Review – The Forbidden Arts
After playing so many high-profile titles over the past few months, it’s good to eventually sit down and relax with a smaller, less demanding game for the Switch whenever possible. I got interested on The Forbidden Arts before release very quickly, mostly due to how it was marketed. A game inspired by platformers of the 90’s… that was literally all I needed to read to become interested in it. Sadly, this love letter reminded me more of forgettable 90’s titles like Tarzan and Pandemonium than classics like Banjo or Super Mario.
The Forbidden Arts follows main character, Phoenix, a boy who can control fire at will, in his journey to seek and explore various dungeons because, well, you were told to. There is a plot in here, but it’s not that important to pay attention to. This criminally simple game is all about platforming with some exploration and RPG elements to (try to) spice things up a bit, although none of those gameplay elements manage to stand out.
First of all, this isn’t a true 3D platformer. While you can control your main character on a 3D environment every now and then, this is limited to overworlds with little to no exploration. In reality all you’ll do is talk to NPCs, enter dungeons, and look for some really easy-to-find pieces of treasure. Most of gameplay is set on 2D stages full of traps, platforms, and underwhelming level designs.
Giving credit where credit is due, the controls themselves aren’t bad. Platforming is responsive enough and the addition of a Mega Man X-esque wall-hopping mechanic is a fine addition. Being able to hop on a huge wall and then finding out a secret chunk of gold (a currency used to unlock secret stages) is very satisfying. This is when I was having the most fun with The Forbidden Arts. Sadly, as soon as any foe showed up onscreen, my pleasure meter would plummet to near negative levels.
I won’t even try to come up with a funny quip about the combat in the Forbidden Arts. It’s just bad. B to the A to the D. Where to even begin? To put it simply, nothing in it works. The collision detection is tremendously faulty. Enemies will either flinch to each of your attacks or keep on attacking you as if nothing had happened. You will easily die in one or two hits, even to the weakest of foes from the first level. Your sword has terrible reach, and your attack animation is too slow. You can clearly notice a big input lag when attacking. I started loathing enemy encounters and ended up running away from any potential fights like the biggest of cowards. I just couldn’t be bothered to restart a section after being killed by a worthless foe with an unfair attack that literally revolves around stabbing you in the back.
If there’s another solace of positivity in The Forbidden Arts, however, that has to be the soundtrack. In a game that clearly doesn’t have a big budget, a game that looks like an average Gamecube game at the very best, its medieval-based soundtrack impressed me a lot. It fits perfectly with the game’s fantasy tones, and it even managed to stick into my head more than once. The game also features a bit of voice acting. While that’s not frequent, with most of the game’s dialogue being delivered on a bunch of muted text boxes, what’s in here is actually well performed.
There isn’t anything that infuriated me in The Forbidden Arts, nor there was anything that impressed me. It’s as safe as safe games can be. Simple, uninspired, and unimaginative. This is a game released a decade and a half too late. It could have been a somewhat cult hit back in the Gamecube era, but nowadays, it’s purely and simply yet another indie platformer that, while harmless, is only recommended to those who really adore the genre and want to tackle every single title that comes out for the Switch. At a discount, by the way.
Colorful, charming, and it actually runs at a substantially high framerate on the Switch. It does look like a Gamecube title at best, though.
The platforming itself is responsive enough and being able to jump on walls is a neat feature, but the game’s combat mechanics are truly terrible.
A surprisingly catchy, if a bit repetitive, soundtrack, as well as competent voice acting. Without a doubt, the sound department is The Forbidden Arts‘ best aspect.
Fun Factor: 5.5
The Forbidden Arts doesn’t offer anything that hasn’t been done a thousand times before. If you’re into platformers, it’s decent. If not, just skip it. It’s safe and risk-free.
Final Verdict: 6.0
The Forbidden Arts is available now on Xbox One, PC and Switch.
Reviewed on Switch.
A copy of The Forbidden Arts was provided by the publisher.