The Iconoclasts Impressions

By Quintin Smith on April 1st, 2011 at 3:34 am.

'Sorry, I don't smoke.' Man I would make a great girl.

I first saw this over at the Indiegames Blog- The Iconoclasts is a remarkable, unfinished freeware platformer by indie dev Konjak. Not only is what’s here beautiful and whip-smart, it’s consistently funny and even touching. Download it here, or, if you’d prefer, you can read about why you should take an interest in supporting this game after the jump.

Ah, balls. Did I just say you should like this game? Urgh, I’m always setting myself up like that. But let’s get started.

Generosity is a rare trait for a game to have. Part of the art of making a commercial video game is in stretching out what content you have like so much pasta dough, so as to give the player more hours of play for their money, whereas most freeware indie games often don’t have that much to give away in the first place.

Most, but not all. The Iconoclasts is impressive first and foremost because it has a great deal to give away, and doles it out like some effeminate, twinkling Santa Claus. Around every corner is a new mechanic, a boss, a delightful conversation, a reward, another glorious bit of pixel art, some crisp exposition or inventive piece of imagery. This game is a labour of love that hungrily wants to be loved back, and it’ll be a shit turn of events if Konjak doesn’t get off his arse and snap together a a Kickstarter page so people can give him money to finish this, because The Iconoclasts deserves to be finished.

But more on that later.

The Iconoclasts is a game about a tuff blonde girl called Robin (not to be confused with the other tuff blonde girl called Robyn) who lives alone after her father was taken away and killed by shadowy government forces.

His crime? Practicing mechanics illegally. In this world, science and industry is controlled exclusively by the theocratric government, and batteries are handed out by your local church, so a local handyman is a much-loved renegade. Robin takes after her father and has earned tidy piles of love and resentment from her local village, but the actual plot of The Iconoclasts only reveals itself with time.

Other noteworthy things about this world include the moon, which is crumbling away to nothing and flattening whole houses with its debry, which is a shitty thing for a moon to be doing. There’s something suspect about these disasters, yet the game spends as much time distracting you as it does drip-feeding you clues. Like Portal, the artistry here is that the game provides a mystery, poigance and comedy simultaneously, without any one genre treading on the other’s toes. And like Valve games in general, some of this story is conveyed silently and elegantly through the environment.

Outside of its storytelling, The Iconoclasts is simply a rock-solid platformer. First and most obviously, just look at that pixel art. It’s what I would very quickly describe as “lickable”, and the animations are just as good. Second, Robin passes the first test of 2D platforming in that she’s a joy to chuck around with a mathematically perfect amount of slide and heft to her. The level design is simple – this isn’t quite Cave Story – but it’s functional, and again, generous. Puzzles are, with one exception, short and sweet, new elements and enemies are introduced eagerly, boss fights are satisfying and your weapons are top-quality tools. There’s even a bit of Metroidvania exploration and retracing of your steps, with dirty great chests always hiding exactly where you might expect.

Ultimately though, you’ve only got enough time to get used to all these mechanics when you bump into an invisible wall. That’s your lot. As I said before, this game is totally unfinished and according to the somewhat foggy posts at the top of Konjak’s blog, he gave up on it and released it in this state not two days ago because he’s concerned about funding (and tired, would be my personal guess).

The comments on that post predictably exploded with people telling him to pull up his socks and get a donation scheme sorted, and since then he’s posted twice more, questioning whether people would want to support him and whether they’d mind if he made a different game first, to get him used to a different coding language.

All in all, it’s still uncertain whether he’ll ever finish this, and whether The Iconoclasts will ever make the transition from a slap in the face of raw talent to a brilliant 2D platformer. But if that Kickstarter page does ever materialise, you’d better believe RPS will link you to it.

Here’s that download link again. Go take a look at what this man’s built.

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81 Comments »

  1. Dominic White says:

    Everyone who hasn’t already, buy Konjaks previous game, Noitu Love 2. It is SERIOUSLY good. Support the guy with your money, because he’s clearly one of the most talented solo indie developers out there, but for some reason can’t seem to make enough money.

    • Hypocee says:

      I knew I knew this guy! Bought Noitu Love 2 back in the day. I wish KBAM-specific brawlers were a much more deeply mined genre. Anyway, if anyone knows how to move sprites around it’s konjak.

    • MadTinkerer says:

      Well if he’d finish and put up for sale more of his games, I’d buy them!

