Note: Since I’ll keep updating the list with games I’ve bought, if there’s ever a game that comes in before the point at which I’m at, I’ll review it first before moving on. I hate gaps.
I think I had heard of Anodyne once or twice before I started playing it, but I didn’t actually know much about how it was like. I knew it was about a guy with a broom, and that it was kinda like Legend of Zelda. What I found out as I played it is that the game isn’t “like” Legend of Zelda. It’s pretty much the 8bit Legend of Zelda all over again, with a very weird story. I did not play Legend of Zelda back then. I did a while ago though, if only to see what all the fuss was about. It was a good fuss. It’s dangerous to go alone, so I took it and ran with it.
You play as Young, a dude who is given a quest from Sage, making him step into this weird pixel-art dreamworld you are to explore in order to protect something or someone from the Darkness. It’s not a particularly clear game story-wise – it actually makes a stark contrast against the clear-cut and easy to understand game mechanics. Just like the NES classic, you only get to use a few buttons – you have the directional keys and you have 2 extra keys. “C” interacts with stuff, as well as allows you to attack and do pretty much anything else you need to do in the game. There’s also the “X” key, but even the help menu says that it does “???”. Mysterious.
The gameplay is simple and logical, as well as intuitive to a fault – you experiment with the game to learn what you need to do, and it never feels like you get completely stuck (at least thus far). Mastering elements of the game rewards you in-game with cards that depict the element of the game you have mastered, usually an enemy you have encountered and conquered. It’s an amazingly effective game design element – makes you feel as if your progression is recognized in both the gameplay and story sense.
The star of the game has to be the overall feeling of the dream-world you explore. It evokes polarizing feelings – the first area you see is a simple white room with a single element to pull your vision – it’s like a control environment. The rest of the world is like a multitude of tests to change your state of mind. The odd music of the temple grounds puts you on edge, the vibrant forest gives you a false feeling of safety, after which you can get pitted in the wholesome visceral world. I mean literal visceral, it feels as if you’re walking through guts.
The gameplay keeps you grounded, but the dream-world goes crazy and all over the place. There is an amusing undertone, but eventually it becomes hidden behind layers of surrealism, in a way putting an image of a crumbling reality in place.
It’s a great game, as you may expect from it being a Zelda-like game with a broom for sword.
PS: Anodyne by Analgesic Productions. Anodyne means sedative. Clever. Also the nods to Zelda: The game starts with “HEY! Listen you are about to wake up”. There’s others, but I’ll let you discover them.