anodyneAnalgesic Productions' latest iOS release, Anodyne Mobile [$4.99], is in many ways everything I love about recent Indie-games; often surreal, provoking thought through narrative-commentary, and reflective of the personalities that birthed it. These games should also be engaging, comfortable, and function properly - which sadly Anodyne doesn't nail-down entirely; remaining a frustratingly-enjoyable experience throughout.

Anodyne's resemblance to one of the greatest Zelda games rests entirely on perspective and genre, alone. Narratively, this coming-of-age story trades a princess, swords, and magical triangles for a hero named Young, broom-sticks, and the philosophies of David Lynch. The story that unfolds lacks cohesion and interprets the minds of its makers into ominous vignettes, which speaks of much more than a desire to kill the pains of life through video games. Anodyne's narrative remains intriguing and enjoyable from start to finish, though, even when I wasn't quite sure what I was being told.

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Anodyne gives you a large open-world to explore; collecting keys, cards, and upgrades as you unlock your way through the gates that control the pacing of its adventure. Taking from early Zelda inspirations: the path that leads to what's next is barely hinted at, effectively leaving the players desires to explore more of The Land as motivation. A hub makes traversing back and forth through Anodyne's wonderful worlds a simple endeavor, and eases the frustrations of scrolling across near-endless screens.

Dungeons are filled with puzzles, which play into the hands of Anodyne's dust-sweeping mechanic, but never reach a pinnacle in design. Young can use his broom to sweep up dust and replace that dust somewhere else on screen to his advantage. Dust can also act as a raft or shield in any given situation. There are many dodging and platforming dangers to go along with the numerous enemies that inhabit the screens of Anodyne, as well. Combat is simple and uninspired, serving its purpose between puzzles.

mzl.zvtfllfdBut the sum of all that makes Anodyne a game I adore isn't enough to dust aside its biggest misstep: controls. Virtual D-pads have been the bane of iOS game existence since the platform began its uphill battle, and unfortunately remains to be here. Even with a customizable control-layout frustrations ran high through the back half of this 10+ hour adventure. Without iCade support or - better still - a tap-gesture control scheme Anodyne may find itself to be labeled unplayable to some. There was also a sticking issue that occasionally kept me walking into dangers. Comfort never settled in when controlling Young across The Land, and sadly becomes one of the game's major flaws.

Control issues aside: lack of iCloud saves and my desire for more depth through systems is all that's left to complain about. I rather enjoyed everything else Anodyne had to offer. For starters, its pacing is console-like; never tossing a score-screen, or menu, in your face before dropping you back into its action. The lack of direction made exploration and puzzles engaging, combat - while serviceable - has its boss battle moments, its dialogue mysteriously intriguing, and its worlds diversely enjoyable. Also, its soundtrack keeps with the tones of its visuals, remaining melodic and memorable as much as it's enjoyable to the ears. Then there is Young's post-credits ability that changes everything you've learned and throws it out the window, graciously.

Sure, Anodyne could not live up to A Link To The Past, but it's an artistic-take built off the inspirations of that classic, made by 2 aspiring developers with something to say. That's commendable in my book. I can only hope Sean and Jonathan continue to support their release and polish this effort past its blemishes.

This experience feels intentionally more about its message than the landscape of the genre, and it's successful at that. That's not to say that it is not fun, or attempting to be, but in the end I was more intrigued by what the game was saying, than playing. If you're shaking your head over that statement, consider looking elsewhere for action-adventure.

Analgesic Productions' latest lends itself more to be played on PC - which it is also available on - falling short in the control department enough to say so. While I myself tend to favorite games with a narrative that transcends the video game soap box it speaks from, not everyone will - leaving them with a game that lacks comforting controls and a story that can be interpreted to be more pretentious than not. Still, for my liking, an artistic attempt in video games is often worthy of its frustrations; especially if iOS is the only platform you have to experience it.

TouchArcade Rating

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  • Zeldaniac

    "it's dialogue"
    Should be
    "its dialogue"

    Hate to be that guy but it's true.

    • Qualitybeats

      My editors love you. :)
      Thanks for reading.

  • Tranceaholic

    I just got the PC version on Steam, and if Analgesic adds controller support once iOS 7 comes out (or even iCade support), I'll get this version, too.

    • http://www.anodynegame.com/ sean hogan (seagaia)

      I'll try to add controller support if AIR starts to support it. I assume with the beginning of iOS 7, they will. Analgesic's programming is just me by the way. Hi!

      • alex13111

        Good job either way! Would love to how it would work!

  • A pizza

    This is awesome. I wish more indies and less ports came out on iOS.

  • Endscrypt

    Nice one Sean, It's always good to hear from the actual Dev or devs that made the game, I'm sure people will be a bit more patient now we understand you are only one person! Well done with your game and I really hope it does well! IMO the I control or whatever it gets called will really work great with this type of game.

  • deadclown

    "If your shacking" Holy moly. Do you guys even have proofreaders? It's "you're" and "shaking." Good lord. You DO need to hire more writers, but you need to hire BETTER writers, too. Don't make me apply, please.

    • deadclown

      And "misstep; controls. " should be a colon, not a semicolon. The latter ONLY separates independent clauses.

      • Qualitybeats

        Do you feel better about yourself, now? I sure hope so. Clown.

  • bretonmj

    8 Bitty support would be nice. That and iCade are relatively easy to add compatibility. You'd get extra sales from pretty most everyone who owns one.

  • homosaur

    I bought this on Steam, definitely recommended

  • JoelSixPack

    I'm very curious, why did Touch Arcade decide not to post my comment that I made on this page yesterday?

    I wrote a reply to a comment that Jeffrey the reviewer made, and while I was disagreeing with something he said, I didn't use any profanity and I wasn't trolling in any way -- there was honestly nothing inappropriate about what I said.

    Basically I just said that I thought his comment to deadclown seemed rather harsh considering that Jeffrey is a staff writer/reviewer, and I stand by that opinion. But as soon as I submitted the comment, a message popped up that said my comment was being sent to a moderator, and over 24 hours later, the comment still hasn't been posted. TA staff could have reviewed the message, seen it wasn't inappropriate, and posted it in like 15 seconds, but I don't understand why it was even flagged in the first place. I know I'm almost certainly making this into a bigger deal than it actually is, but still, I don't think it's fair for TA to be picking and choosing what comments get posted.

    All of that being said (no more ranting, I promise), I don't want to pull attention away from this awesome looking game. I really enjoy creative indie projects like this one and I'm going to have to check it out soon. Also, for anyone who might be interested, I read in another review that the control layout can be customized.

    • Qualitybeats

      I mention the customizable control-layout in this review. I'm not sure if it was overlooked, or what.

      As for the TA approval, I'm not sure what happened there.

      And lastly, my comment: I didn't make a comment that was any more pompous than Clowns. Every major blog on the Internet lets slip a few grammatical errors regularly. It's human, and happens. Clown took a shot at me, and I kindly had the editors fix the errors; later commenting if it made him happy. I didn't name call him, nor would I to readers of our site. I'm sorry if it was misinterpreted, but it wasn't meant to be.

Anodyne Mobile Reviewed by Jeffrey deMelo on . Rating: 4