How appropriate that my attempt to brush away the cobwebs around my workspace that amounted due to the holiday break should be done so with writing about Anodyne. This, a game inspired by Link’s Awakening and Yume Nikki, is a most appropriate choice considering that the first weapon you acquire is a broom. I know, I know – what kind of dungeon crawler should thrust a bleedin’ broom handle into the hands of players and instruct, “Here you go; take down some badass creatures with this”? But doubters out there clearly don’t know the power that is locked away in this cleaning instrument; there’s a reason witches ride them, you know! In Anodyne, the broom comes with many uses – for poking shielded creatures into the path of fire so their vulnerable behinds are exposed and they are removed from existence. It also allows you to collect dust clouds and redistribute them as you wish (mostly to block incoming fire), and you can also poke tutorial guides in the face with them. Not that I ever have…
“A human, Young, slowly comes to, waking up on a small, flat structure of cool, ivory tile, floating in a dark void filled with the occasional odd geometric figure.”
There’s much more to the game than simple dungeon pushing and shoving, of course. Though I would hasten to say that the design of small dungeons both when intended for puzzles and as areas of combat is quite immaculate in their constructed simplicity. There’s open air in Anodyne, and these areas prove to be actually quite plump with pixelated debauchery. Scenic water stretches and skyward spangles decorate idyllic countryside villages and moody, rain-drizzled night scenes. This is another one of those games I’ve flicked through the screenshots as if it were a global travel book outlining places you should visit before you die. Do one better than that, though, and download the game’s demo – actually go to some of these places – and if you should enjoy yourself then you can always pre-order the game now at $7 which is an enticing discount to the release price of $10 which will be encountered sometime later this January. There’s also Greenlight to upvote too.
Weird And Wonderful
The purpose of all this frolicking will contain a narrative familiar to those with a taste for the type. You play as Young, and it seems your mission is to become stronger so that you may help to save The Briar. But this has a sense of the fickle about it; that is to say that there’s much more to the game than just a rise from zero to hero via means of dispatching of foe and conquering puzzle rooms. As previously stated, there’s a Yume Nikki influence here so the addition of dreams and weirder, perhaps even disturbing, locales emerge as you travel through portals to other dimensions. So unlike Link before him, Young seems to have more of an abstract journey ahead of him, and I’d argue that his mindset is fleshed out even more – just in the demo, that is – but looking forward to the rest of the game within its trailers and screens too. There’s an element of self-reflection and doubt within Young which I find easier to relate to than someone full of hope and might about to save a princess.
Young even looks out of place, if you ask me. It’s as if some white-haired loner was brought into this strange fantasy that they totally don’t fit into, nor do they entirely want to be there. The atmosphere created through the music and visuals, especially moments when the room darkens and a ghost creeps up behind you before fading away, gives Anodyne not just a sense of mystery, but also a looming vulnerability. Maybe it’s just me, but I just feel like Young is as intrigued and unknowing of what’s going on with the game and its world; the creatures speak to him as if an outsider andm in doing so mock both, him and me. Of course, I’m not going to have that, so they’ll receive a ruddy good poking with a broom.
“Young finds something familiar about the place, and a voice asks Young to move forth. With nothing else to do, Young follows the voice’s instructions…”
I want to play Anodyne just to find out how it evolves past the demo and so I know just quite why everyone feels off. The gameplay doesn’t at all, though; the combat and puzzle solving is mostly a pleasure, though I always moan a little about games in which you have to move slightly in a direction in order to face that way. In Anodyne, it caused me to nearly die once when in a narrow spot where I had to look down the screen and ended up stepping into a stationary enemy – it wasn’t even moving. But hey, I’m an incompetent butthead anyway.