3 out of 5. When a game is as drenched in charm as Intrepid Izzy, it's easy to look past what could have been and just enjoy the mood. It's not a masterpiece, but it doesn't need to be.
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How Metroidvania is it? Medium Fit. Levels are built like linear platformer experiences, but very shortly after the beginning you have a lot of choices on where to go with some necessary backtracking.
Primary Challenge: Melee Combat
Time to beat: ~5 hours
Review Info: The Steam review code for Intrepid Izzy was provided by the developer.

More Info

Developer: Senile Team
Publisher: Senile Team
Sub-genre: Brawler Hybrid
Features: Map System, 2D Platformer, Melee Combat, Fast Travel/Teleporters, Collectathon, Cute, Family Friendly
Difficulty: Medium
Linearity/Openness: High Gating - No Handholding
Platforms: Windows, Sega Dreamcast, Steam, PS4
Release Date: 2020/07/26
Available Languages: English

Store Links
Note: PS4 and Dreamcast versions are coming at some point in the future.

    Steam    

Buy Intrepid Izzy if you like…

  • Cute candy coated game worlds
  • Relaxing immersion
  • Beat-em-up games
  • Dressing up
  • Pattern Based Boss Fights

▼ Review continues below ▼

In the early 90s, the 2D platformer was the king of the genres. Every licensed tie-in was a platformer and every company large and small tried their hand at making them. All of them were mirroring the popular works of Sega, Nintendo, Capcom and Konami. Sega especially experimented a lot with the genre’s possibilities. You had of course the Marios, the Sonics, and the Mega Mans, but you also had a lot of more unique lesser known titles like Kid Chameleon, Dynamite Heady, and Ristar. Intrepid Izzy feels like it fits in exactly with those more niche 90s platformers, aside from having a wholly modern look and higher quality music to go with it. It even runs about the same length of playtime. Intrepid Izzy doesn’t have depth and complexity where it doesn’t need it, and it has a cute and bouncy atmosphere. It’s pure candy, and a really fun way to spend a few hours.

It all begins when our protagonist Izzy opens a treasure chest that releases an evil blue Genie on the world. Nothing is explained about what Izzy was doing, what she normally does do on any other day, or even what the exact dangers of the blue Genie’s powers are. Izzy is apparently some kind of Indiana Jones-style archeologist who solves most of her problems using her fists, which I conclude because the first part of the game has you in a tomb beating up monsters.. while wearing only a T-Shirt and jeans. It’s this kind of insane setup that brings back memories of the early 90s, because back then theming and plot really didn’t matter either. You’re just a girl and there are monsters made out of kiwi fruit that you have to punch, okay?

You’ll be doing a lot of punching in Intrepid Izzy. None of the enemies can handle the amount of hitstun you bring to their poor fragile bodies. Once you get a lock on any foe you’re only a few button mashes away from permanently ending the fight. Where the challenge comes in is actually getting that first hit in or dealing with more than one enemy at a time. The range on your basic punch is fairly minimal. You kind of have to be inside your enemy’s sprite to guarantee each of your hits will connect. As such, any enemy that has a range longer than a centimeter is likely going to answer your aggression with a trade. By default you only have three hearts however, so trading hits is a poor deal for you in the long run – especially since this game has Metroidvania qualities making you want to stay in the game in order to explore. Eventually you’ll have to figure out that you have two very powerful combo starters; an aerial jump kick and a grounded kick with more reach. By using these two moves, actually getting in close with the enemy becomes fairly trivial. Once you do land that first hit there’s nothing the enemy can do except die, but Izzy herself must be occupied during the process, so an ambush from behind can be problematic. There are also enemies that can break free from the stun lock – especially bosses – but for the most part managing stun locks describes the basic strategy of the game.

The twist on the formula, and what keeps the game interesting, is Izzy’s ability to change costumes for special abilities. These abilities mostly apply to unlocking new areas to play in, but they also add a little more flavor to the game’s platforming challenges. Just as an example your likely first costume, the squirrel suit, allows you to glide in the air and ride currents upwards. Some costumes sort of have only one application, kind of like finding a stick of TNT to break open a wall once and then never worrying about it again. Later costumes have redundancies with earlier ones, removing the need to switch so often. At their best the costumes work as an extended level gimmick. Most of the costumes still have Izzy doing the exact same punch combos as the default costume, so their real purpose is to aid in exploration.

Thanks to some excellent music tracks and a generally catchy atmosphere, exploring around is always a treat. If you’re looking for a strict “Metroidvania” experience, Intrepid Izzy is a bit of a light offering, but it does have enough optional pathways to somewhat satiate the appetite of someone looking for that kind of thing. The issue is that Intrepid Izzy lacks a staple upgrade to make every exploration path rewarding. The only thing that might change the way you play the game are the game’s health upgrades which come in 4 parts to a heart. Collecting all of them doesn’t give you more than a 2/3 increase to your starting health, but every extra hit does make a difference. You can also find coins and optional seashell collectables, but neither of these offer permanent upgrades. Coins only have two uses: playing mini games in the town’s arcade – which I’m not sure do anything other than provide a small diversion – and they’re used to buy healing and buff items from the local restaurant. Unless you’re using a full coarse meal on every boss fight, you’ll likely find yourself pretty stocked up on cash by the end of the game, which I guess there is an achievement for that, but it’s not particularly exciting.

