A boy discovers an unusual video game and becomes enthralled with it, à la The NeverEnding Story.
Erayu is a point-and-click adventure about a boy named Josh who happens to find an obscure video game (also called Erayu) during holiday break. Taking it home, Josh becomes engrossed with the title, pausing just long enough to take care of daily tasks. You play as both Josh in the "real world" and the main character of the video game he found.
While I like the idea of a game-within-a-game and even calling them both the same name, trying to explain things might get confusing. From this point on, I'll try referring to "Josh" or the "fantasy" portions of Erayu, as they do differ slightly. Otherwise, I'm talking about the title as a whole.
As a point-and-click adventure, the gameplay is on par with similar titles. There's a lot of dialogue and descriptions, as well as a great deal of puzzle solving. While the majority of puzzles involve using and combining items, there's a few other types scattered through the game as well (such as completing patterns in the cave). Some of the item uses and combinations are a bit complex with very subtle hints, though. If you get stuck, the method of just trying everything until something happens seems to work. Unfortunately, this can really stall the pace of the game and leave players frustrated.
The fantasy portion of the game comes with a number of helpful features, though. There's an inventory/journal screen to keep track of what you're doing, and holding a key (Shift, I think) in-game highlights things of interest.
Aesthetically speaking, Erayu is very nice. It has a high-quality pixelated art style with lots of ambient detail such as falling leaves, rain and some interactive objects (mostly lamps). The music and sounds fit the scenes wonderfully, both as Josh and in the fantasy game. It's worth noting that the fantasy game features a lot of bright, beautiful art that is contrasted by a dark, somber tone found in the dialogue due to its plot.
Speaking of which, the title's story (or stories, in this case) are also quite interesting, even if a bit familiar. As Josh, you learn a bit about his life and relationships, which include a best friend, a caring brother and a somewhat strict and overworked father.
The fantasy game's protagonist is slowly recovering from a major case of amnesia. Waking up, he quickly learns that the land's ruler, the Eternal princess, has gone missing. In her absence, a supernatural darkness is spreading that erases existence wherever it goes. The protagonist is accompanied by an array of characters and meets many more on their journey.
There's a number of striking similarities (some are mentioned above) between Erayu and the '80s film The NeverEnding Story. Though I haven't gotten too far, I wouldn't be surprised if Josh's life and the fantasy game intertwine or merge a little at some point. The fact that the fantasy game's story features a spreading darkness while Josh's surroundings include a lot of interactive lamps seems to hint at that, or at least plays up the battle of light versus dark from several angles.
Seeing as both Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal had popular computer adaptations (long ago), it's a little odd that The NeverEnding Story went without an accompanying game. Erayu is perhaps as close as we're ever going to get, but considering how often movie-to-game adaptations fail, we frankly could've gotten a lot worse.