Anodyne’s biggest problem is that it isn’t Zelda. I know that seems an unfair thing to criticize a game for, but Anodyne is trying so hard to be a Zelda game that the comparison has to be made. In an age where the Zelda formula has been turned into a science, I’m not sure why you’d play Anodyne, given how many better games there are available to you. It falls short by comparison and tries to make meta statements about franchises like Zelda, while being a game that’s not really strong enough to support it’s arguments.

The Zelda series features a set of dungeons in a larger overworld, each one containing an item that will help you to progress through the world and there’s always a clearly defined goal like gaining the Triforce or defeating Ganon. Anodyne on the other hand strips away that large inventory of items and replaces it with a single item: a broom that can either attack or move dust. This not only limits the interesting ways that boss battles can play out, but seriously impacts the puzzles contained in the game’s dungeons. The puzzles you encounter in the first dungeon will be incredibly similar to those in the final dungeon and all the dungeons between, due to the lack of tools.

Anodyne progresses by collecting cards hidden in chests rather than via items earned in dungeons, which leads to a lot of backtracking and searching for extra cards you missed. This has a notable, negative effect on the sense of open exploration and pacing.

I could have forgiven the other failing if it wasn’t for its completely disjointed story. I’ll be the first to admit the stories in the Zelda series are often a little basic, but they lay out a clear premise and give a goal to aim toward. Anodyne tries to go a different route by offering up a large scale mystery, but it quickly becomes apparent that they have no intention of answering my questions as a player, and simply threw a lot of things in to try and seem deep.

anodyne2edit

There’s some hints during the game about what’s going on — suggestions that this is all in the character’s mind and that he’s using games as an escape from some emotional turmoil, but this never builds to anything. There’s no ending where he overcomes or succumbs to the events in the outside world. No character development. Hints just get more vague and nonsensical as the game progresses. The sense of mystery and the unusual nature of the world had my interest at first, but there came a point where more mysteries and still no answers failed to drive me through the thin gameplay. There is potential here for a deep, philosophical reveal, but in the end the world was weird for the sake of being creepy, and half of the things that happen seem arbitrarily deep. There’s just not enough story to connect to the any of the characters.

The other problem with the wafer thin story is that, at times, it tries to make meta statements about Zelda being stuck rigidly to its old formula, and that it’s stagnant, simple and repetitive. While this could also have been put to good use, the problem is that you can’t lecture a game on its design when your game isn’t as good. The developer’s haven’t created a better formula here than the Zelda games already use, and their attempts to lecture the franchise seem like cheap shots that ultimately don’t carry any weight.

Wrap Up

I wanted so badly to enjoy Anodyne, but the problem is that it tries mechanically to replicate Zelda but, in pretty much every way, fails to be as enjoyable. Its story is confusing and convoluted  and it tries to lecture games on their design that, frankly, are much more enjoyable experiences. It’s mechanically competent, but it ultimately just left me frustrated and wondering why I wasn’t playing one of the ten year old Zelda games instead.

4

Please read our Reviews Policy here.

About The Author

Founding Member

Laura’s gaming journey began in the 90′s when she was given a SNES by her older brother with Mario paint. From that day video games were all she thought about day or night, be it playing them, designing them, discussing them or writing about them. Why does she want to write about indie games? Because indie devs are awesome and she wants to be their new best friend by telling them how terrible their games are. That’s how it works right? Twitter: @LauraKBuzz Email: Laurak@indiehaven.com

Related Posts

  • trbo_fr13nd

    When I played Anodyne, I felt like “weird for the sake of being creepy” was exactly the point in a lot of cases. The game itself is basically filled with Easter eggs, with its menagerie of characters each with several different lines of dialogue. A big part of it is to just see the sights and get around, as opposed to plowing through the game and having the story thrown in your face. It’s about finding the little moments here and there that might not add up to something huge but are still there for you to experience, albeit maybe in a small way. The new broom mechanic introduced at the end of the game supports the idea that exploration is the point, by allowing you to play beyond the ending. But if you feel like a game needs to stop at the ending, and if you feel like exploring to collect all the cards is just “backtracking”, I think you’re missing the point that playing the game is more important than just beating it.

    I also think you’re taking Anodyne’s criticisms of other games too seriously. The game knows what it is, it knows it’s like Zelda, and it knows it’s different, not necessarily better. I didn’t feel like the things it was saying were supposed to be earth-shattering revelations, and I feel like if they were, then it /actually/ would have been pretentious. If the game were more ham-fisted with its messages or story, /then/ I would have felt like it was pretentious or trying too hard to be deep, but as it is I feel like it leaves any messages it might have for the player to take or leave as they want.

    As for actual gameplay, I frankly thought it was fun as hell. Again, a large part of the gameplay is just exploring the world, but I found enough challenge in getting through the game as it was. It didn’t knock me over the head with difficulty, sure, but neither does Zelda.

    Finally, you didn’t even mention the awesome soundtrack, which is a big oversight, you dummy.

    tl;dr: I don’t think you understood what the game was going for. You also probably have a hard time looking at paintings.

    • LauraKate

      Thanks for taking the time to reply, nice to see some constructive critisism 🙂

      Firstly, you mayu be right that I was looking for something different from the game that what it game in terms of exploration being the goal over story, but that I think is because the start set up as if it was going to have a connectable story, hence that’s where my expectations where.

      Also, having to play under time constraints as I do when reviewing may have effected my position on card collection being fun vs a chore. Good observation, just one that’s sometimes difficult to disconnect from my reviewing position.

      In terms of the critisisms of Zelda and similar games that’s down top personal opinion. I know people who felt it was light hearted, but personally it just bugged me and made it feel in some ways pretentious.

      Soundtrack was okay, I didn’t think it was anything particularly spectacular enough to effect my overall opinion on the game, it was overshadowed by my personal issues with the game.

      Thanks again for responding and letting us know your thoughts.

  • Jacob Kennedy

    I’m sorry but this was just a badly written review in general. From being straight up wrong at points (the broom being your only item, and puzzles never varying) to seemingly missing the point (saying the game is some sort of meta-criticism against Zelda games seems to imply you came into this game with that viewpoint already set in stone rather than giving it a chance of its own) it’s just not very good at all. There’s also the fact that you expect the game to give you everything on a plate, while at the same time you want the game to wrap everything up without playing the whole thing. I even doubt you’ve played Link’s Awakening because Anodyne is clearly a huge love-letter to Link’s Awakening from gameplay to puzzle, not some sort of criticism of it.

  • Turkey Burger

    Wow, what a horrible review.

    • Isaac Federspiel

      Thanks for the comment! But try to keep comments constructive if possible. The text is just her opinion.