The biggest bugaboo with the exploration though is how costume switching works. When you first collect a costume Izzy changes into it immediately, but for some reason in order to switch to a different costume she has to go all the way to her house and change in her room. An NPC comes out when you first get two costumes to explain this is to preserve Izzy’s modesty (or something) but she seems perfectly willing to toss her modesty aside as long as the style is new. The game is generally designed around not switching your costumes often so this isn’t a huge deal most of the time. If you’re like me though and happened to miss a few collectables in an earlier area – including maybe an item that’s required to beat the game – you may find yourself spending an unnecessary amount of time running to your home and back to get the most optimal costume for the situation. It’s one of those things that makes sense from a concept and realism perspective, and it’s also entirely possible there are situations where the player might have been confused or might have triggered a softlock if they were allowed to switch at any time. Ultimately though it feels like an inconvenience. Maybe having Mario style power-ups or dressing rooms along the way might have alleviated this problem a little bit.

Perhaps the strangest part of the costume system is its complete irrelevance against the game’s bosses. I mentioned before that most costumes use the basic fist combos Izzy has access to from the beginning. The only thing that makes most of them different is their special attack. The problem with special attacks is that you can only use them after collecting a specific number of purple crystals to power your energy bar. When you die you lose all of the special energy you’ve collected, and all of the game’s bosses except the last one put their checkpoint at exactly where the boss fight starts making it impossible to backtrack and refill. This means that unless you’re always keeping a plate of the food item that restores your energy in your inventory, you’re basically going to have to use only your fists on every boss fight anyway. I once entered a boss room with full energy and it was kind of fun to drill the boss’ face in with the magic vampire punch, but because I wasn’t familiar with the boss’ pattern I ended up dying anyway, and from there it was back to memorizing the pattern and doing it the slow and punchy way.

Every boss ends up being the same kind of thing. You can’t just stunlock them like you can with normal enemies, so it’s a switch off pattern of dodging their attacks until they have to take a breather, and then punching them as much as you can while they’re on break. None of the bosses are bad by any means, but this setup does mean you have to memorize when you can make your attacks and when it’s too dangerous, and when you have a max of 5 hp this means you’ll be performing quite a bit of trial and error to get there. Reusing a couple of bosses later in the game only exacerbates some of the repetitiveness of this formula.

The final boss doesn’t even allow you to use any costume but the default one, which kind of had me asking what was the point of even having a costume system. I found an optional costume that I didn’t even get to use, which was especially disappointing since it seemed like that costume might have at least triggered a different dialog before that final fight. It made the costume system seem more like a side thing the game happened to have rather than a core piece of the experience like it should have been. The missed potential is that the final boss could have had you switching to many different costumes and putting all of the skills you learned throughout the game to the test. Instead it’s just another trial and error punchy challenge – which isn’t bad, it just feels lackluster compared to the potential I think most players might have expected. Any time a game telegraphs an epic climax – or even just a clever application of its ideas – and doesn’t deliver, the game ends up feeling too short. It doesn’t help that the game actually is only about 3-5 hours long. Being that this is supposed to be a $19 offering I’m going to wager that “Too short” is going to be the main complaint coming from most players.

The music and visuals do a lot for getting you into a fun-loving mood though, and that mood is what Intrepid Izzy does best. It’s fun to run around any of the game’s levels because it just feels like a party no matter where you are. When a game is so drenched in charm it makes it a little harder to take critical step back to dissect where things could be improved. I think if a player is just looking for a fun escape, the presentation values are very capable of making you forget about everything else if you let them. I’m also always a proponent of game length not being a major issue if the game serves its purpose, and sometimes the lower commitment level can be a benefit. Intrepid Izzy is by no means this year’s platforming masterpiece, but it is a fun game. In the end, isn’t that enough?


Final Score

3/5

Scoring system overview


Metroidvania Breakdown

Combat
– 3.5

Stunlocking your enemy until they die manages to stay interesting with new gimmicks and situations, though memorizing boss patterns can be repetitive

Platforming
– 3

Not majorly challenging, but there are some good platforming sections here and there

Exploration
– 3

There aren't a whole lot of optional collectables that do anything extra for you, though it is fun to run around the map and check everywhere

Puzzle
– 2

Fairly non-existent, except figuring out what traversal method you have to use to move forward.

Story
– 2.5

It's your basic excuse to have a bad guy to beat up. It doesn't get in the way, but doesn't drive you forward either.

Graphics
– 4

Animation is fluid and conveys the gameplay well

Music
– 4

Catchy tropical tunes add a bouncy energetic mood to the game

Replayability
– 2

Currently there isn't a whole lot to entice repeat playthroughs other than self-imposed challenge runs.


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