Fans of the old school adventure games should definitely enjoy the combination of exploration and puzzles the game offers and Anodyne is a nice throwback to a type of game that you simply can’t find any more.
It's one of those games with loads of untapped potential, which is how it ultimately traps itself in the shadow of its big role-model. It manages to create an atmosphere on a comparable level of quality, but lacks in finesse of design. You're only a third of you way through this adventure until you hunger for more skills and weapons, and long exhausting marches regularly get in the way of any real adventuring. Still, Anodyne manages to entertain and displays a level of talent which has you wonder what its creators will be up to next.
Who doesn't want to fight cute little monsters with a broom and meet other adventurers who ride motorbikes in dungeons? Try out this Zelda-like pixel art game and enjoy the solid quality of gameplay and childing vibe.
Despite its simple presentation, Anodyne manages to provide a surprisingly high quality experience which I would recommend to most people – although its asking price is definitely a bit too high. Anodyne plays almost exactly like a classic Zelda game would, to me it seems like it’s mostly inspired by the Game Boy era of Zelda games. But the twist which sets it apart from other games like it is its surreal, mysterious and at times scary world which you get to explore as well as it’s very sombre and melancholic soundtrack. The game has a hub area much like the one in Yume Nikki from which you travel through portals to different areas which you’ve travelled to, connecting the whole game together. The game’s ‘plot’ is vague to say the least. Your objective is to protect the world from the great darkness or something? I really don’t know honestly. The story is extremely vague, and it never really gripped me, nor did I think any real themes were being explored. I quickly came to the conclusion that the story was probably just there so that the game could function. Despite this, your goal/motivation is usually pretty clear; you’re looking for cards to open up doors and keep exploring the world, and eventually you will gather enough strength to fight off the darkness or something. Yeah it wasn’t great, but it was enough. I also didn’t find the a lot of the humorous dialogue to be very funny, just seems like another indie game doing the Earthbound thing, but with a real tinge of angst at times. Now where the game really shines however is some of its quirky little mechanics which it implements very well. Instead of having a sword you have a broom, and this broom lets you collect a patch of dust which can be used for any number of things. It can be used for blocking dangerous projectiles, as a raft to prevent you from drowning in water, used to fight bosses or a way to activate specific devices and so on. Apart from the broom, the only other upgrade that really changes the way you play is the jump ability, which I’m sure I don’t have to explain. Both of these mechanics were fun, and there were plenty of unique puzzles that utilized them super well throughout the entire game, but I also felt that especially towards the end of the game that there weren’t enough fresh mechanics in the game to keep me totally gripped. Having every puzzle revolve around your jump and broom ability doesn’t get tiring as quickly as you might think it does, but it definitely does happen after a while. Thankfully the game is short, and just barely manages to get away with this. A few more mechanics or two to spice up the puzzle and dungeon variety would have been really nice though. But again, the game is very simple, and that’s fine, the game does its own thing and it does it well. Despite its very minimalistic pixel art style, all of the areas had distinct looks and feels and all of the enemies were unique from one another and easily identifiable. A lot of dungeons did have their own unique gimmicks for the most part did mostly make up for the lack of more permanent upgrades/abilities. And a lot of enemies and boss fights despite being very simple, were memorable and different enough that I never really cared about how easy the game was, I was usually too caught up in the atmosphere and exploration of an area to really care. Focusing on its own strengths rather than weaknesses was a good idea, and it pays off, The exploration, puzzle solving and atmosphere are absolutely the best parts of this game, whereas combat, platforming and story while adequate, aren’t anywhere near as good. A few little nitpicks I have are that having too much health means you can ‘brute-force’ your way through a lot of puzzles – like a room filled with spikes doesn’t need to be traversed properly because I can walk through it in half the time and only lose a bit of health which ultimately doesn’t even matter because not only do I have so much health that it doesn’t affect me, but there’s also save points that are literally all over the game which completely heal you. Also, some platforming segments felt a bit off as you would respawn at the entrance of a room rather than near where you fell, this means that I sometimes had to restart puzzles for specific reasons or would accidentally run out of rooms, restarting the puzzle I was doing at the time. As well as this, falling doesn’t damage you at all, making it more of an annoying setback rather than an actual threat. Enemies also have pretty long I-frames after being hit, which makes some combat encounters a bit more tedious than they need to be. And my final criticism is that progress is saved even after you die – so if I complete two rooms and collect the items in there, but then die, I’ll respawn having lost nothing – which needless to say makes dying totally redundant. All in all, it's a nice little game, worth the small price.
The main storyline of the game was decent, if nothing special (and to actually get to the ending you had to collect every last hidden collectible in the entire game). What I'm here to talk about is the 'post-game' half of the game.
When Anodyne ends, it gives you an item to switch floor tiles, making you able to work places you couldn't before. This is done with the promise of further exploration and an entire (hidden) second half of the game. The thing is; you're meant to use this tool to exploit glitches that occur when moving outside of the maps, to get you to secret glitchy areas. This requires abusing your controls, and works about 1% of the time, essentially making the whole experience extremely frustrating.
What is equally as frustrating is the fact that so much work seemingly has gone to making these glitchy areas, with 99 doors you have to try and pass by jumping into holes that kill you at different spots of different levels, but bringing up the menu, teleport to the waypoint area, and hope you hit one of the spots that has floor tiles to land on, and is on the right side of the doors.
If this was truly meant to be optional, it would have been hidden away as secrets, not be your reward for completing the game, and it would definitely not have about as much content as the main game.
Anodyne is a Zelda-style action game where you explore surreal areas and crawl through dungeons. I really couldn't bring myself to finish this game. While the environments are neat and a bit unsettling, the game's puzzles are really poorly designed and the controls are sub-par, which made this a really frustrating experience. In addition, the map is completely labyrinthine. I had no idea where I should be going, the map was useless, and I pretty much immediately got lost.
The star of this game is the aesthetic. It mostly sticks to the 16-bit style, and it does it well most of the time. The music is mostly ambient and a little creepy, which really hammers in the unease.
Ultimately, though, I found I couldn't forgive the game's serious gameplay flaws. If you think the aesthetic alone will be worth the price of entry, then you might really enjoy this game, but otherwise, there are many better ways to spend your money.
SummaryIn Anodyne, you explore and fight your way through nature, urban and abstract themed areas in the human Young's subconscious, evoked by a 16-bit-era visual style and a moody, dream-like soundtrack.