Two games in a row, now, we’ve had to struggle with the unreliable narrator- or, perhaps, the difficult-to-trust narrator. Where QUBE’s narrator promised I was totally on a spaceship and would totally get to talk to my wife soon, Anodyne opens with a direct instruction from a nameless and presenceless source- you will use the arrow keys to move.
It’s an interesting choice of language, and one that immediately sets the tone- Anodyne’s dark and unsettling dream-like nature is immediate and pervasive, with even the comedic moments being just off-kilter enough to feel sinister.
It feels a lot like a dark take on Link’s Awakening, a comparison the game itself makes several times with some direct references to the dialogue in that game. It’s something I wish happened less- or rather, not at all; they tend to steer the mood towards parody, and cheapen the tone the game has worked hard to set.
Anodyne describes itself as a ‘Zelda-lite’, with the best comparison being the original NES title. You move in the four cardinal directions and thrust your weapon- in this instance, a broom- forward one players-width in front of you to defeat enemies. Rather than collectible items, Anodyne has interactible elements in the world with which to solve puzzles. Sweep up a pile of dust and shake it off in front of a laser beam to block it, or guide enemies in front of the laser to defeat them and open the gate. It works fine, and the fact that most puzzles are contained within a single screen keeps the pace brisk.
Fin or Bin:
There’s a few instances of things ‘just happening’, which is tricky to do well- it often falls into the “lol so random xD” pit where humour goes to die. I think the overall foreboding atmosphere, and the dreamscape presentation, complement it enough that it hasn’t bothered me yet outside of some fourth-wall breaking references. I’m intrigued to see where the dream takes me, which makes it a Fin!