Iconoclasts

A Metroidvania recommended to me by a games rec Tumblr I follow. It main claim to fame is that it was all made by a single person, over the course of a decade.

This is not a Metroidvania by my definition. It is completely linear from beginning to end, upgrades are minimal, and using new abilities in old areas is exceedingly rare.

Honestly, there’s not much point in exploring to get the upgrades anyway, because the upgrade system is utterly bizarre: You can only ever equip three upgrades at once, but you never get better upgrades, just duplicates of existing ones. I made all the upgrades I liked best as soon as I got access to crafting and then never changed my loadout for the entire game. Your only reward for exploring is the ability to swap out what you already have for stuff you don’t need. I don’t know what the point was supposed to be.

The story is a weird, confused mess that whiplashes between serious and absurd far too much. It’s supposedly a serious story where people die and have PTSD and the whole planet is in danger from a resource crisis, but the tone keeps shifting into madcap adventure comedy. One of the examples I most vividly remember is at the climactic midpoint, where the protagonist’s brother chooses to sacrifice himself in a suicide attack on the villain, who proceeds to bloodily rip his arm off while gloating about how she’s going to watch him suffer as he slowly bleeds out; you’re saved by a secondary and overly hammy villain barging in out of nowhere to tell the first villain she’s not allowed to kill anyone because [mumble mumble] and she for some reason agrees to this, but not before deciding she’s going to just shoot the hero… at which point you are saved by another villain barging in out of nowhere to personally attack you such that he pushes you out of the way of the shot. And the game knows how stupid this is, because all the characters immediately remark on how absurd that sequence of events was.

But also everyone lives under an oppressive corporate theocracy that murders people for the slightest offense and the whole planet is about to collapse from a lack of not!petroleum. It’s bizarre.

(Also, Elro is such an insufferable douche. I get the impression maybe that’s intended given the way the other characters deal with him, but making a character unlikable on purpose doesn’t change the fact they’re unlikable and I want them out of the story. On the flipside, Agent Black is wonderful, she was the only competent person in the entire game.)

If you like action platformers it’s pretty solid on that front, and the puzzle mechanics were pretty good, but don’t expect anything else to rise above the level of mediocre.

(It’s interesting on our debate of monsters vs. humans, though — I overall think it strikes a really nice balance between monster and human enemies, and the final boss plays with that balance in a way I appreciated. About the only point where I thought it floundered was the three miniboss agents at the very end; we don’t know them, so the attempts to characterize them just fall flat. Throwing robots at us might have been better.)

4 Comments

  1. Xander77 says:
    I don’t really play platformers myself, but I’ve been told that the last decade had a great glut of great platformers. Which is why games that are technically superior to Cave Story or Aquaria, which were huge sensations back in the day, now land with nary  a splash of discussion.
    1. Aquaria was a platformer?

      I would say Cave Story was superior to this. It had better story, atmosphere, and exploration mechanics.

      1. Xander77 says:
        Metrovidania, I guess? Looking on from the outside, it rather feels like platformers and metros are basically merging for the most part?

        Like, looking at Shovel Knight or Hollow Knight, I think they look like platformers, but are properly classiefied as metros?

        1. Roarke says:

          MVs are basically about how the game is laid out on a macro level – how are the areas connected, how do you backtrack between them, can you use new abilities in old areas to find new things. Platforming is a mechanic, and it can be the central conceit of the game or just thrown in to spice up a different genre.

          A ‘pure’ platformer would be something like Super Meat Boy, which is nothing but discrete levels of escalating difficulty. Hollow Knight I’d say is about in the middle, where platforming is essential to the exploration of the world, but it competes with many other elements that really tie the game together. Finally on the all-MV end would be, say, the original Dark Souls, which was a big interconnected world with backtracking and the like, but almost no platforming at all, even the 3D kind.

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