We've got a fair share of great Metroidvania style games on the market already, including The Mummy Demastered, which actually lends the troubled franchise with some much-needed credit (kudos, WayForward!); and the classic Axiom Verge, which packs imminent replay value thanks to its imaginative structure. But, like any good genre, there's always room for one more, and you shouldn't ignore Joakim Sandberg's labor of love, Iconoclasts.
Released for PC and PlayStation 4 (and playable on PS Vita, in case you needed a new game for that platform – who doesn't?!), Iconoclasts relies on humble gameplay terms, but pushes them to brave new heights, thanks to storytelling that keeps you fascinated and character that actually make a difference. Like Celeste before it, it has something special about it that will keep you glued to the very end.
The game starts off introducing Robin, a mechanic who's got big dreams, although they're weighed down by a religious conglomerate that consistently pushes back every time someone bends their precious rules. This eventually forces her to set out on a journey, against their terms, using her big wrench and her athletic abilities. Where that journey goes, I won't spoil here. But it's a lot better than you might be expecting.
Digging Deep Into the World
Robin in herself a great character, not afraid to fight for her convictions (she's mocked quite a bit for her decision to become a mechanic, instead of the "greater role" assigned to her), but she's not cocky about it either. Her compassion is pure, and as you journey along with her and interact with others, Iconoclasts really starts to open up. These others are creative characters in their own right, too, and how they get involved in the adventure is just as intriguing.
It doesn't get heavy handed, mind you. Sandberg knows how to keep things balanced with storytelling. Even though the end times seem to be lingering around, the characters remain (somewhat) hopeful, and in some cases, not afraid to make a wisecrack or two. It's set at a pace we don't see too often in games – and others should follow its example.
But there's gameplay to go along with the story here, and Iconoclasts has some awesome stuff. It relies heavily on exploration, and relying on you to use your wrench and other abilities to get around and open up new areas. There are also a handful of puzzles, though you'll need to do digging in some cases to solve them. But that just proves the devotion Sandberg has put into his product, even while you may feel frustration at times about the path not opening up right away. Patience, Padawan.prevnext
Where the Combat, Graphics and Music Come Together
It's not all puzzles, though, as you'll use combat abilities over the course of the game, for smaller enemies and memorable boss battles that are actually well thought out. You can also better your abilities in a number of ways, though it's more about improving your existing skills, rather than opening up new ones. I'm fine with that, though, because you actually feel the difference here.
Wrapping up this package is a meaningful presentation that, once again, goes above and beyond what's expected. The graphics look like something from a wondrous game from the past, complete with charming little animations, convincing level design and a fine use of colors. The game simply leaps off the screen – even on one as small as the PS Vita. And the music is a hit as well, with a number of attractively composed tunes that tie into the adventure without missing a beat.
Man. We've gotten a lot of good old-school inspired platformer/adventure games as of late, and they just keep on coming. Sandberg's Iconoclasts is the latest game to knock me off my feet, a game that builds upon a rock-hard foundation with its story, complemented by appealing gameplay and an elegant presentation. It gets a little frustrating towards the end, but there's no question that the impact of the game stays with you. Iconoclasts is built to last.
WWG's Score: 4/5
Disclaimer: A review code was provided by the publisher.prev