Monday 4 March 2024

A Void Hope Review (Switch)


It’s been a while since we last had a game from Elden Pixels. Their previous output has been excellent, and we’ve covered all of it. They are most well known for the two Alwa games, while also publishing the excellent Cathedral and retro inspired Kraino Origins. Their latest game is a platform puzzle game with a heavy emphasis on narrative set in a collapsed city blighted by a strange plague.

The player takes control of a couple as they look for a cure and try to decipher between reality and distorted memories. You start out by playing the husband who has seemingly been infected by the mysterious plague. His part of the story is to search the city for memories as he tries to keep hold of his mind. Halfway through it switches to the wife who is searching for a cure. There isn’t any ability difference between the two but it’s a story beat that works well.

In terms of how the game plays this is very much on the narrative side of narrative puzzle games. It’s a 2D platform game but the challenge involved is minimal. Players move around self-contained levels looking for items, exits and computer terminals. Early on you also pick up a sort of phase gun thing which can be used to shoot switches and defend against infected creatures. But aside from box pushing and switch shooting there isn’t much else involved in the gameplay but it does the job well enough.

Speaking of the infected, they are there to present small obstacles and little else. As you traverse the world, people within the levels will sometimes phase into some kind of monster. These can be shambling shadow people, dog creatures that are much faster or a sort of flying bat thing. There is a random element here as people can change into any of the creatures and it’s not always the same people that turn. You never get more than one creature on a screen though. Of course, if they touch you its back to the last checkpoint.

The infected creatures form one of the biggest stylistic issues we had with the game. While the game looks beautiful with its pixel art style, there is a lack of reaction from inhabitants we found a bit jarring. Most screens have numerous citizens doing various things. Some are sick but others are just standing around eating sandwiches or reading papers. As such you would think when a creature appears they would react in some way, but they don’t, they just continue to stand there. Now, this could be part of the whole ‘is this a memory or dream’ thing but we really could have done with a little more immersion in this area.

As a game we did find A Void Hope didn’t really grab us in the way that we expected. There are just too many elements that need a bit more punch to them. Neither the platforming or puzzles are particularly engaging, and the combat is completely functional. There’s a snake like mini game as well which kicks in when you access a computer terminal but it’s awkward and not particularly fun. As a narrative experience though, it’s effective and tells a good story so if you know what you are getting into there’s a lot to be taken away from the game.

Overall, it’s nice to see Elden Pixels going in a slightly different direction with this project. As a story driven title it works quite effectively but as a game it’s not as accomplished as their other output. We are glad we played it and the story itself is excellent. If the studio can tie this sort of narrative to a stronger gameplay loop then they’ll really have something.

Overall 7/10


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