    • Diziet Sma says:

      KBAM? Isn’t that a radio station in America.

    • Lambchops says:

      As i alluded to in my post below, he’d probably make more money if he released more finished products!

      i’d certainly buy them and encourage others to do so.

    • JackShandy says:

      Seconded like the coming of fucking christ. Konjak is a rennaissance man through and through, and Noitu Love 2 made him my hero.

      Seriously, Art, Programming, Sound and Game design this good coming from one man? Some people have all the luck.

    • skalpadda says:

      @JaskShandy
      I’d suggest “Game design, Art, Sound and Programming this good coming from one man – GASP!”

    • Waltorious says:

      Konjak is pretty great. In addition to Noitu Love (free and good) and Noitu Love 2 (costs money but is much better) he also made a really cool Zelda fangame in the form of a single-level beat-em-up platformer with gorgeous sprite art that you guys might enjoy. It’s called “Legend of Princess” and you can grab it from his site for free. He also has several other unfinished prototypes that can be interesting.

      I’ve grabbed the Iconoclasts but haven’t had time to play it yet… looking forward to it.

  2. Pointless Puppies says:

    Such beautiful pixel art *sheds tear*. I can barely muster up acceptable-level sprites for my games :(

  3. Small Ivory Knight says:

    How far does it last? I get to the burnt out house, which I assume must be the father’s and the game crashes. Bug?

    Redownloading. it’s SOOO PRETTY.

    • Xan says:

      Yeah that’s a bug, be sure to save and try it a few more times.

      Seems the game ends a bit after the first boss battle once you’re in the second area, it goes into a weird sound error and you can’t go any further then the elevator at which you get stuck.

      I really hope he finishes this game, I think I’m gonna buy his only finished game to show some support.

  4. Memph says:

    It does look gorgeous. As does Noitu Love 2 for that matter.
    I get retro nostalgic tingles just looking at it.

  5. Wedge says:

    I recognized the art immediately. Must check this out….

  6. Archonsod says:

    Sounds nice. But I left platformers when I left the 8 bits behind and have no intention of ever going back.

    • sigma83 says:

      Why?

    • ulix says:

      So you’ve never, ever played the best classic (and even contemporary) 2D-Plaformers in existence?

      Just asking, because they were all (with the sole exception of Super Mario Bros. 3) 16-Bit games.

    • Nick says:

      Because they need fully voiced characters and romance options.

    • Pete says:

      Romance options in your platformer? Aren’t you overlooking Mario here? I suppose you don’t have much of an “option” there..

    • Shih Tzu says:

      And over here, I played Cave Story and my life is now quantifiably better than yours.

  7. Alan Alda says:

    I feel a tangible sense of loss that this is likely the only place this kind of thing will be brought to my attention… I suppose there are indie games blogs out there somewhere? More than the one mentioned?
    ps. debris

    • sigma83 says:

      I actually like debry as an alternate spelling, I assume it’s intentional. DON’T CHANGE IT.

    • Lars Westergren says:

      The Independent Gaming Source is a big one for indies. If you are into RPGs, GameBanshee and RPGWatch often mention news about indie or niche titles for that genre.

    • BurningPet says:

      While a very good website, Tig source has those gaps in updating, sometimes its only one post a week, and frankly, most of the time it is just old news, Indiegames.com is where it is all at for me.

    • Alan Alda says:

      Thank you very much!

    • lhzr says:

      tigsource ain’t updated as often as http://www.indiegames.com/blog , so give that one a shot too.

    • Waltorious says:

      I would just like to add that both TIGSource and the Indiegames.com blog highlighted Iconoclasts already, so I actually knew about it a few days ago. So no, RPS is not the only place highlighting games like these, but I’m very glad it is! RPS has a lot of crossover to readers who aren’t familiar with the indie games sites.

      Also, while the TIGSource frontpage does not update super-often (every few days, usually) the forums are very active. It’s a community of indie developers and they often throw cool contests like the “versus” contest that just finished, where they got over 80 freeware games based around multiplayer competitive play. I haven’t had a chance to try them out yet but the winner is currently highlighted on the frontpage and it looks quite good.

    • Alan Alda says:

      I misspoke, I think – I simply meant that personally my browser was woefully lacking in indie games bookmarks. Rectified now!

  8. The Army of None says:

    GOD konjak does good work. I will buy anything he makes, no matter how far in advance, or donate if he puts up a page.

