Review – Tyr: Chains of Valhalla

Finding out about a new Mega Man-styled Kickstarter project is an easy way to awaken some hidden sad memories about the immense failure that was Mighty No. 9, the game that was “better than nothing,” according to its creator (way to go, champ). Thankfully, Tyr: Chains of Valhalla is nowhere near as bad as that embarassment of a game, but it does have a lot of flaws.

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The game’s character design is on point

The premise is simple: Tyr is what would happen if you mixed Mega Man, Contra, a cyberpunk setting, and Norse mythology. At the very least, that’s one heck of a unique concept. Its artistic department is decent enough: the game mixes well-animated anime-styled 2D character sprites with polygonal backgrounds. While the polygonal backgrounds don’t look exactly amazing (they basically look like a PS2 game), I have to say I was pleased with the game’s graphics. I was also pleased with the soundtrack, comprised mostly of very catchy hard rock tunes. Sadly, the sound effect department is best described as “lacking.” All in all, the game does a decent job at looking and sounding promising, but that’s where I have to stop praising it.

It took me just a few minutes to realize I was going to play a very frustrating game until the very end. I loved Tyr’s initial story cutscenes, and its tutorial stage was helpful enough to teach me most of the basics, but then I started noticing lots of cracks on this game’s imaginary wall.

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Aiming can be a nuisance at times

The main issues with the game are its controls, physics, and its unfair design. The game tries to emulate the original Mega Man‘s control scheme (with a few additions, such as a dash button and elemental weapons), but it falls flat due to its weird physics: the game’s gravity is so strong your jumps are nearly useless at points (and you actually have access to a double jump!). Sometimes it feels like your character has some sort of magnet towards pits. Your character can’t aim diagonally as well, something you would expect from a game that, according to its developers, is also inspired by Contra, a game that featured diagonal aiming way back in the 80’s.

Finally, I have to point out how incredible unfair Tyr is. This game is hard, really hard, but not in the challenging way. Enemies are placed in strategic positions just so you’re almost always going to be shot when you first see them. Your character has very limited health, and enemies don’t provide you with health pickups when you kill them. Weapon upgrades are lost whenever you’re hit. Bosses feature unpredictable attack patterns and can actually kill you in one continuous hit, since the game doesn’t provide you with those very brief but very helpful milliseconds of invulnerability like other 2D shooter-platformers do. The biggest challenge in Tyr isn’t the difficulty the game provides, but actually withstanding its insanely unfair design. This is no Shovel Knight, a game that excels in being extremely challenging while also being accessible and fair, for instance. Dare I say, not even the Mega Man games for NES were that unfair.

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This game’s boss fights make Mega Man 1 look tame in comparison

Tyr succeeds in providing some decent retro-styled action just like Mega Man and Contra, but its excessive amount of questionable design decisions make the game irritating to stand at points. This is not an easy game, nor a fair one: you’ll need to have a ton of patience in order to tackle it. If you want something that resembles Mega Man prior to the release of Mega Man 11, Tyr isn’t exactly a terrible recommendation: it’s certainly better than Mighty No. 9 in every conceivable way. Just be ready for a metric ton of cheap deaths and broken controllers.

Graphics: 7.5

The polygonal backgrounds aren’t exactly impressive, but the cartoonish 2D character sprites are amazing. At the end of the day, it’s a nice blend of art styles.

Gameplay: 5.0

It tries to blend the control styles of Mega Man and Contra but it ended up creating a somewhat confusing control scheme. The game also features faulty physics.

Sound: 7.5

An excellent hard rock soundtrack, even if its sound effects department is a bit lacking, to say the least.

Fun Factor: 5.5

Tyr has a great setting and it succeeds in providing some retro-styled action entertainment at times, but it features way too many questionable game design choices and cheap difficulty spikes.

Final Verdict: 6.0

Reviewed on PS4.
Also available on: PC

A copy of Tyr: Chains of Valhalla was provided by the publisher.