ANODYNE

Link’s cheese-fu­ell ed night­mare

XBox: The Official Magazine - - CONTENTS - Martin Kitts

Made by two col­lege stu­dents over the course of what must have been a sleep­less ten months,

Anodyne is a sur­real trib­ute to vin­tage 2D Zelda games, played in chunky Game Boy res­o­lu­tion.

Even if you’ve never played one of the Nin­tendo orig­i­nals you’ll most likely be fa­mil­iar with the way this works. There’s a dun­geon-stud­ded over­world, threaded with path­ways that loop back through ar­eas you’ve al­ready vis­ited, and a lot of dead ends and locked gates to con­tend with as you try to un­cover the route to the next bizarre en­counter.

With no over­ar­ch­ing theme to tie things to­gether, Anodyne’s dun­geons are strange and di­verse. Fan­tasy-style stone caves and stat­ues are fol­lowed by a multi-floor ho­tel where pest con­trollers fly around, fu­mi­gat­ing the rooms. There’s one where you float on what looks like a river of blood in a boat made of dust, fight­ing a gi­ant meat mon­ster who wants to lec­ture you about ex­is­ten­tial pain, and an­other that’s a cross be­tween a cir­cus and a sci-fi prison, with sui­ci­dal ac­ro­bats and fire-breath­ing lions.

There’s no story to speak of, be­yond your sim­ple mis­sion to meet ‘the Briar’, who­ever he may be. When it first cropped up on PC and mo­bile five years ago, there were plenty of at­tempts to an­a­lyse ex­actly what, if any­thing, Anodyne was meant to be about, but it de­fies sen­si­ble ex­pla­na­tion. A jour­ney through the tor­tured psy­che of a gamer seems to be the best the­ory, although the same thing might well have been said about

Manic Miner in the early ’80s if any­one had thought like that back then. It’s wacky and a bit creepy. There’s prob­a­bly no sane rea­son for it.

Com­pared to ac­tual Zelda games it’s ex­tremely ba­sic. The only items you ever get are a broom, for hit­ting en­e­mies and sweep­ing up dust, and later some shoes with springs in them, for jump­ing over gaps. New ar­eas are al­most al­ways ac­cessed by find­ing a key or press­ing a switch, so there are none of those clas­sic Zelda mo­ments where you re­turn to an old lo­ca­tion with a new abil­ity and find some pre­vi­ously in­ac­ces­si­ble place is now reach­able – at least, not un­til you’ve beaten the game, when a new power is be­lat­edly granted in case you want to re­turn for 100% com­ple­tion.

Just pass­ing through

The dun­geons are nicely de­signed, even if the way through tends to be fairly ob­vi­ous. There’s clear pro­gres­sion as the rooms un­lock be­fore you, and a neat lit­tle map at the top of the screen that clearly shows where the un­ex­plored places are lo­cated. After reach­ing the heart of the dun­geon and strug­gling – in an ‘I have no idea why this thing ex­ists’ sort of way – with the boss, you’ll warp back to a hub area, from where you can ac­cess a new part of the over­world in search of the next chal­lenge.

Anodyne is let down some­what by its limp, but­ton-mash­ing com­bat and a re­liance, in later dun­geons, on frus­trat­ing, pixel-per­fect jump­ing. The game doesn’t play smoothly enough to make this sort of thing en­joy­able, and it’s hard to tell if you fell down a chasm for the tenth time be­cause of a glitch or be­cause you mist­imed it. Re­vis­it­ing ar­eas to hunt for col­lectibles be­comes a chore when you’ve got so many te­dious respawn­ing crea­tures and an­noy­ing jumps to con­tend with, but the game as a whole is worth a look, if only to dis­cover what kind of un­set­tling dreams it ends up giv­ing you.

“Let down by its limp, but­ton-mash­ing com­bat”

be­low That’s not a shop, it’s three items that we can’t buy, placed on the ground.

left Cheer­ful meat mon­ster ex­plains the mean­ing of life.

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