  9. silverhammermba says:

    I got to a part in the desert where there’s a bunch of soldiers and a bugged out elevator. Couldn’t figure out how to get any further.

    If you’re stuck:
    1. In the first area, go back to your house after you fight the first boss.
    2. In the first town, speak to EVERYONE. There’s a certain person you need to talk to in order to advance the story.

  10. vash47 says:

    I just checked out this and Noitu Love 2 on Youtube. This guy just oozes talent (unlike some indie “stars”), I’m very fond of the music which hit a nostalgia nerve deep within me.

  11. moosedown says:

    konjak is the man. the side scrolling zelda he made was some good stuff.

  12. lokimotive says:

    This is pretty special, though right now I’m stuck on the second boss (the one from the fourth screen shot) because I’m dumb and can’t figure out how to get mina to shoot.

    But, poking through this guy’s site I’ve realized that I’ve been a fan of his work before without even knowing it. Chalk is fantastic, and everyone should check it out.

    • The Army of None says:

      You can use the button you normally use to shoot, once you’re wrenched on, and aim with the movement keys. Hope it helps :)

    • CMaster says:

      @TheArmyofNone
      I’ve been trying that, and nothing happens. I can aim fine, but the normal shoot key does nothing…

      Edit: Nevermind, seems it’s a context sensitive fire button…

    • JackShandy says:

      I think she just charges up and shoots automatically if you center it over the target. I just hammered A while putting the crosshair over the target, seemed to work.

  13. Soda6 says:

    Played to the 2nd save point so far and been very much enjoying it. Gotta go to bed now though since it’s late, wish I could continue!

  14. Henke says:

    I could swear that’s a small sprite-based Tom Waits sitting in the bar in the first pic.

  15. Berzee says:

    Let me just take this moment to say that I think we’re safe.

  16. Berzee says:

    Pshew, I’d buy a coffee table book with those screenshots in it.

  17. MikoSquiz says:

    “a local handyman is both a much-loved renegade”? Is that ‘both’ not supposed to be in there, or should there be an ‘and’?

  18. Lambchops says:

    Konjak is brilliant and I’ll certainly buy his games on release (like I did with the rather wonderfyl Noitu Love 2 and you should all do too) but I can’t help but be a bit less inclined to throw donation money his way as he seems to have a track record of abandoning projects right, left and centre (I do like that he’s honest about it and tends to make the unfinished versions available but in terms of gettin cash perhaps honesty isn’t always the best policy!). For example, whatever happened to Chalk Deluxe? Chalk was brilliant, it was definitely a concept that had the potential of being developed further.

  19. Chunga says:

    Konjak needs to get his things together and get some of his games done. He’s got talent but he is throwing it away on unfinished efforts.

    When he gets this one finished, then I’ll think about giving him money. He’s had his chances already.

  20. iLag says:

    The first Noitu Love is also quite good, and it’s free. But I’d really suggest you all go out and buy Noitu Love 2. Amazing little game (quite short, but completing it gives you an entirely new character that controls differently. so there’s lots of replay value!)

  21. BooleanBob says:

    The second you see the first screenie of this you know it can only be konjak. Terrifyingly, wretchedly talented man that he is. I think I will be buying a-what he is selling today, yes sir.

    Also: I take it whip-smart is the new ‘tight de jour’ Quinns :3

  22. Melf_Himself says:

    Servers…. choked….. may be faster to write down individual 1′s and 0′s on paper.

  23. lunarplasma says:

    Debry. Everyone use this word now. Debry. SAY IT!

  24. ninjapirate says:

    There’s a donation button on his site now.

  25. Lachlan says:

    A brilliant little platformer with an interesting and well-told story. I was merrily curious about the world and quite horrified when the nastier side showed up (and downright aghast at the implied onscreen…well, if you’ve played it you can probably guess. Nice use of a very tragic Chekov’s Gun in the background art). More subtle methods that exploit the game mechanics, like the way the church looms over the town, were also nicely done.

    Am I correct in thinking the end of the game currently is the transparent wall over the exit, three screens into the desert?

    I really hope this goes into full production. I’d happily pay money for it. It has the most charm and mystery I’ve seen from a game in ages.

    • mcwizardry says:

      You can continue if you go left and up the platforms at the desert stage. The ledge/wrench jump section there is pretty frustrating or maybe I’m doing something wrong.

