Friday 26 July 2013

Anodyne (PC/Mac/Linux/iOS)

From the moment you start Anodyne, its creators Sean Hogan and Jonathan Kittaka send you on an imaginative journey where the feeling of isolation runs rampant and the need to connect in a disconnected world where fantasy and reality exist adjacent to each other drives you to the truth. Your quest starts as you play a boy named Young and follow his progress through The Land to get to the Briar. Aided by the Village Elder, armed with a trusty broom (only real men use brooms), you traverse many lands solving puzzles in dungeons a la Zelda and unraveling the mystique that shrouds the world while ethereal sounds punctuate your footsteps.

If you couldn't tell from my last sentence, the music in this game is phenomenal. Every single track grabs you and doesn't let you go while the game guides you along your path. It makes you feel the forest's glare and breathe in the beach air, all while immersing you in this dream world. One of my personal favorites is the forest theme. Each note gives you a feeling of mystery as if there is something else out there, watching you from the trees, its eyes tracking your every move.

The storyline is vague but potent. For me, I needed a little bit more to truly commend the narrative but I understand where Anodyne's creators were going with it. The mystery of the unknown drives the player onwards, in contrast to you knowing everything from the get-go. The developers didn't want you to read Anodyne; instead of telling you, they wanted you to experience it. An admirable effort but I didn't feel emotionally attached enough to invest in the plot and before long, I was speed-running the game.

Any experienced gamer can see that this game was a labour of love all the way down to the code but, at the same time, you can also feel the 'freshness' of the developers. While their gameplay mechanics are tried-and-true, there are a couple level designs and weird bugs that make the game come up just short of the professional mark; an an example, one such bug had my cat-like companion disappear while my character glided away like the ground was a giant Slip 'n' Slide. This only harps on the fact that game development has its own idiosyncrasies that we would be wise to master, its concepts touching on the more abstract than the concrete. How does the game feel? What happens if this happens? How can we adjust if this is a game-breaking bug? These are things that need to be planned for. As I look at the version number on the title screen, I can't help but wonder how the creators respond to reviews like this.

Incidentally, Anodyne seems like a game that belongs on a Game Boy Advance or some sort of handheld. It would be just the pocket adventure I want in a console like that. And while the iOS version is nice, there's something about physical buttons that make the game that much more magical. Overall, Anodyne is a great trip into the wayback machine for many gamers. The game sucks you in with a pixellated charm that seems to be lacking in games now. If you enjoyed the 8-bit era of console RPG games, this is an experience you might enjoy. I would definitely try it before buying, though; your mileage may vary.

Download the demo/purchase the PC/Mac/Linux version here (from the official website).
Download the demo/purchase the iOS version here (from the iOS App Store).
3.5 out of 5

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