Since the uprising of indie games one of the most popular style of game has been the retro throwback. These games are typically 8 or 16-bit style trying to bring people back to the way games used to be, fun, colorful and pixelated! Anodyne is another game that fits this description but has unique features of it’s own such as vibrant art and fun dialogue.
You wake up in the midst of time and space with a sage telling you that a person named Briar needs to be saved and that you are the one who must do it. To complete this task the main character, Young, must travel throughout the world to find cards that will make him powerful enough to open up the gate where Briar waits….and all you have is a broom. Cards are scattered in every nook and cranny that you can seek out within Anodyne because the game has a heavy focus on exploration. In similar style to the older Gameboy Zeldas or the Metroid games Anodyne has rooms in every direction for you to explore only every room you go into probably has multiple ways of getting into it or getting across it.
The way it is laid out in the game is really seamless too, there are no loading times in the game because whenever you go to the edge of the screen the camera scrolls in that direction and you are viewing the new area. It makes the world feel like one big place instead of separated sections although it does cause a couple of problems such as situations where you are knocked back and forth between screens or you are in the middle of a puzzle and you accidentally go off screen so the puzzle you were working on resets. These problems don’t occur too often but they can definitely break the experience at time. Areas are distinguished well throughout the game as every area has a completely unique tone to it, the game begins barren but you will go from the circus, to a black and white film, not to mention an awesome area through time and space that reminds me of Megaman Battle Network, that are brought together perfectly by the art and the music.
If the above sounds appealing to you then you will probably enjoy this game, but if old school throw back games aren’t enough to get you to play this then this game may not be your best fit. Anodyne does one thing great, recreating the old Zelda style games that no one makes anymore, but as a game in this time it does not do a lot that is innovative and it has a lot of old gameplay mechanics that have aged. The game begins as a normal Zelda style game would but once jumping is introduced it becomes much more of a platformer, and sometimes the platforming is not the best. Jumping over small one tile gaps is easy, but when the game requires you to get over a two tile gap it can be a bit of a hassle. It’s never impossible to jump over these gaps but the timing on them can be a hassle and may cause you to die a couple of times. Speaking of deaths, dying in this game feels a little pointless at times, instead of being a punishment for playing wrong dying just teleports you to the closest checkpoint, which are pretty close to each other. I actually found myself stuck in situations that I couldn’t get out of sometimes, so I would die just to teleport back to a familiar area.I wouldn’t say these are elements of an old time, these are just parts of the game that stuck out as annoying.
One of the biggest problems that this game has is backtracking, if you go through every room in the game you should have no problem with this because cards aren’t hard to find. But if you missed a couple of cards along your journey and are stuck, after talking to a couple of people you will begin to realize you are going to have to go back and search every area you missed before, not the most encouraging though eh? The game does help you a little bit with this by marking the areas you have found every card in but that is the extent of it’s help. Because of the games retro design the mini map is just squares in a 5×5 grid, the only thing that distinguishes them are darker marks that show where doorways are and lines that connect them showing that they are connected to other rooms. It can be really annoying at times when you are trying to find your way into a room that involves running through many rooms and you look up at the mini map and can’t tell which room you were aiming for in the first place because all the blocks look the same.
Like I said above finding cards is not that hard, so not only is going from room to room pretty simple but there are not any puzzles (with the exception of one) that will really stump you. Most puzzles involve picking up dust from a river and putting it in another river or pressing a switch to open up a path for you or a creature to press a button. Enemies will stop you along the way as well and there are a few tough ones too. They progress from blobs that are pretty harmless and begin to become more difficult as the game goes on up to the point where flying men are drugging you to confuse which way you are going and flowers are shooting hundreds of evil pollen at you waiting for your demise. The boss fights in the game can be a bit tough at first too, nothing that you will be stuck for days playing but they are definitely a good bit of fun figuring out what technique will be taking them down.
The character dialogue in the game is really fun despite the story being a bit lacking. Many of the characters in the beginning make jokes that I found even laugh out loud funny at times. This tone does change into a much darker setting at times that does seem a bit forced and I found a little cringe worthy but I can’t help but think back to the sarcastic rocks throughout the game and some of the hilarious, yet sometimes nasty, animals. There are also some dialogue that is said by enemies that seem like they are supposed to hint at something bigger by the end of the game but overall they end up being meaningless rambles.
The game lasts about 5-6 hours if you don’t get stuck anywhere and if you really know where everything is there is an achievement for 100% the game in under 3 hours. Anodyne is overall a pretty good experience, remove the drag of backtracking for the items and the experience is actually pretty enjoyable. Funny characters, a nicely designed world and fun gameplay makes Anodyne a game that is worth the time.