  26. mondomau says:

    I’m not all that into retro 16-bit style gaming, but this brilliantly captures the feel of that era while simultaneously being new and fresh in it’s design and execution. Donation away!

  27. pakoito says:

    Why is it unfinished?

  28. Wulf says:

    I simply must try this, I’m absolutely convinced that I must, so I’m going to do so. It does indeed seem like the lovely sort of thing that I’m apparently hardwired to enjoy. That and I’m very intrigued by the setting and the storyline, which actually do seem more than a bit unusual.

    I’ll also second the motion for a Kickstarter page. Kickstarter being one of the best things ever, and I’d happily do a way early preorder for a complete version of this game, because I think that Konjak could sell something like this, quite easily. And even if it’s not a preorder, I’d share my money anyway. I took a chance and shared my money with the people doing CreaVures, and that was by far and wide one of the most unexpectedly delightful games I’d played in a long while, it really surprised me. That it’s gone unnoticed and that RPS haven’t covered it is a crying shame.

    Also, Mr. Quinns? Debris.

    (Oh, and I’m also going to ruin the plot for everyone and call simulated reality right now. With the reason that science is outlawed being that too much playing around with the fabric of reality could break the simulation.)

  29. Koozer says:

    I am disappointed this isn’t geology related.

  30. McDan says:

    “lickable” Why isn’t there a tag for this?

  31. Wulf says:

    I really liked what I saw, there, but I felt that it was a tiny bit too unforgiving and frustrating for my tastes. I had that feeling early on, but it continued on throughout the game, to the point where someone mentioned above, which is where I quit. And this is from someone who completed VVVVVV and found all the gems without really feeling very frustrated at all.

    There are two things that could be done to remedy this…

    Have an autosave feature every few screens. We’re not working with ancient hardware any more, and I’ve been programmed to accept that saves happen automatically, so I don’t think to run back to the save statue every few screens, and even doing so is a rather unnecessary inconvenience which interrupts the flow of gameplay (which is actually really nice barring that). Not to mention that if I try something ridiculous and it gets me killed, having to rerun a large section of content because I forgot to save is a huge inconvenience.

    I think that the nut-swinging should be loosened up slightly, when trying to do a difficult part that requires me to go back through screen(s) of enemies when I fail it, the last thing I want to be seeing is my wrench literally going directly through the nut and not at all connecting with it, despite having made a clear graphical connection. This just provides extra inconvenience which makes the difficulty curve feel overly artificial, like the game will be elongated by the times you miss a wrench-grab by a pixel.

    These aren’t complaints, really, but feedback. I might go post them on Konjak’s site too, but I’m worried about peoople flaming me, thinking of me as a troll. I’m just trying to give some constructive criticism here on this. And I understand that my changes might not be for everyone, so make the save change a new difficulty setting named ‘Casual,’ wherein there are no save statues and the saves happen automatically. Or the save statues are far more liberally placed and saves happen by just running past them.

    Either way, I’d still throw money at this because I’d want to support it, but for an aging gamer like me, unnecessary and artificially structured stress isn’t something I want. I can take a challenge, I beat VVVVVV without a complaint and actually found it easy. It’s inconvenience that bothers me. Give me the toughest challenge possible, make that difficult to complete, but don’t force me to replay through content to elongate a game, because that’s something that’ll make me quit a game rather than wanting to continue. Being forced to press through the same content again when I want to be seeing new stuff is a massive turn-off. I can take a challenge, but not a challenge + X amount of screens of inconvenience on top of it.

    • JackShandy says:

      I agree that the wrench-swinging was too unforgiving, especially seeing as it usually forces you to run back around in order to try again. Apart from that, though, what did you find so tricky about it? It gives you a massive health-bar, and you could grind enemies for health anytime you were feeling down. I found myself rubbishing through sections, cushioned by my enormous bar.

      As in life, so in games, I suppose.

    • Lambchops says:

      An enormous bar? Ooo err!

    • Wulf says:

      This is getting a bit ridiculous.

      http://pastebin.com/AnHfrCs1

      Can someone tell me what there might have set the spambot off? :p RPS, I’m sorry, your spambot is as broken as Ubiplay. It’s stopping real commenters from commenting, but it’s not stopping actual spambots from spamming.

    • Berzee says:

      I have a habit of doing crazy things which get me killed – not playing games normally, then.
      ^ That is the only sentence it will let me post from your pastebin.
      Oh-ho! I was able to post the third one with a reply fail down below.

