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Filed under: General — 19day @ 23:47:24

I’ve been playing a new game that’s trying to get on Steam Greenlight, called Anodyne. And it was compelling enough that I beat it in a single evening.

It’s a top-down adventure game that when I first saw it thought it might be like Chrono Trigger or Secret of Mana, however the graphics, though 16-bit retro, were more retro than those games, and I was left a little disappointed. But it wasn’t until a little later when a jumping mechanic was added that I realized it’s actually more like a Link’s Awakening clone, which isn’t a bad thing.

Title could have been “Remember Which Gate Goes Where”

I sort of wish they had been crisper, since by default the game plays full-screen (though scaled into a viewport within the screen) and it’s reminiscent of playing emulated gameboy games full screen (ie, a little nasty). But that is part of the charm it seems to be striving for. Other areas make good use of lighting effects and other filters to make for some creepy looking areas. Unfortunately, each area is sort of a creepy area… the art can do creepy and depressing pretty well, but there aren’t many vibrant areas to contrast them. A main hub area comes close, but it’s not very alive or colourful. But the depressing/run-down areas really worked well I felt, especially with the music.

The only time I can satisfy my bloodlust for humans

Korean Nightmare

The music I found to be the best part of this game. Well, not just the music, but the sound effects in concert with the musical stings in various areas. Some of it isn’t music that you would normally tap your foot to, but more like how the ruined world from Chrono Trigger (Future overworld theme) was music. With the art style in some of the areas, I felt unnerved and somewhat creeped out, sort of how I felt during some of Twilight Princess when first in the twilight realms, with the music and the style. The music style sounds 16-bit as well, but I enjoy such scores.

Unfortunately the story didn’t evoke as much emotion as the art or music. The script sets up some mystery, leaning on the usual trope as being the guy who has to save the world but first must prove himself. Who are you and why are you The One? Not specified (at least not absolutely). I don’t mind that setup particularly, but none of the mystery as to what’s going on seems to be resolved, and I don’t mean in the way where you have to decide for yourself, I mean, I have no idea what some of it was supposed signify. Some of it feels like it was modeled on minecraft’s credits. They are all interesting ideas, but apropos of what?

I also didn’t much like the genre-parody that was going on, as it seemed to be at odds with the high-brow ideas the game was trying (or maybe I just thought that’s what it was trying) to convey. Instead of a sword you get a broom, and I was wondering if I was playing Space Quest or something. And you run into Link, derpily trying to cut down a bush, and a shop-keeper you can’t buy anything from since there’s no money system in the game, and an elder who tells you to just walk through the door if you talk to him enough. I feel such parody works better if it’s core to the game, but the more philosophical ideas and ‘weird for weirdness sake’ elements seem to be in the majority, and I feel the parody could have been shelved and the game would have been better for it, though it would still have to explain why the weapon is a broom.

The style is very similar to Link’s awakening, with auto-generating maps as you move (but a lack of obtaining real maps to show the whole area). There is a frustrating lack of upgrades in the game, to your attack of defensive power. Most enemies will deal a unit of damage, and such they will forever. If it takes 2 hits to kill them, so shall it forever. There are upgrades to your weapon, to give wider area of attack (which I found useless) or extend it forward slightly (better), but I was always hoping for more upgrades as I progressed and none were forthcoming. There is no reason to kill enemies other than the fear of them damaging you. The only thing you’ll get is health drops. The limiter on progress is via a continuing fetch-quest, essentially ‘find the 15/25/xx keys to proceed’, which has you revisiting areas. That aspect is made easier by having access to a central hub where you can jump to other areas. Why is it there? Story does not divulge. Some of the jumping puzzles, in combination with tiles that speed you up, are some of the most frustrating things in the game. Though there really isn’t a penalty for dying, for me it was the loss of tooth-enamel from gritting while trying to boost-jump over a pit where the game would refuse to grant me to necessary speed.

Duuur, I hit the busheshes and money falls out

Some of the bosses were interesting and said interesting things that reminded me of Link’s Awakening (again) about the mystery of the windfish, making it all the more annoying when the story isn’t paid off. But the bosses themselves were pretty easy, and spamming attack was generally all that was needed. It was also a short game (at least, to beating the final boss and not collecting everything possible), I suck and beat it in around 5 hours. At least one hour of which was just making irritating jumps. And another hour was trying to work out what to do after beating a boss and not having anything happen, which I thought was a bug in the game.

There is some continue-playability with this game despite the shortness due to a final upgrade that gives you the ability to explore to areas that appeared to be inaccessible, though this frequently leaves the player stuck and needing to escape back to the hub, or loading from the checkpoint. And exploration frequently leaves one in areas that are… somewhat buggy. Though for all I know this is an easter egg since the game doesn’t crash.

The trouble is, I don’t know if this is supposed to happen

Quite simple, just like a gameboy, a D-pad and two buttons are all that’s needed. And a start button. The menu controls I found trying at times, since I felt hitting Enter was more natural in selecting items once I had navigated. And I wish the map was bound to a single button rather than always having to reset my menu to the map options had I strayed elsewhere in the menu since I last needed the map.

Pretty fun and thought-provoking enough to keep playing. Difficulty was pretty easy except maybe the last boss. The story wasn’t paid off enough to my liking, not enough upgrades and felt short. Not all of those are fair to put together, as having more upgrades with the same length of game would have felt like a waste of upgrades. If the game were twice as long, with a couple of upgrades to attack and defense along the way (maybe give us a reason to kill the enemies to get such upgrades), with some more exposition as we progressed in the game, I think it would be great. As it is though, it’s still quite good, and you should be playing it.

Anodyne site

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