Chasm

Chasm is a chal­leng­ing, pol­ished and pig­head­edly old-school Metroid­va­nia.

PC GAMER (US) - - REVIEW - By Andy Kelly

It’s a deeply old-fash­ioned game—by de­sign, of course

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.

The feel­ing of plung­ing into a dan­ger­ous, un­known world, of be­ing an in­ter­loper, is a pow­er­ful one. You can’t help but won­der what lies at the bot­tom of the caves, but the deeper you go, the more dan­ger­ous it gets.

En­e­mies on the first few floors are easy to kill. Rats, skele­tons, bats. The usual sus­pects. 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. Me­moriz­ing and dodg­ing a vol­ley of fire­balls from a de­mon, then sneak­ing through a hole in its de­fences to deal the killing blow, is very sat­is­fy­ing.

But your fum­bling 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, which means re­trac­ing your steps can get repet­i­tive.

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 it doesn’t feel like a load of ma­chine-gen­er­ated tun­nels stuck to­gether. 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. And if you like a par­tic­u­lar lay­out, you can save the seed code to play it again or share it with friends.

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. Thank­fully, there’s also a tele­port sys­tem that makes quickly re­turn­ing to Karthas to re­sup­ply fairly easy.

DOWN AND OUT

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 sat­is­fy­ing crack of the Castl­e­va­nia- in­spired whip gives you a bit of dis­tance. The mace is slow to swing, but hits hard. Some­times if I was strug­gling with a boss, switch­ing to an­other weapon would sud­denly make it much eas­ier, which adds a nice layer of strat­egy to the game.

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.

ver­dict

Beau­ti­ful pixel art and tight, re­fined con­trols make Chasm a fine mod­ern Metroid­va­nia to sink your teeth into.

78

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