    • coolguy5678 says:

      I might be wrong, but it seems improving Expertise makes the nut-swinging more lenient. The second time I played, I bought an Expertise upgrade and it seemed to get easier after that. Or maybe I just got better.

  32. Antsy says:

    The 2d platform/rpg is one of my favorite genre’s since I played Flashback on the old Amiga and its sadly under-represented these days. The DS/GBA has a few games like this: Metroid, Castlevania etc, but with everyone chasing 3D its hard to find much like them on the pc. I’d love to see someone produce a game that caters to modern pc’s but keeping the 2d asthetic. As it is, i’m quite happy to consume little gems like this.

    Does anyone know of similar games?

  33. Berzee says:

    A spambot test:

    This lead to a few heavy sighs.

    • Wulf says:

      My way of writing must really make the spambot tweak out. D:

      Thanks for helping to debug this though, really, I’ll put some thought into this and see if I can figure out how to avoid triggering it in future.

  34. Stompywitch says:

    I could watch her animations all day. It’s simply amazing. Good pixel art always makes poor polygon art look rubbish, and this is no exception.

    Where must I send money, and how much. Srsly.

  35. Reddin says:

    This looks really lovely. The pixel art is amazing. The header image alone was enough to make me want this game.
    I really hope it gets finished at some point.

  36. Tengil says:

    How much is there after the bit with the elevator next to three shelves of boxes in the desert? The game bugs out at that point, so I want to know if I’m missing anything significant.

  37. D3xter says:

    This game is awesome :P I’d totally buy a full version if this ever gets released on Steam and is priced @ around 10-15€

  38. nemryn says:

    I can’t get past the part just to the right of start, with the doors you wrench up, and then there’s one without a wrench spot. Do you have to lure an enemy in there with you and jump off him?

    Edit, Nevermind, I got it.

    • shukov says:

      Mind sharing how you completed that part? Very much stuck there…

      Edit: I hate myself :D Jumping randomly and I climbed above the door.

  39. kalidanthepalidan says:

    FYI – Konjak has a donate button up on his website. Go support him. A designer and artist of his talent certainly deserves it.

  40. Longrat says:

    Noitu love is a great game. I gave the bloke some money, I hope he can work everything out and finish the game!

  41. fenriz says:

    So this game is great for everything except the gameplay, which is “simple platforms”.

    goody. Caaaaan’t wait for the game to be finished.

    God, can’t i stare at a concept art if i want something that’s visually nice?

    Where are puzzles? Where is Flashback, or Out of this world gameplay goodness?

    • Serenegoose says:

      I was with you up until the point you mentioned flashback and OoTW as examples of good gameplay, unless you measure a games quality by the amount of times you have to reload it, because those games essentially were just a whole load of ‘surprise, you’re dead!’ linked up with odd cutscenes. Classic games, but also pretty much the first ones I think of when I think of unforgiving, ‘replay until you find the only route through’ gameplay.

    • fenriz says:

      Well, OoTW gameplay was ingenious because it was a laser game in a steady camera. Shooting sequences aside, everything changed everytime, there weren’t repetitive bits. From the black bull-thing rope chase, to kicking the nuts and rolling sequence(unforgettable), to being in the arena, and finally crawling, the game was constantly unique. It was incredible(and well i was young so i loved Dragon’s Lair). It’s still way more than i can expect from these platformers.
      As for Flashback, i hated shooting, but i loved the 2nd level, the one with the subway. For me that’s the WHOLE of flashback when i think about it :)

      Having said that, i think INDIE devs should discover the wonders, the joy, the amazement of Isometric visuals(Crusader series)

    • fenriz says:

      This game makes me want to see a good anime(as long as it’s yuri!)
      This way instead get a game that bothers me because it interrupts the story goodness and general kawai-city, and i still wish it were a full fledged anime kolossal.
      Result= pain.

  42. Ralphomon says:

    Konjak is a demigod of indie games. Chalk is amazing, Noitu Love 2 is so much fun, and funny, and jeez wouldja just look at his pixel art?! Joakim makes consistently tight games and it’s really sad that he seems to be in a creative and financial slump at the moment and has released only unfinished WIPs or abandoned projects in the last year or two (or more). I await with baited breath the release of the full version of The Iconoclasts and Chalk 2, because it would be a grave injustice to let this man be forced to give up making games. As soon as I’m sure I can actually pay my rent, this guy is getting every penny I can spare.