A chal­leng­ing, pol­ished and pig­head­edly old-school Metroid­va­nia.



It seems like a sim­ple job. Travel to a nearby town and res­cue a few vil­lagers who have got­ten them­selves lost in the lo­cal coal mine. But when your rookie knight ar­rives in the snowy ham­let of Karthas, he learns the true hor­ror of what has hap­pened. Some­thing ter­ri­ble has been awak­ened in those deep, cav­ernous mines— some­thing evil—and it’s a good thing the knight has brought his sword along with him.

Chasm is a side-scrolling plat­former in the Metroid mould, with games such as Castl­e­va­nia, Zelda, and Spelunky coded into its DNA. The tit­u­lar chasm is the maze­like net­work of tun­nels that yawns be­neath Karthas, from the dusty coal mine just be­low the sur­face, to the an­cient dun­geons and ar­cane tem­ples hid­den in its depths.

En­e­mies on the first few floors are easy to kill. Later foes, how­ever, are deadly, re­quir­ing pa­tience and pre­ci­sion to slay. But they’re al­ways pre­dictable, and learn­ing their pat­terns is where the skill lies.

But your early at­tempts to learn those pat­terns can be frus­trat­ing. When you die in Chasm you’re kicked back to the menu, and forced to reload a save. Get­ting back into the game only takes a few sec­onds, but it feels like a life­time when you’ve died at a boss for the tenth time and want to just get it over with. And save points are of­ten far apart.

But when­ever I’m an­noyed by some­thing in Chasm, I’m won back over by how won­der­fully it plays. Ev­ery­thing you do is pre­cise, and it’s clear de­vel­oper Bit Kid, Inc. has spent time tweak­ing the con­trols to make them feel just right. Your moveset is ba­sic at first, but as you ex­plore the chasm you un­lock moves such as grab­bing ledges, slid­ing, and dou­ble jump­ing that in­crease the game’s com­plex­ity.

There’s a pro­ce­dural el­e­ment to Chasm, mean­ing ev­ery playthrough is dif­fer­ent. But I never once got the sense that I was play­ing some­thing dreamed up by a com­puter, and if you told me my ver­sion of the map was hand-crafted, I’d have be­lieved you.

In the spirit of Metroid, keep­ing a men­tal map of the world, in con­junc­tion with a sim­ple map that’s filled in as you ex­plore, is es­sen­tial.

Your jour­ney con­tin­ues ever down, fight­ing bosses and mini­bosses, un­cov­er­ing se­crets, un­lock­ing new abil­i­ties, and find­ing new weapons. Weapons rad­i­cally change how Chasm plays. Us­ing a knife means you have to get un­com­fort­ably close to en­e­mies to at­tack, but it does a lot of dam­age. The mace is slow to swing, but hits hard.

There are some light RPG el­e­ments too, with en­e­mies spew­ing out lit­tle ex­pe­ri­ence orbs that boost your health, strength and so on. But oth­er­wise it’s a deeply old-fash­ioned game—by de­sign, of course—and that means it can be gru­elling at times. You’ll have to re­peat sec­tions over and over to mas­ter them, and I found my pa­tience wear­ing thin more than once. But that’s part of the deal in these kinds of games, and if it’s a qual­ity, pol­ished Metroid­va­nia ad­ven­ture you want, you can’t do much bet­ter than Chasm.

It’s a deeply old-fash­ioned game, and that means it can be gru­elling at times.

Visit the vil­lage to rest and re­sup­ply.

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