Warning. This review will spoil part of this game. If you haven’t played it I suggest you do so before reading.
I find the looks of this game directly offputting. It reminds me of platform games from the 80’s and not in a good way. I was never good enough to master Mega Man or the early Mario Bros games. I could finish 1-2 levels tops and then it got too hard for me.
Immediately when I see this game it gets me thinking about Mega Man and I do not really want to play it. Once you start getting into it, it is however not that hard. The game is split into screens that are manageable chunks of platform trickery and there are checkpoints where the game saves that are more like a modern game.
The game starts as a simple platform game and then it gradually make the mechanics more interesting by giving you tools to traverse the world. You get a rope hook to grab surfaces with. You get a jump right after a hit, or taking damage. You get shuriken so you can hit things from afar.
The levels are quite bland and the level design is the same through the whole game. You will fight the same monsters from the start up until the last boss off the game. There is no progression there at all.
But the bosses are really good. They are not as hard as I remember them in retro games, but instead they are about remembering patterns. The game is very good at communicating what is going to happen so some of these bosses I manage to kill on the first try. Not because I was particularly good, or the boss was easy, but because the game was great at communicating what the boss was about to do.
The game gets better and better as you progress up to the half way point. Here the game makes a shift, opens up and becomes a metroidvania. Ugh. I hate metroidvanias, because I never know what to do or where to go. I start playing it as it is meant to; I investigate and try to find clues, but I quickly get tired of playing the same levels over and over and search the internet for a walkthrough that tells me what to do and in what order.
I must say, this is where the game turns sour for me. I would never have figured it out any by myself. You shall drop into holes that are disguised as bottomless pits. You need to go to a particular area, in the future in order to unlock something in the past. The whole game gets very convoluted and the order of events are hard to follow.
By the end the platforming also gets very hard. You’re supposed to kill-jump ghosts that are moving around in the environment, and I try over and over with the same screen until I make it more out of luck than any skill. Then it comes back to me what I don’t like about games from the 80’s. It’s these impossible hard sequences that are fine tuned to the developers themselves and not to the average player that I am.
This is a love letter to retro games. Very much like Undertale is a love letter to old RPG’s this is a love letter to the platform and metroidvania genre. It features goofy characters and lots of references to my childhood. It is weird and it is funny, but the repetition of playing the same levels over and over, and the “challenge” by the end is really offputting for me. I wish they wouldn’t have made a metroidvania of it, but stuck to the same formula that made the first part of the game really great.