4 out of 5 - Continues the Music-as-Language theme of its predecessor while adopting a fun upgrade to Zelda 2's combat and dungeon design. Controls may be frustrating to some, but this is a Gem.
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How Metroidvania is it? High Fit. Chronicles of Teddy has a pseudo level system as well as “temples” similar to Zelda 2, but there is a lot of required backtracking due to ability gates and the world feels cohesive enough that there’s little argument that this belongs in the genre.
Primary Challenge: Exploration Focus
Time to beat: ~11 hours
Review Info: Chronicles of Teddy was played on Steam

More Info

Developer: Storybird
Publisher: Plug-In-Digital, LookAtMyGame
Sub-genre: Zelda-Like
Features: Map System, Guide/Hint System, 2D Platformer, Melee Combat, Riddle Solving Puzzles, Environmental Storytelling
Difficulty: Medium
Linearity/Openness: High Gating - Guided
Platforms: Windows, MacOS, Steam, Wii U, PS4
Release Date: 2015/04/02
Available Languages: English, Japanese, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Danish, Finnish, Korean, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Simplified Chinese, Swedish, Turkish

Store Links

    Steam    Humble Bundle    Playstation    Nintendo eShop    itch.io    

Buy Chronicles of Teddy if you like…

  • Zelda 2
  • Gorgeous Pixel Animation
  • Moody and Fantastic Atmosphere
  • Language Cyphers
  • Teddy Bears

▼ Review continues below ▼

No matter how much we try to codify what makes a game good or bad, and try to establish universal rules, there will always be those subjective feelings of why you like a game that are difficult to explain. Looking at the rules and philosophies that I subscribe to, I should probably be a little more harsh on Chronicles of Teddy, but something about it triggers a bias within me. Whether that be nostalgia or something truly magical about the game, it’s difficult for me to judge. Nevertheless I do think there is a lot to recommend about this game, but I also think there’s a lot about it that will rub some people the wrong way. I think if you genuinely enjoy Zelda 2 for what it is, and if you liked the language-based puzzles of Finding Teddy, then this game was made for you. Everyone else – be cautious, but I still recommend trying it out.

I have to qualify my comment toward people that liked Finding Teddy, because Chronicles of Teddy is a pretty drastic genre shift. They share some similarities with how the musical language tool works, but that’s where the similarities end. People that enjoy adventure games aren’t necessarily the same audience that enjoys action games, and even with that stated the Finding Teddy theme of “Making Friends” has been completely replaced with the typical “Murder all the Bosses” theme here. Thus people that enjoyed the first game might not enjoy this one; but I’m not that audience. As someone who clearly enjoys both the adventure game genre and the Metroidvania genre, the shift in focus is something I find worthy of celebration – even if I wouldn’t have minded more of the same.

The misunderstood twisted Narnia of the first game once ruled by the kindly Tarant has now been overtaken by a cackling lizardman sorcerer. Apparently between the first game and this one, our overalls-wearing girl protagonist has apparently visited with the Master Swordsman from Zelda 2 and taken all their lessons. She’s now equipped with a sword and shield, and the ability to attack with the same up stab and down stab that Link had at the end of his 2D adventure, in addition to the obvious “hit the thing” option. With no twists or subversion of expectations you need to solve four Temple dungeons and end the evil Lizardman’s rule. The game’s opening parodying the Original Zelda’s presentation of the story sets the reasonable expectation that there won’t be much more to this one. However, if you’re the type who likes to over-analyze things there are some environmental cues that could be interpreted as manifestations of the protagonist’s psyche – after all the Cupboard world could just be her fantasy place. There are a lot more NPCs to talk to this time, and just letting them spout their dialog fills your lexicom with important vocabulary, even if none of them are particularly memorable.

