How Metroidvania is it? Low Fit. The primary game loop in Eagle Island is going to resemble a Roguelike more than a Metroidvania, but its Roguelike levels are indeed connected by a Metroidvania style hub world.
Primary Challenge: Ranged Combat
Time to beat: ~10 hours
Review Info: The Steam review code for this game was provided by the Publisher.
Buy Eagle Island if you like…
- Platformer Roguelikes
- Accuracy over Speed Combat
- Challenging Games
- Gorgeous Pixel Art
▼ Review continues below ▼
If you’re not already sold based on the gorgeous pixel art, I can attest that Eagle Island fully lives up to its visuals with quality gameplay. It is a game that doesn’t give a care about genre rules, and it uses its borrowed design concepts to create a modern masterpiece. It has flavors of its inspirations – many parts that are reminiscent of other titles – but yet it’s unique enough that it’s impossible to directly compare it to anything. Thus I can’t say that if you like Metroidvania games you’ll like Eagle Island, nor can I strictly say that if you like platformer Roguelikes that you’ll enjoy this game. But if you enjoy hard-but-fair platformers and a gradual power progression to keep the interest high, this isn’t a title you’ll want to miss out on trying.
The game opens up with you and your two owls embarking on an adventure of exploration to discover the secrets of the titular Eagle Island. Danger is introduced immediately, and from the beginning the story puts a nice personal hook in your heart that pulls you all the way to its ending. Your journey will take you through Rogue-like levels with several unique biomes and gimmicks. Each level will reset itself if you die. Make it to the end and you’ll face off with a challenging boss and uncover a Metroidvania-style power-up that will let you progress further through the game’s hub world.
Dying and losing all of your progress would be really frustrating were it not for the amazing combat system. Your main means of attack is throwing your indestructible bird friend like a 150kph baseball and bashing them into enemies. You can throw eight directions, and to help you with your aim you freeze momentarily even if you’re in the air. If you miss, your bird takes longer to recover leaving you completely vulnerable, but if you hit you’re rewarded with instant recovery, allowing you to rapid fire your bird again. With no dodge button, your only means of defense is also putting your bird between you and the damaging object.
On the core difficulty, you’re given only three hit points, meaning that accuracy is crucial. Enemies tend to die in one hit, so dispatching a foe removes the threat, but every single mistake you make is likely going to be punished with a counter attack. Thus, skillful deftness in moving around enemy attack patterns while tossing your bird around is required to survive. In support of this accuracy-based combat, enemies move relatively slowly, telegraphing their attacks heavily. Every enemy type also moves in a very predictable pattern – including bosses. A careful player can very feasibly defeat a boss on their first try. While the combat is generally slow, you’re encouraged to move swiftly and take risks since killing hitting enemies in quick succession gives you combo rewards – including health refills on a 4x or 6x combo, which are so often much needed to extend your run. Because of the pacing and skill-based rewards, when you die on any given run, it feels completely fair, and I always felt motivated to try again. It creates a very addictive “Just one more try” and “Just one more level” game loop that practically carries the game by itself even without all the extra power-ups.
Metroidvania Style Power-ups and temporary Perks are added to the mix to help keep each run unique and fresh. Being able to swim and jump higher serves the same purpose as it does in any Metroidvania game, but the perks add a dash of strategy and luck to your run so you don’t feel like you have to be completely reliant on your bird throwing capabilities. Each one has a time limit further encouraging faster play, with more powerful perks having shorter lifespans. The most useful perks for me were the ones that extended my health, since I tend to be unnecessarily reckless. More attack oriented perks are usually based on your mana-based abilities or are short-lived – so the benefits are subtle enough that an astute player can make excellent use of them, but a less-skilled player won’t feel like they need anything specific to be successful. Thus it never feels like you’re being screwed over by the RNG.
For level design, the roguelike elements are beautifully used to ensure that the repetition is always interesting. Having the game divided into levels also mitigates the chances that you’re going to spend hours on a run without anything to show for it. The levels run about 15 minutes long when played optimally, making Eagle Island fantastic for bite-sized play sessions. Each biome also has unique monsters and traps. There are common monster types, but pallet swapped enemies also have an extra twist to their attack pattern that can catch you off guard if you’re not expecting it. Using the core rules, each time you die the level layout is also completely changed, so that high tension feeling of not knowing what’s around the next corner is ever-present.
If you don’t like the punishing difficulty of the core rules, there’s also the casual game setting and the option to play with a specific seed rather than the levels randomizing themselves each time you die. Casual is still no walk in the park compared to other – easier – games. Enemies still behave exactly the same and take just as many hits to kill. You are however given six HP instead of three, and treasure chests also heal you substantially, so it really takes the sting off of the winner-takes-all normal difficulty. Using a seed will ensure that you can repeat a level over and over to memorize the layout and what each treasure chest has inside it, which is almost a game unto itself – it sort of turns Eagle Island into a Mega Man style level based game rather than a Roguelike. There’s even an official seed offered for players that prefer this option.
The game’s main story mode is beautifully paced, with the required levels offering just enough to be completely satisfying. If you’re going for 100%, each level has a hidden coin inside of it which unlocks an ultimate challenge. While there wasn’t a single point during the main quest that I wasn’t hooked, I did start to get a little burnt out doing the optional content. Every required level has a hidden harder version. Most of the time there is an additional twist to make it still even unique, but trying to swallow it all in a weekend was a bit much. I think that Eagle Island is a great game to enjoy in bursts – in fact it’s practically made for it – but I don’t recommend burning the midnight oil on it.
The story itself is very well written. From the very beginning stuff happens that gets you motivated. There are twists and surprises along the way that aren’t too surprising if you’ve played a lot of games that use the same tropes, but being a little bit cliché doesn’t prevent the game from getting emotional at points. The presentation is very Nintendo-like, so if you’ve enjoyed the stories in that company’s games you’ll probably enjoy Eagle Island for its story as well.
Once you’ve completed the game’s 2-10 hour campaign (length depending on how good you get), there is so much more to do if you’re still interested. You can dive into the game’s Roguelike mode which skips the Metroidvania Hub World and offers specific challenges with limited power-up loadouts. There’s also a weekly online competition for speed running – and with its mechanics I can see Eagle Island being a fantastic game to master and test your mettle against the best with.
Eagle Island is a fantastic example of why the Indie scene is so important, and it fits in so well with the finest of games. Its story and addictive gameplay loop will keep you coming back and that glorious taste of achievement when you finally take down that level boss will reward you for it. It’s probably not what a more purist Metroidvania fan will be looking for, and going for 100% might age the formula just a little bit. However, fans of action platformers in general should not give this game a pass – and thanks to all of the game’s accessibility options, my recommendation is for everyone; it doesn’t matter how skilled a gamer you are.
It's slow and meticulous, with accuracy being more important than any other skill. It is the epitome of hard but 100% fair.
Platforming challenges aren't heavily emphasized but during combat your ability to position yourself is a live or die thing to master
Not quite as robust as a ''Perfect Fit'' Metroidvania, but it nicely enhances the roguelike gameplay
A few bosses and encounters take a little bit of ''Zelda-Like'' figuring out, but otherwise puzzles aren't a major focus
Excellent narrative drives the player forward nicely, even if it doesn't have anything particularly profound to convey
The pixel art harkens back to the SNES era perfectly, and gorgeously conveys everything it needs to for the action
Music is relaxing and generally appropriate, but there were times I wished it was a bit more epic
You're likely going to be replaying each individual level a lot as you go, but there are so many options for score chasing and speed running you could easily sink hundreds of hours into this
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