Indiewatch: Anodyne - A Masterweird Zelda-Esque Title
Welcome to Indiewatch, a series where every Friday, we take a look at a good, yet unknown, unappreciated, and overlooked indie title. In order for a game to be covered on Indiewatch, it must fit into the following criteria:
- It must be an indie game
- It was not covered (or it was given minimal coverage) by mainstream video game websites and YouTubers
- It must be good! Nothing below 7 out of 10 will be covered.
This week we are taking a look at Anodyne. Anodyne is a Zelda-lite title developed and published by Analgesic Productions LLC. It released February 4th, 2013 followed by releasing on Steam and GOG.com shortly after. It later released on Android devices in October that same year.
Anodyne is a title that you play for its plot and atmosphere over the Zelda-inspired gameplay, as it is with them that the game truly shines over anything else. With that said its gameplay is still good but does suffer from a few hiccups here and there.
A complex plot of subtly
You take on the role of Young, as you travel throughout his subconscious mind. Young is The Chosen One who must stop the darkness from destroying the briar. In order to do this, he must first travel the lands, exploring and overcoming his fears. Only then will he be strong enough to face the darkness.
That is the plot to Anodyne, but it is only scratching the surface of what the game has to offer. Dig deeper and look through the mirage of a story about good versus evil and you will find far deeper and at times dark themes running through the game's veins.
Some themes are upfront like murder, suicide and bullying, while others are more subtle such as social anxiety, accepting change, loneliness and depression as some examples. One of the complaints that some people had for Anodyne was the lack of there being a back story.
The thing is, these themes are the backstory, they give you insight into the life and person of Young. While this is the case, the overall plot and meaning behind everything remain vague, even after the game ends. It is a complex plot of subtly and very much a case of making your own interpretation of it and Young as a character.
The plot to Anodyne is something that isn't for those looking for an upfront and straightforward plot that explains everything. It is a plot for those looking to enter a strange, unnerving and disturbing world where they must piece things together themselves.
A Zelda-like gameplay experience
The gameplay to Anodyne is something that Zelda fans will be more than accustomed to. You must explore the land and enter caves and dungeons to defeat boss monsters to gain access to new areas and become stronger. As you progress throughout the game you will gain new abilities to help traverse and explore areas that were previously inaccessible.
Throughout the game, you can pick up clumps of dust with your broom and place them on the water to move across. They are also used to power moving platforms too. At about the halfway point of the game, you gain the ability to jump, allowing you to dodge faster enemies with greater ease and avoid pitfalls and so on.
The further into the game you go, the more difficult the areas become, adding in new more complex puzzles to solve in order to continue further in your journey. Overall the gameplay is what you would expect from a title that is inspired by the Zelda games of the 16-bit era.
The combat is simple and smooth, and the puzzles have a balance in their difficulty, slowly getting harder bit by bit throughout the game. The platforming is smooth in most areas, but there are a few that can be frustrating at times, especially with the moving platforms. If there was any other complaint I would have about the gameplay it is that is it easy to become confused as to where you need to go next.
There are so many different areas spread across the land that it becomes easy to forget which key opens which door. It results in you having to go to each area attempting to remember where the door is for the key you just obtained from the boss you just killed.
It does cause some frustration when this happens but aside from that the gameplay is what you everything that you could expect it to be good old-fashioned 16-bit fun.
A surreal and dreamlike world
The world of Anodyne is bizarre, creepy and unnerving. Throughout the entire experience, you never really know what kind of place you are going to end up in next. It leaves you feeling nothing but unease and discomfort, even in the more colourful and brightly lit areas.
From dark caves to a blood red area, to a black and white town to a forest full of talking animals are there are so many varying areas to explore in the game. Those I mentioned are but only some of them and each place has its own theme and representation to it too.
While Anodyne isn't a horror game, it is only one step away from being one in many ways. It is a dark and mysterious world that is anything but friendly. Death is always just around the corner for the reckless and you never know what you are going to run into next.
Anodyne does collectables right
Once upon a time, I was a gamer who had to 100% complete games before I would be fully satisfied and retired them to the shelf. These days I am not so interested in 100% completion and that is why when a game has collectables to be found, there needs to be a reason for seeking them out.
Anodyne does this, unlike another Zelda like a game I covered on Indiewatch recently, that being Ittle Dew. In Anodyne there are cards to collect throughout the world. These cards then open special doors that will only unlock once you have a number of cards in your inventory equal to or more than the number on them.
These doors give you access to areas that were previously inaccessible and lead to additional health upgrades to help you in your journey. It gives you a reason to seek the cards out as it makes life that little bit easier for you, especially when dealing with the final boss.
So, yes Anodyne does collectables the way they should be done unlike in Ittle Dew where they existed for no other reason that just to collect them.
A fantastic game that isn't for everyone
Anodyne is one of those games that really is not for everyone. The gameplay on its own while good isn't enough to make the game enjoyable. It is the plot and its world that carries the game from beginning to end and if they don't float your boat, then you aren't going to enjoy yourself.
If you like a dark, surreal world with a plot that contains subtle themes and leaves you to make your own interpretations of what has happened, then you will love it. And if you love this style of gameplay also, that is just an added bonus and incentive to play it.