The reason why games like, “The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening” become classics stem from their ability to weave combat, story, and gameplay into a beautifully constructed piece of art. Anodyne is a game which nearly reached that ‘instant classic’ title. Sean Hogan and Jonathan Kittaka derived much inspiration from Zelda with its top down adventure style as you traverse the multiple dungeons and vanquish nightmarish foes. Yet, Anodyne has defined itself as an individual game, one with creative puzzles and a deep moral. Anodyne begins with our hero, Young, falling into his dream world, the Nexus; a land full of portals to help you explore the various worlds present in Young’s dreamscape. Your first encounter resembles the stereotypical elder in a robe tasking you with a quest to save the world. In this instance, the “Darkness” is a mysterious force seeking ultimate power and you must stop him. Scattered around the colorful worlds are gates which indicate a number of cards required to pass, and bar your progression to the next available section of the world. These cards can simply be found in treasure chests and are also granted when felling a boss. In tandem with various keys needed to open colored gates, the game becomes a dangerous version of treasure hunt in a gruesome world.
Engraved stones pepper the land and vary from giving hints to providing some insight into the story of Anodyne. Some brief messages take the player aback when they mention horrific truths about characters being maimed or insinuating Young must wake up. The term, “anodyne” is defined as a pain killer drug and little blips of reality seem to merge into the game on set stages of completion. One example being Young’s weapon, a broom, bearing similarities to childlike imagination of any household item granting power. After defeating the boss in every dungeon, they use their last breathe to warn Young of his loss of reality and how bitter the real world can be.
Combat in Anodyne is fairly straightforward. You can find 3 different attachments for your broom: extension, widen, and swap. The first two alter your hit box to either a two long, or a three across sweep, while the swap feature allows you to place tiles in later levels. Most screens in dungeons house a pile of dust which can be picked up and placed with any form of your broom. These dust piles can be used as rafts, blocking traps, or powering devices. Your life system grows as fairies are caught after every boss or in hard to reach zones. Upgrading your life force becomes a necessity later on as many traps, puzzles, and monsters can quickly knock down 3 hit points in rapid succession. There’s a small chance of any monster dropping one life card on death, but life is mainly restored by activating checkpoints.
Cards must be collected to progress through each gritty world, this was the only aspect I felt a little bogged down by. Many worlds and dungeons will lead you to dead ends and some can even be opened later in the game, but constant back tracking and solving each jump trap or step combination becomes tiresome quickly. There are some jumping challenges that need to be repeated and are very difficult to gauge distance in a blocky realm. The cards themselves depict a character on each face and you can read a humorous quote by each one when examined. There are 37 cards to be collected before the final boss, and an additional 12 after completion. Finding all 49 grants access to a rewarding room which has been one of the few 100% completion rooms that made me laugh.
Anodyne is a wonderful game, very creative, addictive, and exciting. If you are an adventurous gamer, this game will take several hours to complete. The story looses potential before you finish, but there is still an ambitious plot carefully stashed into the corners of every dungeon. The characters and creatures you meet can be odd, yet add a certain spice to the variety of lands that range from red coral reefs, to a circus, and even flooded hotels. The score of Anodyne is characteristic with retro games using a synthetic beat fitting of the environment. A soothing echo in the forest to a creepy “ping”-ing noise in skyscrapers. In general, Anodyne is a great game and should be experienced by any that are willing to delve into a classic puzzle adventure. For only $9.00, this game will leave a lasting impression.
Anodyne was Greenlit on this very day, the 27th of February 2013. Pricing for the Steam version is yet to be announced, but you can buy the game right now from the official website. It costs $9, but you can add to that in support of the developers if you wish. Also, for $12 plus pay what you want will snag you the game and soundtrack.
Desura and GamersGate also sell Anodyne, and it is currently on sale on GamersGate for $7.99. Looking at the developer’s FAQ on their website, they have stated that anyone that purchases Anodyne will get a Steam key for free. Make sure you keep your confirmation of receipt e-mails, as you may need to show proof of purchase to get your Steam key.
Not convinced? Try the demo.
GAME NAME: Anodyne
DEVELOPER(S): Analgesic Productions
PUBLISHER(S): Analgesic Productions
PLATFORM(S): PC, Mac, Linux
GENRE(S): RPG, Dungeon
RELEASE DATE(S): February 4th, 2013