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A Miserable Little Pile Of Letters: ASCIIvania

Bs! Bs everywhere!

What ASCIIvania lacks in vampires, whips, and lovably horrendous dialogue, it more than makes up for with letters. You collect letters. You solve puzzles involving letters. You are letters. All of them, even. It’s a pretty simple premise, actually: Half-formed words act as barriers, and you have to complete them to make them disappear back into the great alphabetically organized beyond. The rest – despite looking like a command prompt combined with the frenzied scrawlings of a mad man – is pretty traditional Metroidvania. You run, you jump, you collect powers (double jump!), and, er, backtrack. There is definitely a lot of backtracking. I molded letters into thoughts after the break. They will provide you with the greatest incremental puzzle-solving power of all: knowledge.

By and large, I enjoyed playing through ASCIIvania. Its simplicity, though, struck me as a double-edged sword, primarily due to the fact that – once I moved beyond chuckling at the initial gimmick – there wasn’t much to the puzzle-solving. But I don’t think that’s necessarily reflective of pithy puddle-like depth on the part of the central mechanic. Rather, the puzzles are just really straightforward and telegraphed. I mean, there are a few neat ideas in there – like the need to switch letters at the last second while dissolving a word so as to keep the last bit as a platform or switching letters as you leap ever higher, carefully avoiding spelling a full word lest you plummet back down to asterisk-laden loam.

Also, the word formations in each room – while amusing – don’t seem particularly coherent. That’s a shame, because I feel like sparse text (and a healthy helping of player interpretation) could both tell an interesting story and provide a motivation to keep collecting letters and progressing. So ASCIIvania’s a fun concept, and it won’t strain your brain too terribly much, but there’s quite a bit of room to grow. Anyone feel like making ASCIIvania: ASCIIymphony of the Night?

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Nathan Grayson

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