Metroidvania 2D Action/RPG Catch-All

Pages

LastSurprise wrote:

Been a while since anyone posted here, so I wanted to put in a plug for Song of the Deep, an indie Metroidvania which I suspect may have gone overlooked. It did for me! But it was in my backlog and, after I saw Fastmanv347's 2018 GOTY list, I decided to check it out. I'm really glad I did.

Huh... I didn't even realize this game existed. And it was developed by Insomniac? Wishlisted.

Dyni wrote:
LastSurprise wrote:

Been a while since anyone posted here, so I wanted to put in a plug for Song of the Deep, an indie Metroidvania which I suspect may have gone overlooked. It did for me! But it was in my backlog and, after I saw Fastmanv347's 2018 GOTY list, I decided to check it out. I'm really glad I did.

Huh... I didn't even realize this game existed. And it was developed by Insomniac? Wishlisted.

I bought it sometime last year. Took it for a spin, found it charming, promised I'd get back to it, have yet to actually do so. I have a surprisingly large backlog of metroidvanias.

Ha, I did not even realize it was the same Insomniac! The logo looks a bit different in Song of the Deep's load screen.

Song of the Deep was published by GameStop. It really isn’t indie, just small budget.

Vector wrote:

Song of the Deep was published by GameStop. It really isn’t indie, just small budget.

Oh dear, let's not start that. We'll go in circles over whether or not Epic is still indie since they now have a storefront.

Epic was never indie and I’ll fight everyone at once! I’m in a Japanese train station during a blizzard and hopped on candy and weird Japanese coca-colas. I’ve got all the time in the world!!!

I just finished Dandara and want to chat about it. I went straight from finishing it into playing Yoku's Island Express, which I've fallen madly in love with, and it made me appreciate how both games enliven the metroidvania structure by introducing new, satisfying traversal mechanics.

Dandara is all about creating these moments of impossibly fast zipping through spaces, shooting at an enemy from five different directions in as many seconds, giving you the sensation of being omnipresent. If you haven't played or seen it, it's a platformer where every wall has its own gravity and instead of a jump button or movement you simply dash from one surface to another. It feels very much like the Blink skill from Dishonored or the teleport devices in Heat Signature.

For better and for worse, it accomplishes that by giving you an auto-aim toward the nearest jump-able surface in the general direction you move the left joystick. Trailer for example:

Without that auto-aim you wouldn't get that sense of rapid-fire bouncing around. The jump-able surfaces can be small and have to be within the opposite 180-degree arc, so there'd be a pretty significant delay between jumps if you had to aim precisely at them. But the auto-aim is frustrating as hell when you're in a fight and need to quick dodge an incoming bullet or dash attack, which is most of the time, and doesn't work just frequently enough to mess up that sense of flow. You can manually aim your jumps but it introduces a slight delay you can't afford in some fights. I'd guess this comes down to a person's reflexes; some bosses took me over ten tries before I'd be able to slow my panic reaction and make more precise movements instead of the enjoyable pinball movement it feels like the game wants you to embrace.

So Dandara is challenging, partially because you're fighting the movement mechanic and partially because you're adapting to it. There's also a frustrating delay from when you press the shoot button and when it is charged up which adds a finicky element to combat. I felt like the game wanted me to be faster than I was, and held out this potential that I could be, but only rarely let me get up to speed.

In addition to its unique movement, it did some other interesting things with metroidvania conventions. It has souls-like dropping of money on death which you can reclaim by reaching your remains before a second death, and bonfire-like campsites where you can spend your money on permanent stat upgrades. But the most interesting things it did were in some of its later areas where major biomes interact with one another rather than simply sitting adjacent on the map, which I'd love to see more of these games do, and introducing an area where your reliance on the map is suddenly challenged.

The music is sometimes very good and sometimes sufficient. The art is really lovely, but doesn't provide much more than an evocative veneer. The aesthetic is weird urban fantasy in conflict with techno-science in the context of a very minimal and surreal story, with high-res pixel art. The writing is suggestive at best but by the end I still had no idea what was going on, nor cared much; in both art and story it reminded me a lot of Axiom Verge, which is wordy compared to this game. I beat the game tonight with my 9 yr.-old daughter watching, and she asked me what the game was about and I honestly couldn't figure out what to tell her. We watched the intro video again and I said "well there you go," because I hadn't learned much more over the course of the game than what it had lore-dropped. YMMV depending on how much that means to you. I didn't care much because it wasn't what I was playing it for.

Overall I had a really good time with it, despite being frustrated with the movement during combat and unimpressed by the story. I definitely think it's worth playing and am glad I didn't skip it; it didn't get a ton of press and I'm lucky I remembered it by the end of the year. I played it on the Switch and got close to 100% exploration completion in 7 hours.

Anybody else play this? I'd love to spoiler-chat about those final areas.

danopian wrote:

I just finished Dandara and want to chat about it.

Thanks for the write-up Danopian. Dandara is a game that's been added to and removed from my Switch Watch List a number of times since launch. Something about it draws my attention, but not enough to actually buy.

Not gonna lie, my first read-through of your review has neither put me off the game, nor pushed me closer to a purchase... It sounds mixed... I think movement should feel good in a Metroidvania. I'm gonna read what you wrote again though, and if I do play it I'll let you know.

ClockworkHouse wrote:
Vector wrote:

Song of the Deep was published by GameStop. It really isn’t indie, just small budget.

Oh dear, let's not start that. We'll go in circles over whether or not Epic is still indie since they now have a storefront.

Agreed. That discussion is moot. We should focus on the more worthwhile task of defining, and keeping up-to-date, clear boundaries around what does and doesn't count as a Metroidvania.

Thanks for that, danopian. I downloaded Dandara on a whim from Xbox Game Pass the other day without knowing much about it. Your write-up has convinced me to move it way up the queue. A unique movement system is all I need to become interested.

Stevintendo wrote:
danopian wrote:

I just finished Dandara and want to chat about it.

Not gonna lie, my first read-through of your review has neither put me off the game, nor pushed me closer to a purchase... It sounds mixed... I think movement should feel good in a Metroidvania. I'm gonna read what you wrote again though, and if I do play it I'll let you know. :)

Yeah that's fair. FWIW, while actually playing it the novelty of the movement and the overall quality of the game made up for its finickiness. The movement feels really good often enough that that was my general impression in a given session. It wasn't until sitting down to write about it (and a couple of times on tricky bosses or enemy gauntlets) that I felt more ambivalent.

I could do a better job making a case for Hollow Knight or La Mulana 2. If you enjoyed reading this ambivalent review, though, I could talk about Chasm.

Pages