Review – Iconoclasts

We all know developing a game is a hard task. There are companies that hire hundreds of people with the sole intention of releasing an okay-at-best title. It amazes me whenever I play a very good and well polished game that was developed by a small team of a handful of people. Iconoclasts is a different example. This is an extremely well-put, well-designed, well-polished game, with great visuals, gameplay, soundtrack, and story and it was all conceived by one person. Yes, you read it right: one person. This title is not devoid of some flaws, but I have to take my hat off to Joakim Sandberg, who managed to make one heck of a little title all by himself.


You kiss your mother with that mouth?

The graphics are, without a doubt, the best aspect Iconoclasts has to offer. Suffice to say, this game features some beautiful pixel art, with excellent use of colors and top notch animations. It amazes me how the developer has managed to make the main character’s small face convey so many emotions even though it’s just a little ball with two stripes for eyes. That’s some quality work right there.

The gameplay is also pretty good and while not entirely innovative, it tries to divert itself a little bit from the increasingly saturated metroidvania scene. Iconoclasts isn’t exactly a metroidvania in the literal sense of the word. It’s a mixture of open-world exploration and linear progression. The maps are fully explorable and are dependent of items in order to progress just like a conventional metroidvania, but the entire world map isn’t open to explore at will. Instead, you are allowed to explore separate chunks at a time in a linear progression, akin to what a more modern Uncharted game would do, for instance. The game relies heavily on well-designed puzzles for the most part. Like a good puzzle-centric platformer would do (looking at you, Limbo), Iconoclasts doesn’t give you obvious hints right from the get-go. You’ll usually fail once, go back to analyze the situation, find the solution by yourself in an “Eureka” kind of way, and then proceed. Rinse and repeat until the credits show up.


Boss battles are easy but entertaining.

You expect metroidvanias (or whatever Iconoclasts is, technically speaking) to have a plot, but you also don’t care if the end product doesn’t wow you in that department as long as the gameplay is top notch (the heart-shattering Ori and the Blind Forest is one heck of an exception). Super Metroid has a story, but you’re there for the gameplay. Symphony of the Night has a story, but you can’t take it seriously with that dumb voice acting. Iconoclasts has a story, and holy cow I was not ready for it. Iconoclasts features a tale with equal amounts of comedy and emotional drama. The story of the mechanic girl, Robin, and her band of misfit friends is a lot deeper than expected, tackling issues such as freedom of expression, religion, prejudice, and much more. I don’t even want to tackle anything else about it because you’ve got to experience it by yourself.


Conveying emotions with just a few pixels.

Before I continue, let me say it straight away: Iconoclasts is a must-have. That doesn’t meant this game is perfect. I wish it was, because I had a blast with it, but it does have some flaws which, while not being game-breaking or experience-ruining, are still worth mentioning. Besides a few minor gripes with the sound department (by that I mean the simple sound effects, as the soundtrack itself is top notch), my main points of concern are related to some gameplay aspects.

For starters, the game features diagonal aiming, but it’s all done automatically once you’re near a foe located at an angle above or below you. It does work somewhat well for the most part, but it’s still a bit confusing and I would have much preferred a manual aiming option akin to Metroid. Iconoclasts doesn’t use that many buttons, therefore this could have easily been achieved. The game also features a somewhat fluctuating difficulty spike when it comes to its puzzles. The combat itself is straightforward and never too much of a hassle, but the puzzles’ difficulties are all over the place, being a rollercoaster of easy-infuriating-easy-infuriating.


Get to the choppa!

Iconoclasts hit me in many ways I was expected and a lot of ways I definitely wasn’t ready for. I was pretty sure I was going to enjoy its visuals and pseudo-metroidvania gameplay, but I wasn’t expecting to be graced with a deep and thought-provoking story. Not to mention everything was done by one single human being! Be it on a Vita or on a Switch (this game begs to be played on a handheld, that’s for sure), Iconoclasts should be a definite purchase. It has a handful of flaws, but nothing that dares to tarnish its overall quality.


Graphics: 9.0

One of the prettiest and most colorfully pixeled visuals I’ve seen in a long time in a video game. The animations are also top notch.

Gameplay: 8.5

An extremely responsive metroidvania-ish control scheme, even though its pseudo auto-aiming function is quite off-putting.

Sound: 8.0

A collection of well-composed and remarkable songs, with alright-at-best sound effects.

Fun Factor: 8.5

A few annoying puzzles and misused gameplay elements aside, Iconoclasts is a blast from start to finish, featuring great gameplay and a surprisingly thoughtful story.

Final Verdict: 8.5

Reviewed on Switch.
Also available on: PS4, PS Vita, PC

A copy of Iconoclasts was provided by the publisher.