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The Iconoclasts Impressions

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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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Quintin Smith

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