Let’s play a game for a minute that I like to call “Franken-Game”. In this game, you take aspects of one or more video games, put them in a blender, and try to come out with a cohesive, original product. The good news is that a number of games out there do blend elements very well. Case in point: Anodyne.
The best way I can describe Anodyne is that it’s a mix of gameplay from the original Legend of Zelda with humor that you would find in EarthBound. While there are no towns that sell Hearts or Burgers nor even a band you help out of a jam or an old man that gives you a sword, the similarities to these games are quite staggering.
You play as a guy named Young. There isn’t much known about him. You’re just kind of dropped into a situation and told to stop a great evil (similar to Zelda). However, rather using a sword as your primary weapon, you find a broom and use that as your means of attack (humor similar to EarthBound). From there, you go around the world defeating enemies and slaying bosses as you work toward the endgame. Along the way, you’ll need to pick up cards in order to get into certain areas.
The gameplay is pretty solid. Nothing feels like it’s too difficult nor does any death feel cheap. Jumping can be a bit tricky, particularly in areas where you will need to use boosters to build up speed, but can be accomplished in each section. Exploration feels good, with extra health and cards scattered across the land. And in the post-game, you’ll be able to explore some more as some places are inaccessible before getting a final power-up. Speaking of which…
You’ll be given some help from broom power-ups that can help you reach things far away with the Extend power-up or give you a wider attack with the Widen power-up. You’ll also be given a power-up late in the game that allows you to move certain tiles around. This will be helpful for one puzzle late in the game as well as collecting all the remaining cards in the post-game.
The music in the game was great to listen to. Each composition worked well for the situation and area you were in. My personal favorite was the Cliff theme. You can purchase the full soundtrack on Sean Hogan’s Bandcamp page (http://seagaia NULL.bandcamp NULL.com/).
And while the graphics are pretty much SNES-style, the design is pretty neat. The areas in the game range from warm and colorful to dark and dreary to, quite literally, black and white. It makes for interesting shifts in tone as you can go from something so welcoming to something so unnerving in an instant.
NPCs are plentiful in Anodyne. However, most of them are just there to make a room feel crowded. There is also a somewhat useless merchant that tries to sell you stuff — which is pointless because there is no currency that you collect in the game. But the NPCs that you can interact with are interesting, such as a girl with a bike that you befriend, the townsfolk in the black and white town, and the Sage that helps you out… or not.
There really isn’t much explained to you as far as story. You pretty much have to experience the game to experience the story. So, I’ll leave this spoiler free and just say that the story was interesting. It’s definitely a strong point, alongside the gameplay and music.
There were a couple of things I had an issue with. The first dealt with the cards that you need to collect. There are 37 cards you can get to before the post-game. You need 36 in order to access the final area. Question: Why do I almost need to 100% the game in order to access the final area? Why can’t I get in there with 30 cards. Most are easy enough to find. Besides, there are achievements in the Steam version for getting all the cards. Let that be where getting all the cards gets you something.
The second was the bosses. While they are somewhat difficult and each have their own patterns you can exploit to defeat them — like with Zelda games — they aren’t that memorable. Other than the final boss, which gets you to use some cool strategy, the other bosses just blend together.
The final thing was the length of the game. I was able to complete it in about 6 hours but there’s also an achievement for completing the game in less than 3 hours. That seems to be a bit on the short side.
However, after thinking for a while after completing the game, I’m not sure how big of a problem that really is. Adding more to the game may end up changing too much of what the game was trying to be like. Besides, I can’t really fault it when there are only two people working on this game.
Let me reiterate that: Anodyne was developed by two people, Sean Hogan and Jonathan Kittaka. Two people worked on the story, dialogue, art design, programming, and music for the game. Heck, according to the credits, it was usually one of them on either part of the game. For what came from this, that’s pretty impressive.
Anodyne is a game that gamers who love the gameplay of Zelda and humor of EarthBound need to experience. It takes the best of both games and mixes it into a well-developed product. You can find it on Steam and GOG.com for the regular price of $10. And at this moment, you can get it half-off on Steam during its holiday sale.
Review based on the PC version of the game. Anodyne was purchased by the reviewer.