How Metroidvania is it? Low Fit. Leowald doesn’t really have you searching for movement upgrades to progress – you’re put into missions with Metroidvania style levels and you occasionally get a movement upgrade as part of the story.
Primary Challenge: Melee Combat
Time to beat: ~7 hours
Review Info: The Steam review code for Leowald was provided by the Developer.
Buy Leowald if you like…
- Customizable Equippables
- Diverse and Quirky Characters
- Aesthetic Collectables
- Treasure Hunting
- Side Quests
▼ Review continues below ▼
Leowald is the sequel to Zeran’s Folly – both are games made by just one person who has a love for all of the creative aspects of game creation. Leowald and its predecessor have roots in Flash Games, as it shows by the puppet style artwork and animations. The imprecise nature of these kinds of games isn’t totally conducive to tight and challenging gameplay, but that weakness can be made up for with clever game design, or an interesting and worthwhile story. Technically, Leowald might not be either of those, but nevertheless the second game in this series has very much improved upon the first, and even proves the phrase “greater than the sum of its parts” – if you’ve got an open mind to recognize that.
You play as Felix or Felicia depending on which one you pick, and you’ve just joined the Adventurer’s Guild – a group of mercenaries that do odd jobs for members of the kingdom for profit. Very quickly you find out that your character is looking for some McGuffin, so the guild you quickly fall into favor with helps you out by giving you quests that progress you toward that goal. Along the way you’ll run into NPCs you might recognize if you played Zeran’s Folly, as well as a diverse cast of entirely new characters and bosses.
From the start you have the ability to run along walls – even on the ceiling with enough momentum – and you your upwards attack on your starting weapon gives you some upward lift, sort of like a double jump. The running on walls ability is only sometimes utilized, and rarely are you ever required to perform a platforming feat with precision – which is good because the floatiness of the controls and generally poor conveyance of collision would make that extremely frustrating. Just about every new zone provides some kind of level gimmick to keep the experience fresh however – you’re not just running to dead ends to grab keys to move forward. Some of these gimmicks are great fun for the first little while you see them.
As is the risk with any level design that uses gimmicks though, there are bound to be a few that annoy more than provide enjoyment. There are some enemy types that are literally random with their patterns, which is never a great thing when you’re trying to manage a steadily reducing health bar between checkpoints. Sometimes you’ll scroll up into some foe flying off the side of the screen that you couldn’t possibly react to, but there’s wide variety of enemy types usually specific to the zone you’re in, most of these frustrations are pretty well contained, allowing you to look forward to something different if you persevere through where you’re at.
On higher difficulty modes, the inaccuracies of the control scheme in conjunction with the level design, along with the randomness of some of the monsters, would be extraordinarily frustrating – however you’re given a ton of customizability from the start to mitigate some of its worst features. Several ring shops are available to you right after the tutorial dungeon that offers up a variety of extra effects to help you along. The primary thing preventing you from using too many at once is your ring level, which represents the number of rings you can have equipped at once. You also have to pay for the rings, but they’re generally pretty cheap so you can plan out your strategy and get what you need pretty easily. Even if you can’t there’s a game breaking Blackjack game available right next to an easy access save point which you can use to get as much money as you want just from saving and reloading. I don’t know if I can fully get behind recommending this though because it does contribute to the game getting a little boring in the long run.
My biggest complaint about the level design overall isn’t that any of it is particularly bad, it just wears out its welcome pretty quickly. Part of this is that exploration isn’t always very rewarding. A lot of times you’ll battle through a crazy pit filled room with monsters blocking your every move only to find a chest with a paltry 100 gold in it, and you still have to backtrack your way out of the mess. After a while the game starts to feel padded with rooms like these, in part because of the exploration problem, but also because the challenge feels repetitive or completely played out. I understand the desire to make your game feel lengthy – I know there’s a perception that game length is tied to satisfaction. It’s not enough to just take the player’s time, however. To use an analogy I’ve used before, a musician doesn’t care about the length of his or her song, it’s about the expression or the composition of the song itself. No musician would add a bunch of white noise to the middle of their piece just to stretch it out and make their audience think they got their money’s worth just from the time spent on it. It’s a lot of work, but every part of the game needs to justify its existence somehow, otherwise it comes off as sloppy. Leowald has improved a lot from Zeran’s Folly though, and the level design’s weaknesses are somewhat overshadowed by the game’s RPG aspects.
I’ve intentionally avoided making this whole review about “this vs that” comparing to the first game – mostly because that gets tiresome especially if you haven’t read all my complaints in my review of that first game. It’s worth bringing up when talking about the story though, if for no other reason than to address the question of whether you should play the first game before playing this one. There are a lot of references to the first game, but for the most part Leowald is pretty self-contained, which is good. I will say however that story is the one thing that Zeran’s Folly does just a little bit better – in spite of the absence of constant sexual references in Leowald. It was fun to travel along the road with the various characters in the first game, and I did feel a genuine connection to the cast by the end. There was also a mystery involved that, while pretty predictable, did drive the story forward well. In Leowald, you’re just a prodigy looking for McGuffins of one flavor or another – it’s not a bad setup, as many famous video games do this including the Legend of Zelda series – but playing the game for the story it’s just not particularly interesting.
The above paragraph is about where I’d leave my opinion on the whole of the game’s story, but then Leowald threw me a curve ball that changed everything. I thought that I was just going to be posting a review about another game that I personally thought was mediocre with a few praises to the developer for how much their work has improved. Instead, I was left questioning my entire approach to rating games, and alas my approach to life, friends and family in general. This is because there are some deep, and personal expression conveyed in Leowald, that technically took me out of the game but in one of the most profound ways possible. I saw for a moment not just a construct of music, graphics, and mechanics, but instead the personal experiences of the creator itself – and I felt compassion.
As a game, Leowald fits pretty well within the honorable tier of games I recommend with many caveats. If a game is what you’re looking for, take my analysis and score as the baseline representation of my opinion on it. However, looking beyond that, looking at Leowald not just as a piece of entertainment to be consumed, but instead as the creative journal of a maturing fellow human being; that’s something that has value that I can’t really put a score on. There are so many things that could have been done better – that have been done better in the gaming industry – but then that’s almost the entire point. In the midst of the mess that I had originally perceived, I found within Leowald something that could be called art.
Hit boxes and movement are a little difficult to predict, and button mashing is a viable strategy for many enemies - but bosses have a variety of gimmicks that change this up
A lot of the level design is seemingly designed to stretch out game time rather than challenge the player. Other areas can be ''Cheated'' with equips, or involves messy mechanics such as desynced platforms. There are some good sections, but overall the platforming seems more about travel
Some great rewards for your diligent cartography, but they're among a lot of boring chests with paltry amounts of gold, thus mixing the fun exploration with frustration
Mostly ''lock and key'' puzzles, which isn't a bad thing, just clearly not a focus for the game
Typical macguffin finding fare, with hints of far greater ideas mixed in; that is until something astonishing presents itself, that you may love or hate
Floaty animations makes controls feel a little more imprecise than they need to be, otherwise the aesthetic is pleasant
Semi-Generic music with a few tunes that are memorable.
Three difficulty modes, lots of different weapons to try
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