Metroidvania games are an interesting genre that indie developers seem to love. The emphasis on 2d exploration and unlocking secrets means that the games feel really rewarding. There’s also a good sense of progression and atmosphere in most of these titles. The fact that combat and platforming are important in this genre means tight controls are a must and although the Switch lacks a d-pad the analog stick works just fine.
The Nintendo Switch has a great library of metroidvania games. More expensive offerings such as The Mummy: Demastered, and Cave Story (which really shouldn’t be priced so high as it’s free on pc) don’t differ too much from cheaper metroidvanias. Xeodrifter is a great example. In my opinion, it’s one of the best games you can get for £8.99 on the Switch. This brings us to Chasm, a beautifully animated pixel art adventure with both tight controls and a hardcore difficulty.
The game is a 2d sidescroller (as all metroidvanias are) and the setting is medieval fantasy which hasn’t been done to excess in this genre as far as I’m aware. However, the pixel art compliments the setting to perfection. The game wouldn’t have been out of place on the Super Nintendo or Sega Megadrive/ Genesis but it is still crisp and the animation works really well.
As a young knight tasked with saving the inhabitants of a distant mining village you start the game off with a short sword. Once you get to the main ‘chasm’ you’ll have plenty of choice of weapons from axes, swords, whips (the thorn whip is brilliant) and spears. You’ll also get a secondary throwing weapon and can find throwing stars, knives, axes and more. These light RPG elements give the game depth and make exploring exciting. There’s also various forms of armour you can collect.
The combat is really satisfying, no matter which weapon you pick. The player has both primary and secondary weapons but also the option to jump backward. This is done by pressing X and comes in really handy with the tougher enemies. Enemies are diverse and there’s a bestiary that can be found on the title menu. Not only are they difficult (maybe not in the first area but soon after) but they look cool. This makes the game feel like you really are in a dark mine filled with Lord of the Rings levels of dark monsters.
Interestingly, the map layout is procedurally generated which gives the title a high level of replayability. There are 6 main areas of the mines, each with a different theme. These include a keep, catacombs, and gardens. Different enemy types occupy each area and are all excellently animated and have diverse attack patterns. Of all the metroidvanias I’ve played this game probably has the biggest diversity of enemies. Boss fights are another highlight, with some looking intimidating and massive and others being quick and nimble. The fact that the game is procedurally generated may put some people off but in my one and a half playthroughs of the game, it didn’t seem to alter the structure of progression.
Lore of the Land?
The story in Chasm takes a backseat once you enter the mines but there are constant documents you can find throughout your exploration which add to the story. This helps create a good atmosphere and you can tell the developers have put a lot of thought into creating the lore of the universe they’ve created.
A few criticisms I have are that slightly more save points in the game would have been good. Later in the game, I found my self dying and having to replay long difficult sections over again. The game takes persistence, but there is an easy difficulty you can choose at the start of the game. Another negative is that the music could have been better. There is diversity in each area of the ‘chasm’ both visually and in the soundtrack. If the tunes were more ‘catchy’ it would have really added to the already great atmosphere.
Overall, this game is both visually appealing and has tight, responsive controls that make it a joy to play. Although the soundtrack could have been better the atmosphere the game creates it top quality. This is done through a combination of artifacts you collect throughout the adventure and dialogue from the individuals you save. I haven’t enjoyed a game of this type since Shantae and the pirates curse. If you can deal with a bit of frustration and are a fan of the genre this comes highly recommended.