SPOILER WARNING – SPOILER WARNING
Anodyne is a top down classic “Legend of Zelda” style action-adventure game originally came out in 2013 for for PC, MAC OS, Linux and later to Android. Finally, earlier this year it landed on Nintendo Switch.
The main protagonist, Young, wakes up to a voice telling him to do basic commands, completing a series of simple “how too” puzzles before finally jumping through a bright portal to another world. After arriving in this new world, you find yourself in a dark area that comes to be known as the Nexus. You move forward to find the Sage, the main person you speak with throughout your journey. This Sage explains you are here to help defeat the coming darkness, and to prevent it from taking over the Briar in Anodyne.
The Sage then bluntly tells you to follow the left path to begin your journey. Pro tip here… most times if you choose to talk to a character again, you will get more information. Or, in the Sage’s case, you’ll notice his patience starting to dwindle. This is your only reminder now that this is a mature rated game and this is also where Young’s story begins…
Gameplay / Control:
Like most styles of these games, you are in a semi-open world, left to wander around with your trusty broom weapon (I know, more on that later). Eventually, you will enhance your skills and gain the ability to jump over holes. Enemies range from simple blobs of red goop to scary attack dogs and even spooky black ghostly shadows (Man do they hurt, watch out!). The game designers recycled some of these units as the game went on, however they did spice them up with different mechanics and became harder to kill as the game progressed, requiring 2 hits instead of 1.The boss battles were fun and challenging, each having their own flair and unique battle mechanics. They felt very tailored to each dungeon as well.
As for plot and direction – there wasn’t very much. There were many times I got confused and wasn’t sure where I should go. Thank goodness I was a master explorer and eventually figured things out on my own. During my adventure in Anodyne, I often said to myself “I’m not sure if I should be here,” but I kept pressing on until I couldn’t go any further. I kept double checking zones to ensure I wasn’t missing anything or that I wasn’t skipping a puzzle. That meant I did a lot of backtracking between the different areas. Thankfully with the help of the Nexus hub (a main zone of warp portals) it was a breeze.
There were a few quests here and there, but they weren’t easy to understand and I became frustrated. However, they were nothing to rage quit over, the player just has to be smarter than the puzzle they’re working with.
Besides switching items around, it does have a collection system, with collectables that you needed to gather throughout the game. Having a certain amount of “cards” in the game gave you access to other areas in the world or secrets that mainly included an extra health rectangle… Wait, no, it was a health cubes? That’s not correct either, how about a heart container… can I say that? Oh well, can’t go back now. Other than collecting and opening passages, they do little else for the game. I did rather enjoy their witty descriptions and sometimes comical notes attached to each card. After I got the required amount to complete the game, I didn’t see the point to get the other 10 unless you’re a completionist.
The battle system was simple yet effective, Young’s trusty broom that only attacked one tile in front of him. You could eventually get small upgrades to it, but I missed those upgrades as they didn’t seem to naturally flow with the games progression. Luckily the game makes you find the jump ability, regardless of whether you do it the correct way, or in the case of my play through, the wrong way. As mentioned before, with the rest of the items I wasn’t so lucky, and by the end of the game I had to look up my missing items and hunted them down to help me finish off the final boss.
Each zone was defined by the map that sat at the top of your screen. Seeing the small directional indicator on each tile kept me wanting to see how to get over to and explore each area. When I couldn’t get there, I had to think and see if I could find another way, and if not, I just left it and kept it in the back of my mind for the future.
Graphics / Music:
One of the main reasons I was drawn to this game was the game’s 16 bit graphics. It very much reminded me of classic top down Legend of Zelda’s play style with a mix of Earthbound from SNES. The colors of the zones are very pleasing and as I progressed through the game, it just became more and more out there and trippy, almost as if I was taking drugs.
It really kept my interest in that way, and I was always wondering what new zone or area I would be traveling too. Sadly there was a lack of connection between each area and thus each one felt like a complete 180 from the last. Almost like going from winter zone to light zone to summer zone to dark zone, it just didn’t match up and I wasn’t sure why… Until later.
There were times, due to the graphical style of the game (and possibly because I’m colorblind) where I wasn’t even sure what kind of character/creature I was interacting with: a human, a cat, a monster, a rock. But that didn’t discourage me. My sense of curiosity was running wild through this game and I really wanted to know more of its lore.
I will say upfront that for myself, music isn’t always make or break for a game. It’s not always something I pay attention to, especially if there is a great story going on or, in the case of Anodyne, the mystery of this plot. I felt largely more focused on each tile area and what/where I needed to go than the music that was around.
For this review, I went to youtube to really take some time to revisit the music. It felt simple and retro inspired, it blended well with the graphical style chosen for each area, (hence probably why it wasn’t my main focus, so I look at that as a pro). Boss scene music was thrilling and added to the experience, especially at the ending when facing off with the Briar.
I will admit a few things here – If you can’t tell I did rather enjoy the game, it brought back some fond memories of games I played in the 90’s. I also did appreciate its challenge and lack of direction even though it may sound like I struggled with it, but for that reason alone I like it. Too many games these days are either too easy or pay to win, give me old school! It held on to its 90’s roots and I applaud it for that. However, it may not be everyone’s cup of tea.
For just a few hardworking individuals that built this game, I give them credit for a wonderful work of art that kept me going for 10+ hours. However I did wish I knew it was mainly about Young’s subconscious. I may have missed that in some of the dialog, or I just didn’t understand it in the beginning. It was only after I finished the game that I went to Google to read about the lore of game that I found the truth. Now it obviously makes more sense to me as to how crazy and trippy the zones were.
I do wish to know more about Young and characters in the game – who was the shopkeeper? Why did he price items so high? What was a gun doing in his shop? Why was there no money? Who REALLY was the Mitra (girl in below image)? Some old girlfriend he misses? And what were those tall red creatures and why couldn’t I ride one? I guess I’ll never know, or maybe in the sequel?
Release Date: Feb 28th 2019
Developer: Analgesic Productions