Developer(s) – Analgesic Productions
Publisher(s) – Analgesic Productions
Designer(s) – Seth Hogan & Jonathan Kittaka
Programmer – Seth Hogan
PEGI – 16
Released back in 2013 for Steam, and then ported to a wide array of consoles many years later, Anodyne was a game that sat in relative obscurity for many years (undeservedly so in my opinion), and gained momentum as time went on; especially after the sequel was released. Although I found some flaws in this title, I found there was certainly a great deal of enjoyment to be had with this title, and I’m particularly glad it finally got the attention it deserved.
Graphics – 7/10
Whilst Anodyne is fairly well detailed for a 16-bit game designed by two college students, the best thing I can say about it is how wonderfully off the wall and surreal the game’s atmosphere is. The environments and dungeon designs are diverse to a good extent, including a hotel for a dungeon, as opposed to a typical cave or forest. Though Anodyne is a type of pain-relieving drug, its literary use is said to describe feelings of non-contentiousness or even bland agreeability, and I think the overall atmosphere of the game conveys these feelings quite well, as was perhaps intended. In this respect, the game reminds me of EarthBound, since that game also contains some pretty psychologically unsettling locations such as the Cave of the Past.
Gameplay – 6.5/10
The gameplay is extremely reminiscent of The Legend of Zelda classic, A Link to the Past, with its top-down view and elements of combat, dungeon traversing, and open-world exploration. The problem I found was that the game doesn’t have anywhere near as much variety as A Link to the Past, since there is only one side quest throughout whereas A Link to the Past has a few more, so to me, the game was a bit disappointing in that respect. However, what substance there is in gameplay is pretty enjoyable. For example, the puzzle-solving element is very prominent in this game and can provide some genuinely stern challenges, along with some of the game’s many memorable and enjoyable boss fights.
Controls – 10/10
Like many indie and retro games I’ve reviewed since I started this blog, Anodyne incorporates a controls scheme that has long since been perfected, and consequently, there should never have been a problem regarding the controls; no awkwardness or no further difficulty unnecessarily added. Thankfully, there’s none of that to be had in this game.
Lifespan – 4.5/10
Even taking the one side quest into account, Anodyne can only be made to last just over 5 hours, which especially for a game comparable to an entry in the Legend of Zelda series, is unacceptable, in my opinion. Though it’s extremely unlikely that the two students expected Anodyne to have been even as half as successful as it turned out to be, I think that for them to have cemented any hope of becoming so, they should have thought more than they seemingly did about how a game like A Link to the Past could be topped, as opposed to developing a game that’s just a lot like it. In my opinion, the best way they could have done that is to have added more substance and activity to the game, which would, in turn, have made it last longer.
Storyline – 6.5/10
The story of Anodyne follows a man called Young, who must venture across a dream world, representing his own subconscious, and he must fight off evil darkness; pretty similar to Super Mario Bros 2, I find. Critics have cited a lack of clarity and explanation to this game’s story, I think they are perhaps being a bit too harsh, as there are indeed certain aspects of the story that has been very much left open to interpretation, sparking debates about it all over the Steam community in particular. So whilst I don’t think the game’s story is perfect, it’s certainly better than what most critics seemed to have given it credit for. Another positive about it worth pointing out is that there are a fair few cultural references and breakings of the fourth wall; another reason why this game reminds me so much of EarthBound. For example, before the beginning of one boss fight, the boss says to Young that he has been playing too many Nintendo games. This boss turns out to comprise of a mouth, and a pair of disembodied hands, reminiscent of many bosses to have appeared in Nintendo games (namely Zelda games), such as Bongo Bongo from Ocarina of Time, Gohdan from The Wind Waker, and Andross from the Star Fox series.
Originality – 7/10
Whilst I don’t believe Anodyne is particularly unique in terms of gameplay, it’s certainly very unique in terms of visual design and certain elements to its story. Certainly, any game that can cause a whirlwind of debate all over the Internet mustn’t be considered entirely disinteresting by anybody’s standards, in my opinion.
In summation, Anodyne is a fairly good game, and pretty enjoyable to play with a lot of very compelling and diverse level designs, but it’s not without its flaws. I couldn’t help but compare it to A Link to the Past, since both games are extremely similar, and I must say that I very much prefer A Link to the Past out of the two.