Capsule Review: Iconoclasts

A 2D retro-styled Metroidvania in a well-developed world with platforming puzzles and varied combat that both make full use of your ever-growing toolset. The mechanics are satisfying and the storytelling is compelling, but the game doesn’t respect the player’s time quite as much as I’d like.

Your main tools are your wrench, which can thwack enemies or turn bolts to activate mechanisms, and your stun gun, which can blast enemies or open certain barriers. Both receive upgrades through the course of the game, granting new abilities used both for combat and for puzzle-based exploration. As a result, the action stays fresh and varied and tests you on many different mechanical skills.

The pixel art and animation are beautiful, as is the soundtrack. Most movement and combat feels good, though the limits on wrench placement (always straight ahead and very picky when grabbing bolts in midair) hampers this slightly until you get used to it. Characters (minus a few rushed-feeling ones toward the end) have personalities, motivations, and flaws, lending them a complicated and realistic depth. The well-paced storytelling reveals and tantalizes in turn as it shows more and more about the game’s mysteries - there is a consistent world underneath with unambiguous answers to every question, though not all of them are made explicit in the game itself.

The game is, unfortunately, a little too willing to waste the player’s time. Too many puzzle segments don’t open shortcuts once solved, so if you realize you’ve done something out of order and come back later you have to solve it again – and any enemies will likely have respawned as well. This is made worse by the fact that it’s often unclear which puzzles are required to progress, which are optional ones rewarding crafting materials, and which are optional ones you can’t actually solve yet because you lack the required upgrade. Similarly, there are a few moments that really should have checkpoints but don’t, in the worst cases requiring you to repeat emotionally-charged scenes and robbing them of their impact.

Feeling like my time isn’t respected is perhaps my single biggest pet peeve as a player, so there were a couple of times when I nearly abandoned the game. But my desire to learn more about the world, characters, and story always drew me back in. When I finished my playthrough and saw the ending, I was happy to be done - but I also miss spending time in that world.

I Stopped Playing When: I beat the game after about twelve hours with a 69% collection rate. I did not go back for the optional bosses or a new playthrough.

Docprof's Rating:

Four Stars: Great. Not only did I finish the game, I probably played through the whole thing again and/or completed any optional objectives. It's an easy recommendation for any genre fan.

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