Anodyne is an adventure game that has the style of Zelda and the heart of Golvellius. This 16-Bit throwback pays homage to the beauty that made those games so great. Designers Sean Han Tani and Marina Kittaka mixed in a balance of adventure and action into a game that wants to give you a challenge but at the same time wants you to enjoy the surroundings.
You play as Young a white haired boy that seeks to protect the Briar from the Evil Darkness. Young is guided by Sage a hooded figure who basically helps explain what you need to collect and what you should be doing. Shortly after Sage sends you out into the world you will meet a girl and her bike “Wares.” Young finds out later she is called Mitra who I assume lives in a small cottage by the river. Mitra seems to be one if not the only character in the game that actually wants to be friends with Young. While you do meet a bunch of NPC characters throughout the game she is the one that I wanted to know more about and had hopes of a lasting friendship.
There is no shortage of mystery in Anodyne and that is in play from beginning to end. How would it all end? Where did the Darkness come from? Why was Young the chosen one? I loved that about this game. What would the future be for Young, the Briar, Mitra? I couldn’t stop myself from pushing forward to figure it all out and once I found my trusty weapon of choice I kept going. Weapon of choice? A broom, yes you heard me it is a broom and fits the game perfectly. I’ll tell you more about it later.
The world of Anodyne is massive and you will be spending hours upon hours wandering around the map searching for new areas. As you begin your quest you will discover quickly that parts are not accessible right away. Young must become a well versed adventurer before he can move forward and the only way to do that is by finding cards. These cards are of items or NPC’s throughout the game and each one gives you a short little quip about it reminiscent of old baseball cards. Finding the cards is the equivalent of experience points for a better reference.
I must say, I was blown away by the sheer size and thought that went into connecting this world together. Places like the beach, forest, temple grounds, chasm etc. are large on their own but add them all together and it will make your head spin. I know what you are thinking. We have to back track across all of this? Yes, but you get the “Nexus.” What is that? Well the Nexus serves as your HUB a place filled with portals that will help you access each of these areas once discovered. You will need to make use of the Nexus and it might even help to draw out your own map unless you have an incredibly good memory. I do not.
The areas play just like Zelda as in each time you move across the screen it is as if you were moving from page to page. It works very well in Anodyne but staying true to these types of games can become frustrating as it will lead you to many dead ends. That is what makes this game so enjoyable though. You will go from one unique area to the next and the tone of the game can change that quickly. One minute you are on a nice relaxing beach or taking a stroll up the river and then at the turn of the page you are in a dark forest or creepy town. Speaking of towns, while Anodyne does keep the game light for the most part it does take a dark turn in the town. I won’t spoil it for you but did wonder what in the hell just happened. Seriously still scratching my head over that one.
The other thing that might leave you scratching your head are the NPC’s in this game. I enjoyed interacting with them and hearing what they had to say. I think this definitely added to the length of my gameplay because not only will the NPC’s say something to you, most of them will say multiple things. It can range from comical dialogue to incoherent ramblings and you are never prepared for what they might say next. Don’t be afraid to keep talking to them because I discovered some funny conversations by annoying the hell of out them. It is fun I promise, talk to each character as much as you can.
In Anodyne your weapon of choice is a broom and while you might think that isn’t the best weapon to wield, you would be wrong. It works in this game, trust me. I found it to fit perfectly as I ran around poking my enemy to death with it. That isn’t all the broom is good for though, oh no. The incredible thing about this game is that you have to think outside the box sometimes. While there isn’t a barrage of hidden areas to discover there are certain ways to do things that require you to think about the situation. Can’t get around that area? Grab your broom and pick up that dust cloud and ride that bad boy up river. You will be utilizing the dust cloud a lot. Young apparently cannot swim because if you spend too much time in the water he will eventually sink to the bottom. Don’t worry though it doesn’t kill you it just restarts you at the edge of the screen.
The enemies in the game for the most part are not as hard as the puzzle solving. With most of them you can attack from all sides and out maneuver them fairly easy. There are some tougher fights towards the end but I won’t spoil that either. There are plenty of puzzles to solve in the game and while most require you to find ways to hit a switch, they become a lot more complex as the game progresses. Once you learn how to jump you will have to pull off some pretty nifty moves in order to access areas. Some of these will not be easy, you have been warned.
The boss battles are not as hard as some of the jumps and puzzles you have to solve. Each boss battle is located at the end of a dungeon that will take all the wits you have in order to find their location. While they do give you a slight challenge, once you figure out their basic move you can avoid them and whack them with your broom. A few hits for the most part will dispatch of them and you will be on your way. That is after you collect your fairy. What is the fairy for? They replenish your health to full and also add one extra life bar for each one you discover. Not only do you get a fairy after each boss battle but you must locate other fairies spread throughout the world. Good luck! I reluctantly admit I somehow missed one and yes you can miss things in this game.
The gameplay in Anodyne works pretty well and for the most part is responsive but there are times when jumping over a hole becomes somewhat of a chore. You won’t be bothering yourself with a plethora of items to deal with in your inventory as the main things you get is a couple of upgrades to your broom. I didn’t mind this due to the fact I was more focused on finding cards and didn’t want to manage an inventory as well. Just know that at any point in the game if you feel stuck you can go back to the beginning by accessing the Nexus in your menu. Sometimes the best thing you need to do is back track a little to make sure you thoroughly checked an area. A little tip as well, look at the top of each portal. If you have found all the cards in that area there will be a pink dot at the top.
Anodyne took me on a trip down memory lane and challenged me as I progressed through the game. I enjoyed interacting with NPC’s and I loved the way each area changed in such a fluid yet unique way. The creators of this game blew me away with how they connected each map together and the process it took in order to reach certain places. Let me not forget that the music behind this game is very good as well. The tone can change on dime and the music sets it up for you in splendid way. There are a lot of good things to say about Anodyne. The rivers, the forests, the dungeons, even the dark town that took an abrupt turn all work so well. There are a few technical issues with the game however. For instance being stuck in a loop of falling through a hole or sinking into water even though you’re not standing in water. These small glitches only become an issue when you are trying to make one of those hard jumps but for the most part just pause the game and it fixes itself. The last portion of the game does start to feel a tad vanilla and then before you know it, the game is over. It felt rushed, almost incomplete but it does little to hurt the overall experience.
Now I know that this game will not be for everyone but if you were a fan of games like Zelda then you owe it to yourself to play Anodyne and for only 9.99 you shouldn’t wait.
Rating: 8.5 out of 10