Phew. It’s metroidvania season on BBLC, apparently, with several of them popping up in a row despite over 60 other games to choose from. I love the genre when it’s done well, but playing them together in quick succession makes it super easy to lose track of which protagonist has which powers… and which button shoots the gun. Argh.

But never fear, because although ~Pixel Art Metroidvania~ has become de rigueur across the indiesphere, Iconoclasts came before the trend- and wins bonus Beebs points for being my favourite genre, “solo indie projects by one person with more talent passion and drive than I can muster for anything”.

Pixelart (especially when branded “retro”) is often used as an excuse for ugly or lazy art, a trope which thankfully is disproven wholly by Iconoclasts’ bouncy, highly animated sprites, full of colour and character and making an artform out of showing a lot with a little. It’s uncommon for me to comment on the artstyle before the gameplay, but it’s unavoidable here- it’s immediately eyecatching and a joy to just watch, before you even pick up the controller.

It’s not all skin deep, either; Iconoclasts’ developer has some pedigree in the indie scene, with a catalogue I regrettably haven’t played any titles from but recognise as bastions of the scene in the early ‘10s- Noitu Love and its sequel Devolution among them. Konjak’s been doing this for a while and it shows, Robyn’s movement coming quick but never loose, and even the tutorial boss having a neat environmental quirk that sets it apart from just a tanky enemy.

Fin or Bin:

Reviews with anything negative to say typically pan how dialogue-heavy the game is; it’s not something that bothered me in mt hour, nor is it something that usually bothers me in a game even when it is a problem, and if that’s the worst Iconoclasts is going to do, I will gladly take it with a big ol’ spoon. Nah, this is my jam, I’m all about this kind of thing. I feel very stuck in my ways, but a big passion project is just always going to win my heart. I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to get stuck into one of your games, Konjak- maybe I’ll add Noitu Love to my backlog after I Finish this one.


Hollow Knight


It’s described as a metroidvania souls-like, and already it’s been compared to three different games before having a chance to speak for itself. Lets take those separately, then:

Hollow Knight is an exploration platformer (that’s the ‘vania) in a sprawling world that gradually opens as you gain new abilities (that’s the metroid), which absolutely refuses to pull its punches and deliberately excludes some modern home comforts like automatically-populating maps (there’s the Souls).

Of the comparisons, I’d say calling it a souls-like is the most unfair; where the Souls games delight in giving the player as miserable a time as possible, Hollow Knight is never cruel; the aforementioned maps can be bought with relative ease and the upgrade to have them automatically populate is earned early into the game (entirely skippable if that’s your speed), and the combat is entirely unrestricted by stats or gauges. Indeed, your success here is entirely based on your confidence and your skill level, and while Hollow Knight expects a great deal of both from the player, success and failure are never out of your hands.

At least, that’s usually the case. Hollow Knight’s aesthetic is very dark and dingy, which is absolutely beautiful, but comes with problems. Visibility suffers as a result, especially given the extravagant use of particle effects; many times I’ve struck an enemy to resounding applause of bright orange sparks, only to find once the smoke has cleared that the enemy was charging at me again and I’m about to take a hit with no recourse to avoid it. It’s highly frustrating, but I’m willing to own that one as likely user error- I typically fare poorly in dark games, having Binned a couple purely because I just couldn’t see a damned thing, while other players don’t seem to have that problem. Regardless, it’s one I’m willing to push through.

Fin or Bin:

It was perhaps a mistake to play Hollow Knight so immediately close to playing Metroid Dread, as the two games have enough in common that I’m confusing one with the other; no aeion dodge or double jump in Hollow Knight, alas (at least within its first hour). Also, I’m not at all jazzed about one particular Souls holdover- dying means losing all your currency and having to go get it back, essentially forcing you to retread the same path even if you want to explore somewhere else. I hate it when games punish failure in persistent ways- the main reason I don’t like roguelikes (except Hades).

Nonetheless! Hollow Knight is just too damn good. The controls are so, so sharp and the exploration so, so smooth. It might take me some time to get to it, but I’m not Finished with Hollow Knight yet.


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Shantae and The Pirate’s Curse

I’m playing the 3DS version, and there’s a 3D effect on her boobs. Just wanna get it out of the way right at the start. There’s a lot of fanservice, but it’s all very silly and the kind that you can just roll your eyes at.

Pirate’s Curse is the third entry in the series, picking up immediately where Risky’s Revenge left off. Half-Genie Half-Human Shantae is left without her genie powers after the wonderfully-named Risky Boots stole them, and now faces having guardianship of her homeland revoked. The ancient pirate king decides this is an excellent time to come back from the dead, and Risky ain’t about that at all so teams up with Shantae to make sure it doesn’t happen.

In gameplay terms, definitely more of the same- which is no bad thing. Metroidvania-lite 2D platforming with some of the finest pixel-art sprite animation I’ve ever seen. It really needs to be seen to be believed- the expression and fine detail shown in the animations of every single part of the world are astonishing.

Fin or Bin:

Risky’s Revenge was very good, if non-essential, and Pirate’s Curse is shaping up to be the same. It’s definitely more enjoyable if you treat it like a platformer with occasional backtracking, rather than a metroidvania in it’s full definition. It’s a Fin.



I am a big time fan of Metroid games, and it’s pretty apparent that so are the guys behind Guacamelee!. It’s a metroidvania title, but you could happily omit the -vania from that- there’s subtle references to all kinda of games throughout Guacamelee’s incredibly colourful world, but the upgrades literally come from Chozo statues. It’s pretty jarring to see such a blatant and direct reference to a game with such a starkly different tone.

This ‘vania title is more combat-heavy than usual, with a fun and crunchy combat system that flies along at breakneck pace. It can get a little chaotic, but fights are over before you know it and Juan’s off to the next platforming section before the pinata confetti has even had chance to settle.

Fin or Bin:

Me estoy divirtiendo, y lo Terminaré.