Anodyne Review

Developer, Publisher: Analgesic Productions

Console:

  • Linux
  • Mac OS X
  • Windows

Players: 1

Rating: N/A

Release Date: February 4, 2013

Genre: Adventure/action

-Greg Livingston

I spent a fair bit of my time with Anodyne walking around a sedate seaside field. Here, a cool green was woven with flecks of greenish blue and yellow to create a wide spread of grass.

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I wandered around this place a lot.

The field is accompanied by a musical track containing two plucked strings. The melody evokes a sense of solitude (not necessarily loneliness), and the song itself might sound lonely and empty were it not for the electronic effects on the strings along with a backing synth instrument. It’s also worth noting that the tune does contain a melody with pacing and progression; it may be somber, but it didn’t put me to sleep. I always made sure to play Anodyne with the sound up.

Initially, I thought the graphics and music felt disjointed; the music was produced seemingly without technical limitations, while the graphical resolution fit a Super Nintendo title. However, I came to realize that the color choice almost always added depth to the graphics.

Areas typically explore various shades of the same color. The seaside field bases itself in green and branches out to blue and yellow. The sea and lakes use various shades of greenish blue, while dirt patches build on the variety of yellow that’s used in the grass. Impassible walls of bushes are constructed from deeper versions of the grass hues. Finally, pale blue rocks and walls strike a cool contrast to everything else, and they’re used conservatively.

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But it’s not like all the colors are chill.

For something hotter, there’s the freaky red swamp, which goes through various sorts of reds. For an area with contrast, check out the reddish brown mountain whose color is cooled by the late afternoon sky above. Don’t forget the lush green grass at the base of the mountain, too.

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The mountain displays some of the most contrast you’ll see in Anodyne’s first half.

Some later areas deviate from Anodyne’s typical use of colors and music, but hey, what’s the fun if I spoil it?

At the beginning of the game, that seaside field was brimming with space to explore. Anodyne keeps a map of each area for you, and on the map, you can view all exits from a room. At first, each room led to a host of other rooms to explore. The world spread itself out before me, waiting to be seen. I wasn’t alone, though, since the field was populated by meandering blob enemies: cute and sluggish things which were easily bested. Your only weapon in this game is a broom, a melee weapon which simply damages foes upon contact with them.

As it typically goes with this type of game, I eventually ran into barriers. I would need some key or other to pass into this or that area. At the same rate, though, I found new areas. One beach put me in closer contact with the sea, while the mountain had me explore rocky cliffs. In these new areas, exploration was limited to a few crucial paths, and enemies grew more dangerous. Gone were the cute blobs in favor of ferocious wolves.

From time to time, these areas also introduced new characters. The entire game was draped in a sense of dreamlike surrealism, and I saw characters as either manifestations of the protagonist or how he viewed the world. The protagonist, Young, experiences a disconnect from the world, which came to light in a variety of ways.

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Cubes talking about viewing the same subject from a variety of perspectives? Is this a pun on cubism?

In order to clear Anodyne, I had to get Young to perform some contemptible acts and witness some intriguing images. In one area, basic polygons talked at me about perspective and the great divide that exists between two pairs of eyes. Characters rarely returned, though, and even the ones that did were fairly one-note. Rather, Anodyne was about one character—Young—and all other characters simply stood for different aspects of Young at different times.

Those areas focused my exploration by limiting the paths I could take. Then, they led to dungeons, which further limited my exploration. Navigation was no longer a matter of wandering, but instead, reaching each corner of the dungeon was a puzzle crucial to progression.

Otherwise, puzzles were typically absent from Anodyne, and even the ones in dungeons weren’t exactly head-scratchers. This is a game that you can complete if you visit every square possible and take a little time to observe enemy attack patterns.

I was pleased to find that dungeons throughout the game stuck to one major idea: exploring two dead-end side paths before returning to one main path to proceed. For instance, one dungeon room had two locked doors, leading me to explore two separate branching paths for keys. By sticking to this concept, Anodyne drew depth out of it, rather than striking out at a variety of ideas and developing nothing.

Interestingly, that dual nature was also in Anodyne’s basic mechanics. Aside from the arrow keys for movement, I had two major keys to press: one for sweeping Young’s broom as an attack and one for jumping. In this sense, Young himself has two major gameplay mechanics to explore.

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Bosses have a lot going on. Just like with exploration, you’ll need to process a number of options and elements in order to find a successful way to proceed.

At any given point, Anodyne was about exploring multiple options, whether it be the multitude given in a wide open field or the need to head down a number of branching dungeon corridors. Bosses carried that challenge through to the end of the game, attacking Young with a number of methods all at once. One boss embedded in the wall slammed his fists down on Young while spraying bullets across the screen. And, I don’t want to spoil the final boss, but I will say it also relied on duality.

Anodyne started open and led to obstacle and puzzle courses by way of exploration. If you want to reach the end of the game, you’ll need to seek out the far corners of your map. In a way, it’s about the satisfaction of filling out that map. I’m not sure what the multitasking and completionist exploration had to do with Young’s personal journey regarding loneliness, but I got a kick out of it regardless.

Pros:

  • A good eye and ear for aesthetics
  • Conservative in its gameplay elements and structure; Anodyne picks a select few ideas and develops them

Cons:

  • If you need puzzles in your adventure games, don’t look here
  • While perfectly competent, Anodyne doesn’t bring anything new to the table

Verdict:5

Anodyne is highly polished and rock-solid, but it lacks any compelling new ideas. It’s well worth playing if you like the action adventure genre or need an introduction. Aw heck, if you like a good maze, this game has more than a few.

Value Verdict:Purchased new in 2013 for $9.00.

If you’re looking for something to kill time, this isn’t the best use of $9, but the quality of the game is well worth the price. I’d recommend this to genre fans or genre newbies.