[Review] Anodyne (PS4)
This bleak, enigmatic indie game sits comfortably in a space somewhere between The Legend of Zelda and Yume Nikki.
Anodyne introduces itself to you as somewhat of a subversion of a Zelda kind of formula. A mysterious old man talks about you being a chosen hero to fight the darkness, but it’s clearly a flippant misdirection and you soon find that things are more vague and ambiguous than that. You’ll traverse forests and caves but also blood-red swamps populated by grotesque creatures, a modern town and hotel, and an abstract cosmic construction, culminating in a Mother-like final boss with an unspoken but personal connection to your cypher protagonist Young.
Your weapon of choice with the unidirectional type of attack of the Hyrule Fantasy is not a sword but a broom. While this is treated as a gag at first, there’s also puzzles whereby you can move piles of dust around to get through rooms in the dungeons. There’s only one other ability you gain, a Link’s Awakening-style jump, otherwise progression is gated by keys and collectible cards that depict the game’s characters.
The game is rich in atmosphere in its square frame but light on explicit story. Like Yume Nikki, a lot is up to interpretation. The people you meet and the boss characters say strange things that provoke more questions that will never be directly addressed (don’t forget to talk to people multiple times). It alternates between jokey or parodic and quite dark, with adult themes, blood, and the occasional profanity in evidence, not to mention frequent melancholy. The ultimate message though is hopeful... I think.
Exploring the world is relatively friendly. You can return to the hub at any time, and portals quickly take you between the different areas. There’s the occasional maze, but going on the critical path is usually pretty straightforward. There’s also a fascinating postgame; a very late upgrade lets you swap any tiles in the game world, letting you bypass walls and find hidden items. I didn’t play with this too much but it’s interesting that they essentially let you completely break the game if you complete it, and then hide lots of stuff for you to discover.
It’s quite an achievement, a real auteur game from a small team, mostly two people (do note that the names in the in-game credits are outdated or deadnames). Melos and Marina are doing cool things with games, and I’m interested to check out their other work. As for this one, if you enjoyed either of the games I brought up in the intro, I’d highly recommend this.
hi i’m trick and i’m looking for new people to write to! here’s some fun facts about me :)
- 18 (turning 19 in august 2021)
- i use they/them pronouns
- i work at a craft store so i usually have pretty cute letters
- i like minecraft (a lot)
- i like a lot of music, but mostly emo, punk, alt, indie, and rap
- please be over 16, but 17-22 is ideal for me :)
- cishets dni
- message me to get to know me better! i don’t bite
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