Anodyne for Nintendo Switch
Anodyne, from developer Analgesic Production consisting of only two creators, is a mysterious 16-bit 2D Zelda-like experience with a haunting atmosphere and soundtrack. It’s hard not to see the influence A Link to the Past had on this title, however, I liken it more to a 2D version of Majora’s Mask. There is a something immediately intriguing presented in Anodyne’s concept and execution, and while it may look like a Zelda clone, Anodyne stands on its own as a wholly unique experience.
Anodyne’s story is largely told by you, the player, and your actions in the world. As you play, you’ll uncover the world and then piece together your own experiences to tell the story. While Anodyne has a conceived story of sorts, there are so many interpretable elements that you end up piecing together your own tale.
You begin your adventure as a boy named Young (yes, the boy is named Young), and it isn’t clear if you’re dreaming or not. This ambiguity persists as the narrative developers and the writing is self referential with a ‘save the world’ scenario, but is much more a surrealist mixture of these elements. While some may find the general lack of clarity to be a negative, as someone who has played dozens of story driven experiences, the tale of Anodyne is a refreshing take that requires much more of you.
The familiar top-down Zelda-like approach is also equally intuitive to control, using the left stick to move around or the d-pad. The face buttons allow for basic attacks with your broom which is the default weapon. As you progress through Anodyne, you’ll unlock several new abilities and skills with one of the main ones being the ability to jump once you acquire a pair of boots you’re gifted. Th
The core gameplay involves moving through a series of screens, killings enemies and trying to unlock or progress into new areas of this dreamlike world. You will meet several unusual characters throughout your journey whose purpose is to give ambiguous exposition in this strange world. They’ll oftentimes deliver bizarre monologues that will leave you scratching your head, but for some reason don’t seem to be out of place in the world of Anodyne.
You begin in a hub-like area, which serves as a conduit through which you travel to different teleporters throughout the world. However, these are only unlocked once you’ve visited them physically. Enemies come in a variety of unusual shapes and sizes and are easy to defeat once you learn certain attack patterns. There are also dungeons to conquer, which require the usual finding of a key or flipping a switch to gradually work your way through their maze-like levels.
There are many times you’ll have to problem solve a puzzle in order to traversing many of these areas, which really carried a sense of exploration. Combined with a unique aesthetic and fantastic retro audio makes for an authentic old-school experience without many of the problems associated with them. At the end of a dungeon you oftentimes will face-off against a boss, in which most of them weren’t overly challenging, but were interesting and never felt unfair. Once you vanquish the boss you’ll usually receive a health upgrade, which has an amazing animation to go with adding to your health bar, but I’ll let you experience that for yourself.
I found the difficulty to be very well balanced and I never felt overwhelmed by the enemies or frustrated with the puzzles. There were some tricky platforming sections towards the end, but it was never enough to hinder the experience. I mentioned earlier that your main weapon was a broom and as outlandish as that sounds, it can be upgraded to change the patterns in which you sweep dust at your enemies. While this does seem silly, it was actually fun being able to use dust in different ways to defeat your enemies, including using an extended dust attack and a wide area-of-effect dust attack.
Unfortunately, there were some limitations with using a retro influence, such as when you leave a screen all the enemies will respawn instantly. This can be a real pain when you’re in a maze-like section and the same enemies keep popping up over and over again. Other enemies require certain techniques in order to be defeated, and again you must use the dust collected on your broom in unique ways to solve certain environmental puzzles. You don’t need to have had experience with early retro titles to enjoy Anodyne, but you must have a certain openness to the strange and truly macabre to fully enjoy it.
The musical score matches the onscreen visuals perfectly, with a mixture of what typically sounds as something like a Zelda title. The music will shift to a much darker tone and this differentiates it from the more light-hearted offerings available in this graphical style. Speaking of graphics, the visuals are wonderfully created with the 16-bit art style seeming familiar, but with enough new to keep it unique. I appreciated the color palette which was certainly reminiscent of the Game Boy Color era, but there were also sections that made it look entirely modern.
Overall, I was surprised by just how much I enjoyed and loved my time with Anodyne, as this was a game originally made just by two people. If you come looking for a grand mystical adventure you might be disappointed, but if you come in with an open mind and have a love for something like Undertale, Anodyne is a wondrous experience that had me engaged from beginning to end.
Review by minusthebrant on the Nintendo Switch, game provided by Nnooo.