New Game Review

Review – Anodyne (PS4)

A Zelda wannabe without the compelling story.

Any one who knows me knows that The Legend of Zelda franchise has always been one of my favorites. In fact, I even praised The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening in our recent article, Perfect Score Games Before Way Too Many Games, therefore I was naturally thrilled when I first heard about Anodyne and saw that it strongly favored one of my favorite titles from the Zelda series. Upon playing it, I quickly learned that while it might have been inspired by early Zelda games, it certainly didn’t live up to the same charm or masterful storytelling.

Anodyne begins with the protagonist, Young, encountering a sage who tells him to enter a machine-like portal and enter the world that the Darkness is threatening to take over. Our adventurer does so and the game begins. Unfortunately, there’s not much more instruction beyond that. I found myself enjoying the surreal environments around me as I explored every corner of the world. However, with hardly any narrative to give purpose to my excursions beyond collecting keys to unlock gates to other areas, I quickly found myself losing interest.

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These are the kinds of probing questions we need answered!

The underlying message behind Anodyne is left largely up for interpretation. Each area of the map is suppose to represent a different part of Young’s subconscious. While this isn’t made very clear in the beginning, it does become more apparent with certain places like Black and White Town, which is an obvious look into Young’s earlier years. However, I felt that Anodyne‘s overall vagueness didn’t necessarily translate to a deep thought provoking game, but rather left it a confusing mess that raised more questions than it answered.

As you might expect from a game designed after something you would find on a Gameboy or Super Nintendo, the gameplay mechanics are very basic. In fact, even more basic than most other games in that same style or genre. Young wields a broom as a weapon the can be upgraded to sweep harmful dust in front of him, or to either side in a small surrounding area. About halfway through the game, he’ll receive shoes that allow him to jump over small holes and obstacles. That’s it. That’s the extent of the weapons and moves you can look forward to. I was kind of disappointed that in a game that takes place within the realm of dreams and the mind’s subconscious, there weren’t cooler or at least weirder objects and items that you could obtain. Why not have a leaf blower that creates tornadoes as a final weapon?

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Someone put on an album by The Smiths for this emo monster.

I will say that Anodyne did a good job of providing a great feeling of nostalgia with its 16 bit art style. Maybe a little too good of a job in that aspect. The majority of the enemies Young encounters are direct (if not exact) ripoffs of creatures you can find in many of the Zelda games. There are bats that fly at you and circle around you until you kill them. Gelatinous blobs that bounce and quiver before attacking, only to divide into smaller pieces once you’ve sliced them with your swor- I mean broom. Unfortunately, a couple of the truly original monsters you’ll see you aren’t able to interact with at all which leads to an even bigger feeling of disappointment of such a missed opportunity.

However, I am aware that Anodyne was made as somewhat of an homage to early Zelda titles and does in fact poke fun at itself for this. For example, there is a character that Young runs into named Rank, who looks an awful lot like Link and speaks of trying to feed his family by collecting coins he finds under bushes he cuts down. There were many of these cute nods to the Zelda franchise that I loved and appreciated, but there wasn’t enough of anything deeper to set Anodyne apart from the games it emulated.

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Meet Rank: an alternate version of Link that seems like he was dropped in his head as a baby many times.

I will say that the soundtrack to Anodyne was by far its biggest triumph. Each area of the world has its own score and every one is done well. Sean Han Tani composed all of the music and created a musical score that is as serene and surreal as the rest of the world around it.

Despite the lack of storyline or explanation for much of what is going on around you, I did still enjoy playing Anodyne for the most part. It’s not necessarily a game that I’ll revisit now that it’s over, but I did find myself enjoying the stroll down memory lane for these types of games as well as the occasional humorous dialogue interactions with certain characters. Analgesic Productions has announced that a sequel, Anodyne 2: Return to Dust, is in the works and set to release sometime in early 2019. If they can add more of a narrative to this adventure, then I’m hopeful that they’ll produce a much more solid game this time around.

 

Graphics: 8.0

A 16 bit art style that works well to emulate the games that originally inspired it. The enemy designs are more often than not blatant ripoffs.

Gameplay: 6.0

Very limited moves with awkward and frustrating jumping mechanics. The world is fun to explore with unique environments, but occasionally there are needlessly confusing platforming sections.

Sound: 8.0

No voice acting at all, but the sound effects are decent. The soundtrack is very well done though.

Fun Factor: 7.0

It felt like an old school Zelda game, but without the engaging story. The boss battles were fun, but too easy.

Final Verdict: 7.0

Anodyne is available now on PC, Xbox One, and PS4.

A copy of Anodyne was provided by the publisher.

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As an avid gamer from childhood, I've come to love and appreciate games from all genres and I work hard finding time to play all of them between work and my two children. Some of my favorite games are: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Dragon Age: Origins, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Bioshock, Street Fighter 2 and Super Mario Land 2.

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