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.