How Metroidvania is it? Medium Fit. The combat and open world will be pleasing to many Metroidvania Fans. However, its primary gameplay challenge is Spatial Reasoning Puzzles, and it has a great focus on Story, which makes its required level design fairly linear.
Primary Challenge: Spatial-Reasoning Puzzles
Time to beat: ~10 hours
Review Info: This game was played on Steam
Buy Iconoclasts if you like…
- JRPG Style Storytelling
- Fun, expressive humor
- Emotionally rich characters and events
- Spatial Reasoning Puzzles (Aka, like Block Pushing puzzles)
- Challenging multi-phased bosses with a puzzle twist
▼ Review continues below ▼
When a game promises to convey a “personal story about faith” and “purpose”, I buckle up for the risk of a train wreck. With Iconoclasts however, I not only got to see a wonderfully mature and thoughtful series of ideas and unique situations, but as the game escalated into its climax it ended up being a wild ride of surprising experiences. The game has a high focus on Spatial Reasoning puzzles over your typical combat/platforming common in the genre, and because of that I’m not positive every Metroidvania fan is going to enjoy this particular cup of tea. But if you DO enjoy these kinds of puzzles, along with some excellent (but also puzzle heavy) combat, and a JRPG style of story-telling, Iconoclasts may in fact be the best game in the entire genre for you.
I’d like to emphasize the story aspect first, because in my mind that is one of the the primary draws of the game. The way it is told is nothing short of masterful. Robin is a silent protagonist, and Mario RPG style she pantomimes most of what she’s thinking – and like Mario RPG it’s incredibly cute and entertaining. I’m not normally a fan of the Silent Protagonist, but the decision serves the game well to magnify the game’s fantastic supporting cast. There’s a lot of quirkiness throughout the narrative that helps to keep it fun, but at no point did I feel like any of the game’s villains were non-threatening as a result of it. The game celebrates life with its presentation while keeping a tone of tension in a remarkable balancing act that places Iconoclasts high on the list of great storytelling in video games of any genre. It tackles themes that are controversial in a philosophical way, reminding me of games like Xenogears, particularly on the topic of faith. It cautions against blind adherence to dogma without necessarily discounting the benefits of religion – leaving a lot of conclusions about the very real feelings conveyed up to the player to interpret. It’s the kind of story that I could write essays about in analysis, and I really don’t feel like I’m overselling it by saying that.
But with that said, there is also a very clear gameplay focus. The game begins with no cutscenes, and provides only signs that explain the game’s controls through the conveyance of pictures. The tried and true method of teaching the player through gameplay is tackled magnificently from the very start. Bosses begin their AI pattern gradually, showing off each of their attacks individually before they ramp the challenge by mixing attacks together or speeding up. The puzzles too put each of your new abilities to the test as the game progresses.
And it all works together thematically as well. Puzzles involve moving platforms around using your wrench to turn bolts and wheels, often permanently changing the landscape, which gives this game a feeling of everything unfolding gradually as you fix the worlds problems. As you unfold the story and mysteries of the game it’s like a puzzle box where each layer reveals something new and often surprising. Even the combat is deceptively simple at first, giving me the impression that this was indeed a puzzle game above all else – until the stakes got to the point that I was facing enemies that tested me as much as some of the greatest encounters in the genre.
Iconoclasts is nearly perfect, but that isn’t to say I don’t have a few nitpicks. The music is good but not quite as memorable as some of its Indie Contemporaries – which is less of a fault and more that the standard has been set so high in that regard. The tweak system is interesting but I feel like the execution could use a little work. The metroidvania exploration element of this game has you finding one of four crafting materials that function as fractions of these equippable tweaks that affect your stats in specific ways. If you get hit in combat, you lose one of your tweaks, which you can recharge by collecting enemy drops – it’s sort of like Cave Story. Unlike Cave Story however many of the tweaks are less attractive for combat and more attractive for puzzle solving or more exploration. If your equipment is focused on anything other than combat then the risk of losing your tweaks becomes less of a source of tension, almost making the system feel pointless. There are a few key tweaks that are especially useful when fighting, but even on the game’s harder mode I never felt like I was desperately trying to keep my energy levels at maximum as part of my survival; my incentive to avoid being hit was strictly about not dying. The near irrelevance of the tweaks is especially important because they are the only reward for exporation.
But I consider complaining about the tweaks a nitpick at best. Exploration is rewarding in Iconoclasts because it is fun, and there are also challenging bonuses available to the most stalwart achiever in that category of gameplay. Even if my only reward for exploration were bits of poo, I’d still do it because it is enjoyable.
Which sums up Iconoclasts in a single word; “Enjoyable.” I’d add the important “thought provoking” and “challenging” to the descriptor, but I know for some people the pure joy this game provided for me is enough for my report.
If you like the three things I mentioned in the
first paragraph, that is, JRPG style storytelling, Metroidvanias, and
Spatial Reasoning puzzles, get this game. It may be the best purchase
you make this year.
A slow buildup, but escalates into bosses that match the best in the genre
Platforming mostly incidental to other challenges.
Fairly linear. Rewards are fun to find, but not particularly useful
Fun spatial reasoning challenges that can really stump you
Incredible narrative. Advertised story about Faith and Purpose truly delivered.
Colorful. Animations are perfect for the Silent Protagonist's expression.
Catchy and appropriate, but not as good as some other indie games
Includes a New Game + mode and potentially some missable story secrets
Want a second opinion? See what other reviews say:
Recent: Very Positive
(90% of 50 Reviews)
All Time: Very Positive
(88% of 2,518 Reviews)