An interesting looking modern 16-bit graphics game with an interesting name and an interesting premise. Read on to find out what I mean as we take a look at Iconoclasts, a seven year long project developed by the one man army Joakim Sandberg of Konjak and published by Bifrost Entertainment.
Platforms: Playstation 4, Playstation Vita/TV, PC (Steam, GOG), Nintendo Switch.
Genres: Action, Adventure, Drama, Exploration, Metroidvania, Sci-Fi.
Themes: Culture, Existentialism, Family, Religion, Yuri (Grade 3).
Objectionable Content: High. The game can get pretty gruesome later on despite there not being the “natural” kind of blood. Even so there are some graphic scenes that can make some players feel uncomfortable.
Length: About 10-13 hours first time through. It also depends on how much players choose to explore and how many side-puzzles to solve. There is also New Game+ content.
Plot Summary: The main character is Robin, a naive and helpful mechanic. She lives in a world where the sinister religious authority the One Concern, ruled by a being known as “Mother”, has taken over the government, and allows only licensed mechanics to handle the power source called “Ivory” that drives its machines. Due to her attempts to help people in need despite being a self-taught mechanic, the soldiers of the One Concern track down Robin and attempt to kill her, which forces her to escape along with her allies and fight back against the One Concern.
To make matters worse for some unknown reason earthquakes sporadically happen throughout the planet causing mass hysteria.
The game can be best described as an epic Metroidvania adventure with a dark and complex plot. The game starts off lighthearted but it does not take long at all for things to become dark and grim…and it does not stop, slowly becoming darker and darker. After looking up what Iconoclasm means and reading the plot summary both indicate the story is about a war between Robin and her allies against religious persecutors and while religion does play a big role in the story it becomes clear over time that it is little more than a catalyst for the bigger picture. The real story is about surviving in a world where people are assigned life roles and if they refuse to accept them there would be grave consequences. Heck, even people living life based on their assigned roles are not devoid of danger from an ever judgmental and contemptible world. Because of that expect the cast to consist of really grumpy or easily irritated people. Even so, the heroes are mostly likable (Though Elro and Royal are intentionally little hits and many misses) and most of the villains are the “modern” kind who have layers explaining their antagonistic ways. Having said that I would not blame some people were they to become annoyed by the characters’ actions early on or for some throughout the game. It is one of those casts of characters people need to be patient with. It is one of those “Understand where they are coming from” casts. The tale is an intriguing one that despite having some side-stories and side-characters who do not get enough explanation, or are fleshed out enough, the nitty gritty of it all is given plenty of time to be fleshed out. The theme also features family as a main theme. It can be said that family is one of, if not the most important themes in the story. Without spoiling anything Robin herself, the way she acts, her dialogue options, her naivete etc, all are tied to her family history. Other characters in the game are similar.
There are also dialogue options. They may not seem important at first but Robin’s choices will have a strong influence near the end of the game so it is worth keeping an eye on which replies she gives to her allies and other people.
As mentioned in the genres and brief game description Iconoclasts’ gameplay is a Metroidvania style platformer similar to another game covered here, Rabi Ribi. As Robin along with her allies who come and go (They help Robin during some boss battles and become playable at certain points), players traverse through the different areas of the seemingly decaying world exploring as much of it as possible taking on various foes that either charge at you, fire bullets and lasers culminating with battles against various kinds of insane mechanical or mutated bosses of all shapes and sizes. Robin will use her wrench, stun gun and other acquired abilities to tighten nuts and bolts, mess around with modern and ancient technology, blast and smash enraged wildlife, chaotic machines, mutants and soldiers. With this being a Metroidvania game expect to return to previously explored areas later after acquiring new abilities to access new areas or find other power ups, mostly Gear parts to synthesize and create new Gear that will give Robin temporary boosts such as breathing longer underwater or enduring one hit without taking damage. However, as I said the Gears are temporary. If Robin gets hit once the Gear is unusable until she gets enough energy “white glowing things” to restore it/them.
The puzzles overall are just right, not being too complex nor too simple. Most of them are environmental requiring the player pay attention to their surroundings and notice which skill is best suited for that situation.
The action is fast paced even when solving puzzles. Something about the way Robin moves and everything turns makes this particular Metroidvania feel different from others. That and I really like the way she jumps. It may not sound like much but her jumping felt oh so good, like I could easily control her momentum. Also there was something inexplicably satisfying about fixing and smashing stuff. It is the little things that put a big smile on my face. Plus Robin’s cool hairstyle.
As I said in the above image one of the game’s biggest draws are its crazy boss battles. It does not take long at all for the bosses to become more cray and intense. It is guaranteed that one, if not all the bosses will stick with players in some way, be it the epic scale, absurdity or significance to the plot. They are all the “pattern” type boss whose difficulty entirely depends on the player’s skill and how quickly they notice the pattern. Having said that the bosses still pose a great threat to the unprepared. Having said that, I do have one little nitpick. I will admit that one “stealth” boss felt tacked in as the rest of the game afterward required no stealth whatsoever. Oh well, one “meh” boss out of 20+ is not bad at all.
I will keep the presentation and Yuri portion short this time. First up the presentation. It is all in SNES 16-bit goodness, which for people who have played Rabi-Ribi should not be a problem. The characters have enough emotion and expressions to get their feelings across as the game has no voice acting. Also like Rabi-Ribi the soundtrack is excellent with some stand out tunes, especially the more serious dungeons and boss fights. Now for the Yuri. One of Robin’s allies/fellow party members is female, Mina up there. Pay close attention to her story. That is all I will say.
Overall Iconoclasts is a really good Metroidvania game with an interesting story and setting with a cast of characters some players will need to be patient with, specifically some of Robin’s allies. The presentation will either please or displease depending on the players’ view on 16-bit graphics. Same goes for the gameplay itself. Recommended to fans of Metroidvania style games and everyone else intrigued by what I had to say.
The game is available on Steam, PS4, PS Vita/TV and (soon, with additional features supposedly) Nintendo Switch.