Odallus: The Dark Call – Switch Review
I am not a fan of Metroidvania games so for me it’s somewhat difficult to review Odallus. I think that reviews should be left to people who know and can preciate the genre they are talking about, but there’s only me around so I’ll try my best to stay objective. This kind of games are a mixed bag of action of explorarion, trading the arcade feeling of action for the sense of wonder of explorative adventure, often sacrificing (and Odallus is guilty as well to some extent) exciting level design challenges in favour of watered down platforming that favours backtracking to skill challenge. Unfortunately in my personal experience, they tend to age worse than their action counterparts, and by playing Odallus you will confront a genuine re-enactment of the genre’s 8-bit era. Instants into the game and the feeling is recognisable, like when you’ll find yourself shaking the controller left and right to get rid of face-huggers in place of Metroids, only this time you are underwater and frantically gasping for air. Fun fact: I have died a couple of times waiting for those underwater bubbles to inflate enough for me to breath into, in a Sonic the Hedgehog conditioned behaviour. Well, it doesn’t happen, so you’d better find a way to keep your head out the water briefly or find another way… Thinking about it, that’s quite exciting isn’t it? Odallus is full of moments to keep you engaged. I especially enjoyed a platforming section where you are asked to climb while keeping attention to a shifting wind directions. In other istances you are required to solve a puzzle or find switches using hints provided, but there’s also an obstacle boat ride, boss battles with long neck abominations and everyone’s favourite flying meatball, and other bits that I’ll leave to you to not spoil the fun of discovery too much.It’s this kind of moments that keep your interest alive, curious to see what’s next.
Gameplay-wise Odallus plays like a traditional metroidvania of ancient times. Impersonating Haggis, a fearless warrior named after our beloved Scottish traditional delicacy, you will fend for yourself with your trusty sword, along with a set of consumable sub weapons. Provided you still have stock, you’ll be able to switch freely with a button between an axe that surprisingly travels straight, a kind of molotov/flame that works as your holy water (and it’s very effective against bosses) and a spear with an arch trajectory that is useful to impalw enemies that annoy you from different heights and angles.
The aspect I enjoyed the most about Odallus is how hard it tried to make itself more appealing for me, despite my dislike for the genre. This has been achieved with a series of implementations that while not disrupting the Castlevania traditional gameplay, make it more accessible and contemporary. Sub-weapons and hearts can be purchased in shops placed along the levels, thus making item collection limited to a single versatile currency. Hitting a chandelier to retrieve an heart was fun, but it has been done before and Odallus is aware of it. Well placed chests, maybe hidden in a secret passage, make up well for it.
The rest of the progression is quite standard, with the retrieval of additional hearts, relics granting new powers and stronger equipment. Exploration is satisfying, with a level design that feature branching paths and secrets passage, that however converge brilliantly to keep useless backtracking at bay. While I liked the level layouts, I wasn’t particularly fond of the scenarios. The burning village is there, and so is the acqueduct that is so reminiscent of Castlevania 3, but the overall graphic style doesn’t really keep up with the more famous installments. Sprites are big and well drawn, but I am not entirely sure about the chromatic choices. Sure, it looks a lot like Castlevania on the NES, but still left me with the feeling of fighting an army of monochromatic Exogini using some sort of color-blind colour scheme.
Odallus almost won me over, with its choice of keeping an old metroidvania clunky gameplay feeling, but smoothed with intelligent design choices. Personally it didn’t make me change my mind about the genre as whole, but I recognise its merits. If you like the genre, you will find a lot to love in Odallus.
– Good exploration and progression feeling
– Intelligent design
– it’s still a metroidvania
– debatable art style