Sanya Review – Short-Term Nostalgia

I’ve only ever moved twice in my life—once out of state when I was too young to remember, and once only five minutes away, out of my grandmother’s house. It’s nothing compared to moving a million miles away, but I still remember the nerves of being the new kid in town. Would there be any more kids my age? Would they like me? How well would we get along? I don’t remember the specifics of how I felt back then; or at least, I didn’t until I played Sanya. Sanya, developed and published by helpnode, is a short narrative point-and-click game about a young boy moving into a new town, and the puppy he finds along the way.

After opening Sanya up, I spent at least five whole minutes on the title screen alone, watching a puppy drag things around. Toys and menu buttons went from one side of the screen to another, and it was adorable. I tested the toys out myself, and I was able to move things too. As soon as I realized that everything on the title screen was interactive, I was hopeful that I would be in for a fun ride.

Sanya 01
So many choices…

Sanya starts off with you waking up, as Sanya, for breakfast. You and your parents have finally moved into a new place, though it’s only you and Mom at the moment, and it’s time for you to go out and explore—after you finish unpacking, of course. You can explore your new home or head outside, where you’ll end up finding a precious little pup to aid you on your new journey. Outside is when the exploration really begins, as you meet new friends and take up simple tasks that push the story forward.

The mechanics in Sanya are quite simple—you walk around until a button pops up, and when you click on it, Sanya either interacts with an item and picks it up or comments on it before moving on. Sometimes these comments unlock thoughts in his thought tree, which you can open up to see other thoughts that might be connected to it. It acts like a list of quests, in a way, nudging you towards completing a set of tasks, although you don’t have to do all of them to move the story along.

Sanya 02
Meeting the gang

While Sanya follows a straight narrative, there are some cute mini-games sprinkled throughout that give you a break from walking and reading. A rotary phone dialing game, for example (my friend had to teach me how to use one…), and a bike race. My favorite little game was the toy sorting near the beginning, where some of the toys moved on their own and were very vocal about their incorrect positioning.

Sanya is an absolutely gorgeous game. The artwork throughout its entirety had me constantly in awe with its bright colors, lovely lighting, and busy backgrounds. It has pretty music to accompany it, and while I can’t say that the tracks were as memorable as the art, I can say that I appreciated always having the light music amidst the story. As the story progressed, there were some surprisingly unsettling moments that followed the narrative, particularly near the end when the children talked to Sanya about a creepy legend, forcing him to go into the woods alone. The music did a great job of making moments such as these even more unsettling.

Sanya 03

As beautiful as Sanya is, it is not without its problems. Aside from a few spelling mistakes, the translation overall could have been a bit better. Our puppy had its moments of gliding across the screen instead of running, or glitching back and forth in place. She disappeared once too, but not for long. Sanya froze on me twice, but thankfully I was easily able to leave and come back in without losing any progress. There was also a particular quest where I had to bring home specific bread, but none of them were labeled and I wish that they had been. While none of these issues were game-breaking, they did distract me enough to want to bring them up.

My biggest issue was Sanya’s length. The ending felt too sudden and left me wanting so much more, and there were many moments that I wish were expanded upon or brought back. We didn’t get the chance to see Sanya grow, and with this being a narrative, that aspect is extremely important. When the credits started rolling, I was at a point where I eagerly wanted to know what would happen next, only to be disappointed when my answer was…nothing. Then I thought we might have an after-credits scene, but again, we didn’t. I enjoyed the time that I spent with Sanya, but it was not nearly enough.

Sanya 04
A gorgeous art style that never disappointed

Sanya was not perfect. With it only giving us one day to explore Sanya’s new life, by the end I felt disappointed. But short or not, it did remind me what it was like to be a child again. The fear and the fun of meeting new people, the vivid imaginations I hoped I’d never lose, and the way the world always seemed to get a little brighter every day.

Inanna played Sanya on PC with a review code.

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