Can I give a thumbs-sideways?
The word "anodyne" in a literary sense can mean "soothing" or "blandly agreeable," and I can certainly give the game the bland part.
For the better part of three hours playing the game I did not know if I could stomach finishing it. I'm getting ahead of myself.
It's a Legend of Zelda-like with a ton of strange thematic choices, poor writing, too much dialogue and tonal shifts that will give a player whiplash. What few inventive game mechanics it employs are spread throughout an atrociously long and dull climb to nowhere. You might pass through seven screens just to get to the next place: no enemies, no obstacles to speak of, just a march. As if the designers (credited indie devs Sean Hogan Jonathan Kittaka) couldn't be bothered, having come up with the overall map of an area, to fill it in with things. This becomes very apparent when retracing your steps. You will find a checkpoint at the beginning of an area, putting you on guard for the trials ahead. Then those trials never manifest and seven screens later there's another checkpoint.
To what end? Was my adversary through that place boredom? Will checkpoints at the beginning and end of a stretch really help me combat that adversary?
The few basic enemies you encounter are all laughably simplistic. Many pose no threat at all. Some cannot even harm you. This led me to think perhaps they were more of a rhetorical device than a game object, really. The only rhetorical question that sprang to mind was "why am I still playing this?" Then later I encountered fire-breathing lions and they shot my dandy theory to hell.
But I do know the answer to that rhetorical question, as the game is a little more than a poorly-written, bland, easy Zelda clone.
First, even though the various mechanics are spread out way too far, the few that the game offers are very neat. Even with all the crummy verbosity, the game does not tutorialize, rather giving you the tools and letting you figure things out. A good bit of design. The nugget of a good game. I would never have thought that piles of dust could have so many uses, but there you go.
Second, there is at least one boss in the game that requires a neat bit of fooling and approaches a reasonable challenge. Shame that I can only honestly say that about one of perhaps eight or so bosses, but that one is very good and fun.
Third, there are a few counter-intuitive design choices that I won't spoil that I do admire as choices. It is this last point that keeps my thumb pointing up with all I've said about the game to this point. What I will say is that it's a shame you only get the full, mechanically complete game after playing through the whole thing.
Heck I guess that's a second way it reminds me of Fez. The first was the music and sound effects. Which I didn't mention. Okay.
The music is fine if you're into chiptunes and oscilloscopes. Tones, mostly sine waves. Some triangle. There are several good tones.
Which is more than I can say about the jokes. Those are all tonedeaf. And just grating given everything else that happens. I want to say that, as a rule, you don't get to make crappy puns about bicycles with names in the same game where you murder a man and jump into his corpse-portal to go commit an abortion on a tentacle monster. Which is part of what I mean when I say the game is tonally all over the place. Anything vaguely interesting as a narrative point just gets dropped somewhere; crushed away by screen after screen of nothing happening.
Things I didn't like:
boring, longwinded dialogue
lack of difficulty
Things I did like:
certain specific challenges
cute enemy names
Buy it on sale. At the time of this writing it is half-off the ten dollar list price, which still feels like a bit much for what you're getting. Do not pay ten dollars for this game, at any rate.
Posted: December 29th, 2013