By William Haderlie / March 29th, 2016
|Title||Chronicles of Teddy: Harmony of Exidus|
|Release Date||March 29, 2016|
|Age Rating||ESRB E|
It was a strange experience initially to not find much of any information about this title. Honestly, I would have expected to find quite a bit of coverage for a project this interesting. Finally I figured out that this was the re-branded title of the PC game Finding Teddy 2. While I did not play either Finding Teddy or this one when they were released for PC, finally I had some history to go on. Both the original and its sequel are the products of very small teams, but the original was a point and click adventure, and this one is an action/adventure. In fact, in many ways, you could consider this game to be the sequel to Zelda 2 that Nintendo never made. So, not a point and click adventure at all. And while looking over the art style and mechanics of the original title, I can definitely say that the team has progressed quite a bit with their second title.
In this game, instead of stealing your Teddy, King Tarant now possesses it and pleads for your help in protecting his kingdom. He has now been ousted from his rule by a wizard, Angius, and Exidus is now in chaos. For the first part of the game your possessed Teddy will float along with you and give you brief snippets of advice. It is your quest to find the Library and within there to find four books that will allow you to travel to the four regions of the kingdom. Angius has given four eggs of power to monstrous creatures and you have to go to each land and recover them. Only then can you face the wizard and gain Tarant’s body and kingdom back. Shortly after your adventure begins, your possessed Teddy gets taken away from you so it can’t help you usurp the evil new ruler anymore.
Right off the bat, you will see the resemblance to the Legend of Zelda series even from the file selection screen. But as you start to play it, you will notice that unlike most other homages to that classic franchise, this game takes its cues from the underrepresented Zelda 2. Especially the fighting mechanics, for the good and for the bad, they are right from that game. The limited reach of your sword, blocking with your shield by staying still, and that famous jumping downward strike. You can upgrade your sword twice and your armor three times. The first sword and first two armor upgrades can be purchased from a shop for a lot of marbles (this game’s currency, sans Rupees). There are only four major bosses, not counting the last boss, but there are 20 health points. So you can tell that most of your health upgrades will need to be purchased or found via exploration.
Other than the four books and the four eggs in the above inventory screen, those four colored circles represent a Super Mario World type mechanic. Consider them to be your switch blocks. When you gain that color, blocks of that color will now be filled in for all the worlds. So once you fill in a block color, you can go back to those worlds and find some additional loot. Much like Metroid style games, that becomes an important part of your quest, because you will need that optional loot, and there are some requests from town citizens that you will have to journey across the four lands to find. The talking Christmas Tree may have lost her items, but not all of them are within her own land. That could be a recipe for frustration, but you can always go back to the Library (the hub world) and check the “?” block for a visual clue of where to go next if you are stuck.
That reference to visual clues is an important aspect of this game. There is almost no (English) text explanation for anything in this game. Visual and musical clues are about the only ones you will have. Before I discus the above image, let me first go into why I specified English above. A very important mechanic of this game comes from the “Harmony” in the title. Your most important tool in the game is your Musicom. It is a device that you can play musical notes on that also represent a runic pictorial language. When you discover the meaning of a combination of runic symbols, then that translation will be added to your Lexicom, your translation diary. You will have to find notes/runes for your Musicom before you will be able to play them, and there are 12 in total. The language usage is fairly simplified, but there are still 5 pages of translated words in your Lexicom when you’ve found them all.
Now, I’m going to describe the above screenshot so you will have an idea about what you are getting into with this game. This is only the first dungeon, so it’s not a spoiler. That above marker is found in a random room during the dungeon. And it’s just in the background, you can’t interact with it. However, in a previous room there is a much larger statue (several screens high) of that mermaid like being and it has a different set of runes on the bottom of it. If you open up your Lexicom, and you have crossed enough acorn villagers to give you the translation, you can translate the above message that is asking you the name of the figure pictured. The large statue in the other room does not have a translation in your book, so from that you can infer that the series of symbols on the large statue is her name. When you find the boss door (like in every dungeon after this) it is guarded by a musical lock. Then you have to figure out that this plinth above was giving you the clue to how to open the boss door, and you play the notes representing the boss’s name. That is common of the types of dungeon puzzles in this game. Your Teddy doesn’t give you any help with that, you have to figure it out yourself.
Once you access the bosses, they are in some ways reminiscent of the Metroid boss fights, but with a twist. The twist is that for a couple of the bosses, you will need to use your Musicom as a weapon as well. Especially on the boss pictured above, it took me several attempts to figure out what I was doing wrong. There were visual clues, but I had to figure out what they meant. To me, though, that was a fair ask for them. I never felt like they were being unfair with the game. I didn’t use any guides, but I was still able to beat the game and find most of the items. I will likely go back at some point to find the rest of the fireflies and get the last armor and polish off the last couple trophies that I’m missing. Additionally, along with a campaign that is around 20 hours, you have access to New Game+, which not only boosts the difficulty of every enemy, but adds environmental hazards and additional enemy spawns to the levels. At least you start out with the marbles and equipment that you ended the game with. You don’t start with any of the traversal items like the Angel Jump or the Master Scroll or anything, though. The game is very difficult even beyond the puzzles, though, so I’ll wait to go back through New Game+ when I really am looking for a punishing experience.
I would definitely like to give special mention to how beautiful the art design is for this game. I’ve played a lot of interesting indie titles, and many with great pixel art. But this game has an artistic design that is reminiscent of impressionist paintings. It’s pretty rare in pixel art games to just stop and take in the environment. That happened a lot to me with games like Mass Effect 2, and Uncharted 3, but likewise in this game, you just want to take in the beauty at times. The music is also very notable. It is chiptuned, but in the best sense of the word. And they do something even more important but underrated in game music, they effectively use silence. That aspect is one of the main reasons why the soundtrack to Super Metroid is still so beloved after so many years. They made great use of silence, and knew when to start creeping in that music. And this game takes its cues from that school of thought as well, to great effect. It’s a subtle thing, but was very noticeable to me.
And that is the crux of this game. It’s a beautiful and inventive title, but it is quite hardcore. The enemies hit pretty hard and you have very limited attack range and attack options (nothing at a distance), and the puzzles can be quite difficult or esoteric. You can have puzzles that involve rune translations, or you can have puzzles that are word logic, or you can have music puzzles where you have to repeat the notes that you hear (including all 50 fireflies using that method) in short to medium strings. After I finished the game, I looked online and found that there are a few guides to the PC release of Finding Teddy 2. But I was able to complete it without using any outside help, and I strongly advise others to do the same. Sometimes it will feel like someone is beating you about the head, but that can be fun and much more satisfying when you figure out that solution. The one negative was that there were a couple bugs on boss fights where the boss would disappear or the game would freeze. This happened three times, but given that I always saved before every boss, it didn’t trouble me too much. Granted, you have to make your way back through the dungeon, but all your dungeon progress is saved so all locked doors are still opened for you. I read that the PC version was very buggy, so it looks like the PS4 version received some work in that area. Really, if you love and miss those old school Zelda and Metroid games, this is perfect for you. But they are just as hard, or harder, than you remember them. So prepare for a challenge, a wonderful one.
Review Copy Provided By Publisher
action/platformerAksys GamesChronicles of TeddyFinding Teddy 2LookAtMyGamePS4