Sunday, August 5

Review: Iconoclasts [Nintendo Switch eShop]

There may be nothing quite as representative of the true indie spirit as single-developer games. The product of someone toiling for a period measured in years resulting in not just something that’s playable but that’s also very impressive is undoubtedly a glorious achievement. That said, there can be design flaws and issues that are signs of a lack of group brainstorming and refinement, that can drag that greatness in other areas down a bit. That’s very much the case with Iconoclasts, a title that absolutely shines in the majority of areas but whose limited number of issues trip it up on the path to greatness.

Starting with the positives nobody would comment on the game without mentioning the outstanding pixel art and top shelf soundtrack. Everything has a consistent and distinctive visual style, the colors are vibrant (looking especially great in handheld mode), and the music suits the on-screen action and settings well. Moving on to the platforming everything generally feels great. Your movements are fluid, for the most part the effort to get to any areas is reasonable, and in execution everything seems to have a great feel. Most of the trickier areas involving puzzles hinge on you making smart use of a weapon or technique you have at your disposal. Even when you know what to do getting the execution to work in your favor can sometimes be a bit picky, but in general these are rewarding and provide a nice sense of accomplishment to get through.

Moving on to the action combat with most generic enemies tends to be a matter of understanding their weaknesses and then using proper technique to deal with them. Whether that means firing a grenade, jumping on them with a stomp, or sometimes even simply avoiding them a little bit of experimentation will usually pay off. Scaling up to the bosses, which by the way always tend to be quite impressive visually, this generally remains true as well but be ready for a challenge in some cases. As is typical with boss battles you’ll need to switch tactics as they move through different phases. Clarity in what you need to do isn’t always perfect, especially since you sometimes need to coordinate to a degree with another character, but if something doesn’t seem to be working you just need to adapt until you figure things out.

Since everything to this point has been happy faces and rainbows, you may be wondering what’s left to be an issue. The unfortunate thing is my problems with the game come down to more peripheral concerns: The struggle of what to do and where to go, and the abundance of dialogue specifically. Let me preface these concerns, since the severity of my opinion on them may feel harsh. My gaming time is a bit sacred to me, and so any of that time I feel is wasted or lost on things I’m not enjoying gets under my skin in a hurry. So when I repeatedly found myself in a situation where I’d cleared everything out in an area and was ready to move on… but then couldn’t tell what I needed to do, where I needed to go, or who I absolutely I had to talk to in order to advance it drove me nuts. Lack of clarity like this can go hand in hand with certain genres like adventures but I find it inexcusable to the degree it’s present here in an action platformer. All it would have taken would be a simple indicator on the map or somewhere to help guide people on where to go, but instead I’d waste my time re-exploring areas, and wondering whether certain elements in the environment I couldn’t yet use were tied to my problem. Compounding my aggravation was the sheer volume of dialogue to try to skip through. I suppose the philosophical ruminations in the story could appeal to someone but, again, in an action platforming game I just want to get on to the action and completely stopped reading the dialogue blather after a while as not even the word excessive adequately describes the tsunami of text you need to get through to get back to the action.

Scoring this game has been a difficult task for me because on the one hand it gets so much right and absolutely impresses, but on the other the out of place time-wasting issues are something I have a substantial beef with. No matter how great everything feels when it clicks and is moving along there’s nothing quite as infuriating as feeling the minutes tick by as you revisit every area you’ve already cleared searching for the way to advance the story. I’d love to help heap more high praise onto what seems to be a very well-regarded title, but instead I’m finding myself as a dissenter who’d argue that on the Switch there are simply better options in this same vein with almost all of the same attributes but lacking its flaws.

Score: 7.5

  • Phenomenal art and character design
  • Fluid movement and control
  • Some great, and sometimes challenging, boss battles

  • Ambiguity on where to go and what to do too often chews up time pointlessly
  • For all of the philosophical blather of the text the story is actually simple, making the need to scroll through it all pretty aggravating
  • Some difficulty spikes, but nothing terribly unusual