Anodyne Review (PC)
Anodyne is a top down 2D dungeon crawler for the PC, Mac, and Linux. The game is at heart a 16 bit styled clone of the 2D Zelda games. If you have played Link’s Awakening DX then you will feel right at home with this game. As with those titles, you explore the world, solve puzzles, and defeat the bosses located in each of the games dungeons.
The player controls the character “Young”, a white haired boy armed with only a broom. With this broom he is able to attack enemies, flips switches, and even remove dust! His mission is to defeat “The Darkness” that’s covered The Land (actual name). To do this, Young has to find the legendary Briar before The Darkness does. The plot itself is very thin and all over the place, so if you’re looking for a deep, engrossing story you wont find it here.
The game starts off light-hearted, full of humour that tricks you into thinking that this game is going to be a simple parody of Zelda. Your weapon is a broom, not a sword, there’s an NPC with a bike called “Wares” which she likes to peddle, and even a cameo of Link demonstrating how to chop down a bush. The idea of a light-hearted plot is dispelled the first time you are required to murder an innocent NPC to progress further. From then, the game starts to get more unsettling, NPC chatter becomes incoherent and deranged, the music get more eerie, and tasks Young is given become disturbing. There is even a section of the game that is genuinely scary.
Anodyne is made up of two main game play types, exploration and dungeon crawling. The exploration sections of the game are about traveling around The Land, finding cards located in chests. Theses cards are used to unlock gates, which require a certain number of cards for them to be opened. Sometimes getting these cards is just a matter of simply locating them on the map, while others require the player to solve a puzzle. Most of these puzzles are simple enough to work out and can be fun to solve. There are other puzzles that make no sense, and may piss you off enough to stop playing the game. An example of one of these puzzles is when you find a path that is blocked off by a creature telling you that it wont move out of your way. After almost 2 hours of trial and error attempting to solve the puzzle, I found out that the solution was to find a cat, get it to follow you, navigate a route to the creature that won’t frighten the cat, speak to the creature with the cat to scare it off, then follow the creature back to its home, and then clean it house!
The Land is split up into different areas, each with its own theme, music and graphic style. Most of these are paced well, and they are different enough to keep exploring interesting, though there is one or two that are far bigger than they need to be, which makes these parts a little boring at times.
The dungeons are where the game really shines. Just like the 2D Zelda games (and more recently The Binding of Isaac), each dungeon is made up of a number of one screen rooms. To progress through these rooms you either have to kill all the enemies in the room, or solve a puzzle. The combat is done really well, as the developers have basically copied the Zelda mechanics, which is not a bad thing. Young’s broom behaves the same way as Links sword, so the key here is to strafe and rotate round enemies, dodging their attacks while landing yours. Most of the enemy types have also been taken straight out of Zelda, even those damn bats! The boss battles are okay, but don’t offer much spectacle or challenge. They do all play differently thoughm requiring the player to use different strategies to defeat them, but they are limited due to the broom being the only weapon in the game.
The dungeons puzzles are interesting due to their use of the games dust mechanics. Apart from beating the shit out of enemies, the broom can also be used to sweep up dust, and place it somewhere else. Dust in the real world is useless, but in Anodyne’s world it’s more useful than Batman’s utility belt. It can be used to block enemy attacks, power switches, direct enemies, and even used to make a raft! Most of puzzles in the dungeons require the player to use dust to solve them. They start off simple, requiring the player to use the dust to block enemy fire to allow the player to get past an area. Later puzzles require precise positioning of the dust, for example placing dust in certain areas so that you can chase an enemy to force it to stand on a switch, or to use the dust to make a raft to cross water. Not all puzzles require dust. There are some switch puzzles, but if you see dust on screen it’s there to be used.
You control Youngs’s movements using the cursor keys, use the broom with C, and jump using X. The jumping is the only real let down in the games controls. Judging the correct distance to jump hasn’t been this frustrating since Xen in Half-Life. Apart from the jumping the rest of the controls work well, and although controllers aren’t officially supported you can still map teh buttons of a Xbox 360 controller.
Anodyne’s 16-bit graphics look good. They looks like what a 16-bit port of Link’s Awakening DX would look like running on a Super Nintendo. Even though the game runs at a low resolution, it stills looks good playing on a 1080p screen. Each of The Lands areas has its own graphical style, which range from the colourful countryside, to a black and white 50’s style town in the USA.
Analgesic Productions have done a really good job creating a good dungeon crawler. It has simple but satisfying combat, the broom and dust mechanics work really well, and the game contains some great puzzles. The different locations in The Land keeps exploration from becoming stale. Anodyne also manages to make you laugh, and other times scare you. If you enjoyed the 2D Zelda games and/or The Binding of Isaac then go play Anodyne. You wont be disappointed.
8 Dusty Dungeons out of 10