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Mechanically Minded - Iconoclasts Review

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Iconoclasts Switch Logo

Attentive indie game fans may have no doubt noticed Noitu Love: Devolution which made its console and handheld debut in 2016 on the Wii U and 3DS, having previously been PC exclusive, and were probably looking forward to what Joakim Sandberg had next to offer. Having spent many years crafting and fine tuning his next project, Iconoclasts, it finally came out to the world in January this year. But only on PC and Playstation platforms, with no Nintendo release in sight.

Fortunately, there wasn’t too long a wait, as it was quickly announced to be hitting the Switch later in the year. Now the time has come and Nintendo fans can finally experience Joakim’s interpretation of a story driven Metroidvania.


Platforms: PC, PS4, Vita, Switch [Reviewed]
Developer: Konjak
Release: August 2, 2019 (Switch)
MSRP: $19.99
Press Copy provided by Bifrost Entertainment


Iconoclasts Switch Screenshot

Naturally, the first thing that is made apparent is by far the gorgeous visuals. Bright and colourful pixel art adorned with wonderfully animated sprites, it feels like a natural progression from the games of yesteryear, as if representing what could have happened if the Gameboy Advance line kept on going into the HD era. This isn’t trying to mimic the visuals of 16 or 32-bit systems, but a natural evolution of the 2D style.

The audio also fits in with the aesthetics, sounding like another evolution of the retro feel with more modern flairs. Every piece of music is fitting and the sound effects appropriate to each scene. No corners have been left unfilled from a presentation standpoint.

The gameplay is also very polished, with each action having the right amount of flexibility or heft depending on their purpose. You have a basic pistol to shoot, which can be charged for a more powerful blast, and a wrench to act as both a weapon and a tool.

Some elements take a little getting accustomed to, especially once you have to multitask between shooting and melee attacks. Fortunately they have both been double mapped onto the face buttons and shoulder buttons, so you can keep a charged shot active and still swing your wrench without letting go of any buttons. There are a few upgrades along the way, from bombs to electrically charging your wrench, but they are few and far between but each have multiple usages to keep from getting stale.

Iconoclasts Switch Screenshot

The primary design follows the Metroidvania template but with a few twists to it. Most of the level design is occupied with puzzles which need to be solved in order to progress or to dig up hidden goodies. All the pickups are for crafting abilities called Tweaks, rather than health and ammo boosts that most other Metroidvanias go for. These Tweaks range from increasing damage, detecting hidden secrets to taking a free hit from attacks. The bosses also take on a puzzle approach, with distinct phases in which you have to work out how to progress. There are traditional action based bosses too though, so you won’t be spoiled for variety.

The early hours of the game are fairly restrictive, locking you into specific areas until you push forward. But the game does open up as you advance, eventually becoming completely open once you’ve unlocked the fast travel system. The difficulty isn’t really up to par if you choose the standard option, but bumping it up to the harder option ought to satisfy. But if things are too hectic for you, there is also a casual option too and the difficulty can be changed at any point. Things can get a little too cryptic at times though, with some puzzles being unclear as to their solutions.

Iconoclasts Switch Screenshot

The biggest draw for Iconoclasts has to be its narrative, a strange thing to say for a Metroidvania. Some of you may recoil in horror at the idea, but it’s actually handled extremely well. Every one of the major characters feel like real people going through their own fair share of hardships.

Despite the initial colourful atmosphere the game lets on, the actual core of the story is actually quite dark, with many events coming off as rather grim and sometimes melancholic. It doesn’t ever pretend to be too above itself though, unlike some of the characters, as there are many quirky and humorous lines of dialogue dotted throughout the adventure.

At the end of the day, Iconoclasts is an extremely unique experience, taking influence from Metroid Fusion in particular. It might not necessarily be to everyone’s tastes, as it is generally more linear than what most Metroidvanias tend to offer. If you’re willing to get yourself invested in a character driven story in a world full of mystery even to people who are supposed to know it all in-universe, you should be in for a real treat.


Pros:

  • Impeccable sprite designs
  • Superb handling
  • Strong, character focused narrative
  • Wonderfully polished
  • Quirky sense of humour

Cons:

  • Too easy on standard difficulty
  • Sometimes too cryptic

Verdict

Excellent

Excellent

Excellent games have our official recommendation and our examples of what every game should strive to be. These games feature exciting gameplay, engaging stories (when applicable), intuitive controls and movement, polished and fitting presentations, and good value. Above all else, these games are truly fun to play.

 

Want to know what this score means? Check out our Scoring Guidelines page.

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