kenyan setting
- Simple Graphics
- Creative storyline
- Lack of aiming controls
- Poorly stapled-on mechanics
Yes, the video game space in Africa and Kenya has been described to be “growing”. But as much as we have been saying that for some time now, we still do not have that much to prove so. The number of people taking up the gaming culture to a point of having the hobby as an identity is surely rising. But would we say the same about the people taking up the challenge of developing games, whether for PCs, smartphones or dare I say, consoles?
One iconic phenomenon did prove this though for some time now, Nairobi X. Believe me when I say I never knew anything about it until it was mentioned in a Q&A competition somewhere a few months ago. And the fact that many others may not be aware of it got me curious to search for it and try it out.
Nairobi X is a first-person shooter game set in as you have already guessed, Nairobi. The game was developed by Andrew Kaggia, founder of entertainment and publishing company, Black Division Games, which you would better refer to as the Kenyan Activision or Tencent Games.
The iconic developer and hardcore gamer, Andrew Kaggia, set out to build a game that simply gives the look of any other international shooter game but still manages to maintain a Kenya perspective thanks to localisation that grounds the story in Nairobi. So with that, they built the game on PC and mobile versions.
Nairobi X Gameplay
With that in mind, the game is set in Nairobi, particularly the CBD in the year 2030 featuring a character called Otero. So in the game, you are a member of the elite Recce Squad as the protagonist. Otero is the sole survivor from a team tasked with fighting extra-terrestrial beings that have taken over Nairobi’s central business district.
Your main objective then is to shoot down as many as you can and in the end complete the task that your team had been tasked; Secure the city and repel the alien invaders. Finding it hard to get the PC version I sort to download the mobile version that tasks you to search for an app package file. This is considering you cannot find it in the Google Play Store anymore.
The game really does impress you with the first sight of Nairobi’ main landmarks on the menu display immediately after launch. It truly does give you that pride of seeing a city like Nairobi finally in a game, despite how simple it may look. But how far does the pride go after that?
The menu window gives you four options to pick, one of them being the mission levels you want. But shock on you if you expect two or more missions to be open since you only get the first mission open. If you get to win in one level you then move on to the next.
But speaking of moving to the next, I was hardly able to even get to half in the first level. Why? If you have been playing open shooter games like the PUBG Mobile and Call Of Duty, you know that these games come with three main controls (other than the rest numerous ones that fill the screen). One is for moving your character forward/backwards/sideways, the second being controlling your weapon’s direction which is usually on the opposite side and thirdly for firing.
What fascinates with Nairobi X or better yet disappoints, is that you are missing one of those controls. The camera and weapon direction control tend to be the same on your left-hand side which then gets to be really confusing. It gets to be a while before you’re able to successfully aim your gun and get to shoot one of those ugly red things.
Yes, you really do get impressed to realise that you are on the KICC’s helipad on the first level with the majestic Times Tower building directly in front of you, but the lack of this one control makes the game somehow frustrating. Other than this the directional voices recorded in Swahili slang (Sheng) really do get to make the game a little fun with warning messages like “Kaa Rada!”(Be alert), “Ongeza risasi, buda!”(Boss, reload your weapon) and “health iko low”(your health is running low).
It would have been awesome if we got to access the PC version of the game which according to sources gets to be much fun as you can walk around the city to secure different locations and have a wide variety of weapons, but what we did have is what we got and wish it had been getting occasional upgrades since its launch back in June of 2015.
Graphics & Music
The game’s mobile version does give off a thrilling experience right from launch with its cinematic soundtrack. However, the PC version reportedly gets to be more fun with the inclusion of music from Kenyan rapper and activist, Juliani. How we wish we got to play it now.
The visuals are obviously the major part of any game, especially in shooter games. And with the goal of making an appeal to both casual and hardcore gamers, Nairobi X surely draws a comparison with games like Call Of Duty and Medal Of Honour. I will acknowledge the red alien face on the menu display makes the interface look a bit too simple but we have to give it to Andrew Kaggia and his team for the 3D adaptations of the city’s buildings.
There has been a growing demand for local content in tech and entertainment and this is what got Kaggia to get a game that would speak more to the Kenyan audience. Through his self taught skills that he started seeking about 18 years ago, he took the task of taking photographs of the iconic buildings and use them as inspiration for the visuals you see in the game. If that doesn’t impress you, I don’t know what will.
Through this initiative of telling Kenyan stories through such a game, Nairobi X has over the years gained approval and attention from not just Kenyans but also foreign markets, winning a couple of international awards.
The game gets to be fun if you get a hold of it in time before you get bored. And with the Kenyan inspiration drawn from it, it really does show that with the right kind of mindset video games can tell stories of various countries that are not just from the West.
But playing the game at such a time when not just video but also mobile games are getting so advanced and competitive, I wish there had been more to the game as time went on. I wish more resources were brought in with time to help make the game better in terms of gameplay mechanics, graphics, controls, music and even maybe multiplayer modes.
Don’t get me wrong, I like it but I wouldn’t find myself too distracted by it enough to leave other FPS games that I would easily get on the Google Play or App Stores. Either way, you definitely should try it out and maybe you will be amazed by it.