I’ve seen Anodyne described as The Legend of Zelda, but on drugs. After playing through it, I can definitely say that that description is pretty much on point. Despite the game’s simplistic look, it is a very surreal experience, providing both a diverse game world and a story that really doesn’t make that much sense.
Cool game world. If there is one thing that Anodyne does really well, it would have to be its game world. Despite the game’s rather simplistic look, the game world is surprisingly diverse, containing all sorts of interesting areas. I would go from a beach, to a rainforest, to a dimensional pocket world, to an 8-bit castle, and then back to the nexus where I can access all of these again using a simple portal system. The game’s narrative also relies heavily on these environments and one could even argue that the story is better told through it than the NPCs you encounter along the way. This makes exploration pretty fun, easily cementing itself as my favorite part of the game.
Great enemy variety. For a game of this scale, I was rather surprised with the enemy variety offered. The areas I mentioned before all have their own unique enemies to them, and not just one or two, but sometimes several. You have your basic slime-like enemies, bats, and wolves, then you get into the weirder side of things with clown towers, giant silverfish, and flying pest exterminators. Given the game’s rather simplistic gameplay, the attacks are not all that complex, but some are definitely on the more creative side of things. For example, there’s an enemy called the “dustmaid” that only attacks after you pick up dust from the ground and another enemy called the “mover” that does nothing more than push you around. Again, this is just another element that makes the exploration fun.
Very fitting soundtrack. Anodyne is a very surreal game, perhaps too much so, but it does at least provide a soundtrack to match that theme. From dreamlike, synth-heavy tracks to more upbeat, chiptune tracks, the game has quite the mix of music to it. Despite this, the music never really felt out of place, perfectly matching the area in which it played. The music not only lent itself well to establishing the game’s surreal atmosphere, but it’s also pretty good to listen to on its own, much like the soundtrack to FEZ.
Nonsensical storyline. While I can appreciate the surrealism of the game’s environments, the story that goes along with it was definitely not up to par. On one hand, the story makes it seem like there is some bigger meaning behind it, but on the other, it really just felt like surrealism for the sake of surrealism. It was like the devs just put a bunch of ideas together hoping that it would work. As a result, it felt like any attempt to extract meaning from the story was meaningless itself, as there really was nothing underneath. Granted, some people may like the idea of trying to find meaning in such a story, but it was pretty much just nonsense to me.
Limited aspect ratio. Anodyne may look nice visually, but it runs at a very strange aspect ratio. Because of this, the game has massive black bars along the side of the screen when playing in fullscreen, like it was ported from mobile devices rather than being developed for PC. The game is actually available on mobile devices, but these were released as ports of the PC version, so the game was obviously designed with this in mind. That’s rather unfortunate, as this comes at the expense of PC players and the game would have looked much better if it actually took advantage of the fullscreen that it runs in. It’s really just a waste of space as it stands.
Lackluster game map. For a game that requires a lot of backtracking, Anodyne certainly isn’t doing itself any favors in the mapping department. For example, blue icons on the map indicate entrances to other areas, but you are not told where they lead. One could lead to an entirely new map area whereas another could simply be the entrance to some cave or building. On top of that, the map also provides no means of marking items on the map. There were several instances where I had to leave a locked chest or door behind because I could not get to it yet, only to forget that it was there in the first place. Again, for a game with a lot of backtracking, it is a bit painful to not have these features marked.
Anodyne is definitely a strange game. On one hand, the surrealism it provided definitely made for a cool game world, but it did not feel properly executed on the story side of things. On top of that, the lackluster game map and limited aspect ratio did not do the game any favors either. Regardless, the gameplay itself is fine and comes with a cool soundtrack, so I do give the game a light recommendation.
You can buy Anodyne on Steam here.
I was provided a review copy of the game in order to write this review. Read more about how I do my game reviews here.