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Anodyne is an RPG-lite retro action-adventure game from the minds over at Analgesic Productions. The game was originally released in 2013 on PC and the mobile platforms receiving mostly positive praise. Due to its continued popularity, it can now be found at home on all current-gen consoles including the Nintendo Switch.
You play as Young, our boy come hero, as he sets out on an adventure in this vast world full of exciting but often spooky backdrops. This is all offset by a storyline that is controlled by a sense of unknowing and fear as the land is surrounded by an evil force, simply referenced to as the darkness. Guided by a mysterious robed sage who speaks of the legendary Briar, a force powerful enough to end this curse. Inspired by classic retro titles Anodyne does it’s best to re-capture the joy felt when playing Links Awakening for the first time while mixing it with an eerie, moody and unsettling vibe akin to the original Silent Hill.
The game is structured around an overworld map system used to entwine all of the dungeons together. You soon find the need to arm yourself and the only offensive weapon you can lay your hands on is an old broom, thankfully this can be upgraded with time. Each of the dungeons Anodyne is home to gives the player a varied setting that involves solving numerous puzzles and enemy encounters accumulating with a series of end of level boss fights. The world is groovy looking with its pixelated art style environments paired with a spooky soundtrack to add tension when playing. There is an overwhelming sense that something isn’t quite right.
Dungeons make up a fair share of the action and involve a lot of key collecting to open up once sealed areas. The first objective is to track down and collect three master keys to open up more of the world and unlock the power within a towering windmill. There is a nifty mini-map at the top of the screen which is really handy to help keep track of exactly where you have and haven’t been which is expanded upon when scrolling through the in-game menu. There isn’t a lot of handholding so this becomes a vital tool. Talking to people and creatures you meet give some indication of what to do next, though it is prudent to keep talking as more information can be extracted. Many will give you missions that consist of locating specific items and returning them in exchange for a reward or powerup.
The inclusion of regular checkpoints and the ability to warp back to the Nexus once a portal has been activated is a great decision. I often found myself wandering around almost aimlessly retracing footsteps in order to work out how to move the story forward. At no point did this seem a chore, it was part of what made this game of discovery all the more charming. There is an emphasis on collecting cards which provide a little detail about the characters in the world but more importantly can be used to open up additional areas by unlocking numbered gates. The deeper into the story you progress it the stranger events become as you explore Young’s subconscious, there are some truly unsettling themes on display exposing the player to a range of emotions.
Anodyne isn’t perfect by any means, the visuals are presented in a square format leaving a fair amount of dead space on the Switches already small screen. It would have been nice to be given the option to resize or even stretch out the picture out but it isn’t a deal breaker. The game handles perfectly with no technical issues encountered and the control set up works. Some of the powerups and collectables are missable which gives a reason to return.
Anodyne is an enjoyable retro adventure filled to the brim with charm and the occasional nod in the right direction to some of the classics in the genre. The puzzles are simple but have enough about them to hold your interest matched by a storyline that keeps you playing until the credits roll. This is definitely one to look out for.