Have You Played… Anodyne?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

Anodyne is a top-down game that acts as a junction where Zelda meets Earthbound, while Silent Hill looms large on the horizon. It’s a coming of age story with a side order of anxiety, as well as a game about games and the worlds that they occupy.

There are many moods in Anodyne and most of them are tied to a specific location. An hour might be spent exploring a picturesque forest, while the next might see you exploring a memory-haunted hotel. The retro graphics might suggest a limited palette but the game depicts as wide a range of environments as you’re likely to see in any game. The story that takes place across these interconnected worlds is personal and packs a punch, and the surrealist strokes that colour it are confidently crafted.

And then there’s the combat and puzzles. Calling any of Anodyne’s locations ‘dungeons’ isn’t quite accurate, but they’re constructed in Zelda-like fashion and will tax your brain with a variety of tricks and traps. Combat is simple but effective, and the game’s most notable flaw is probably the amount of backtracking required to complete it. Even that is a side effect of the size of the open world, which allows you to back away from taxing areas for a while – it’s rare to hit a complete dead end as there are generally other options to explore, you just might have to dash across a few screens to find them.

Anodyne plays by the rules of the games that have clearly inspired it but twists them, and adds its own unusual aesthetics and story structure, to create something unique and accomplished. If follow-up (in development rather than narrative terms) Even The Ocean is even half as engaging, it’ll be well worth keeping an eye on.

9 Comments

  1. Premium User Badge

    Oakreef says:

    I tried to play it on my phone but playing it with touch screen controls is horrible. Even worse than playing Sonic 2 on a touchscreen.

    • kalirion says:

      Yeah, I don’t see how it could possibly work well with touch controls, some of the precision platforming was rage inducing even on the PC.

      Overall nice game, though couldn’t make heads or tails of the story.

  2. Eldiran says:

    I personally wouldn’t recommend Anodyne, as much as I wanted to like it. Unfortunately it lacks any mechanical variation — unlike Zelda you never get any new items or abilities. It frankly becomes quite dull to play.

    At least it’s pretty.

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      SuddenSight says:

      I would say the opposite. While it doesn’t have the most mechanical variation, it more than makes up for it in varied locations. There is even an entire zone with no fighting or puzzling at all!

      Though it isn’t the tightest game mechanically speaking, and the story is confusing, I still love it to pieces because it has lovely dialogue and some of the strongest atmospheres I have ever seen in a game. The variation in palettes puts any Zelda to shame.

    • mechabuddha says:

      I, on the other hand, would recommend this game. The atmosphere and varying locations made this game quite enjoyable for me.

  3. Hex says:

    “An hour might be spent exploring a picturesque forest, while the next might see you exploring a memory-haunted hotel.”

    Is this uncommon in games?

  4. green frog says:

    Oh good, I was just about to ask what happened to Have You Played. You took a little break there.

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    Skabooga says:

    Anodyne put me in chill, contemplative moods like no other game.

  6. jpm224 says:

    Loved this game so much. I’m surprised you didn’t mention the awesome soundtrack though – this game was actually the first (and only) time i’ve ever gone and downloaded a game’s soundtrack to have in my iTunes. You can give it a listen at the dev’s bandcamp here, if you like: link to seagaia.bandcamp.com