The language system works much the same way that it did in Finding Teddy. You have a sort of organ device that plays notes, which you use to sound out words as you learn them. There are of course points in the game that you have to learn what specific phrase you must say in order to progress. However, in the last two areas this is sort of dropped in favor of treating vocabulary like dungeon keys in a Zelda game; you progress to a dead end with language symbols on the wall, which you play for a specific door to make it open. The use of this musical tool isn’t just about learning vocabulary though, being able to match the tone of notes with sounds that you hear is important for at least 50 of the game’s optional collectables and a few required chests. There’s a lot of untapped potential for how this language system could have been used – it could have gotten really challenging and interesting. In spite of this, I thoroughly enjoyed the system, and consider it a unique selling point. Anyone just looking for a Zelda 2 clone may find it annoying though, which is why I highly recommend playing Finding Teddy first to see if it’s something you also enjoy.

The combat system is a little clunky compared to the free-flow of many other action games. The protagonist moves slowly by default, but you can move straight into a sprint by double tapping either direction or holding down one of the shoulder buttons. This mechanic makes the movement feel more like a cinematic platformer, and you’ll often need to get a running start to gain extra height or distance. It takes a lot of practice to get used to, and you’ll probably be running into enemies often until you do – especially if you play some other platformer between play sessions. Many foes have shields, and you have to bait them into creating openings where you can strike them. This requires you to be right up in their face a lot of the time, so closing that gap is a common necessity. If you accidentally double-tap trying to move closer, then you will take damage. While frustrating at first, I eventually reprogrammed myself to only press my arrow button once, and once I improved my intentionality, combat became a more strategic and enjoyable experience. Patience and a desire to see it all are required to get to this point, so for many this may be a deal-breaker.

The best combat is found while exploring around, since bosses are pretty hit and miss. The Zelda comparisons I keep making don’t end just at Zelda 2, since many bosses follow the more puzzle pattern formula of later games in that series. Some bosses are especially satisfying thanks to this, but others just plain frustrating spending much of their time invincible to any tactic you could otherwise use against them. The final boss is unfortunately guilty of this. While it was satisfying to finally take that boss down – both for story and challenge reasons – it can be heartbreaking if you fail in any of your attempts just because of the amount of waiting involved to do it all again.

To me the biggest highlight of the game is the exploration. The thing that Chronicles of Teddy excels at the most is atmosphere, so spending as much time its world just doing things was a delight. There are a ton of collectables, both hidden through sound cues and the traditional Metroidvania kind, so backtracking through all of the levels is very rewarding. Because of the higher-than-average difficulty of the game, upgrading your Sword and increasing your health feels almost necessary, which makes finding caches of marbles and enabling power-ups meaningful. You do eventually hit a point where all the significant upgrades are purchased or discovered, making it so finding just another box full of gradually spawning gems is less of a treat, but by the time that happens you’re free to beat the game as you please. Even when it becomes irrelevant though, just basking in the game’s music and beautiful art can be a reward all by itself.

Fans of the first game may be disappointed that this game emulates that “Nintendo Hard”, and even action fans will probably get fed up with the weightier controls. For me though, Chronicles of Teddy Harmony of Exidus struck an inexplicable cord, and while I fully admit that it’s not one of the best Metroidvania games I’ve played, it’s one of my personal favorites. It’s definitely not a game for everybody, but I think it’s worth checking out if it’s right for you.

4 out of 5


Final Score

4/5

Scoring system overview


Metroidvania Breakdown

Combat
– 3.5

Combat is Slow and Clunky, but once you get used to the controls it's very functional. Slightly spoiled by many bosses being out of reach for much of the fight.

Platforming
– 3.5

Like the combat, platforming is weighty and slow, but never challenging enough for it to become a major issue

Exploration
– 4

Diving into the world and discovering all of its secrets is the primary draw for this game, and it's an excellent world to immerse yourself in

Puzzle
– 4

While a good majority of the puzzles are lock and key style, there are some good language based puzzles to enjoy

Story
– 3

Your basic save the world plot - this game thrives on its atmosphere far more than its deep story

Graphics
– 5

Absolutely fantastic pixel art in helps to create an otherworldly mood

Music
– 5

The other half of the atmosphere equation, the music draws your mind into a dream-like state

Replayability
– 3.5

There are achievements for beating the game up to six times in New game +, but not really any incentive to do so other than enjoyment of the world


Want a second opinion? See what other reviews say:

Steam Reviews
All Time: Mixed
(68% of 215 Reviews)


79 Metacritic
Read critic reviews