It’s been many years since the day of 2D pixel platformers with limited color palettes and blocky sprites. Still, that doesn’t mean people aren’t excited to play them. There are many gamers and game developers still trying to bring that retro style back into the modern age. This isn’t easy, but titles like Shovel Knight demonstrate that it can be done. Now the crew at Elion Games are trying their hands at it with Everblade. This is a retro-style 2D action-adventure game with plenty of platforming to boot and gear to collect. It looks and feels like it could fit well in either the past or the future of gaming — but how does it fare right now?
Why Wield The Everblade?
Back in the day (for games), stories were presented in a very straightforward way. There’d usually be some unknown NPC telling you what’s going on, or you’d get a series of scenes explaining the background. Everblade includes elements of both, and it makes the motivation for your journey quite clear.
There’s a village under the protection of a large beast guardian. An evil mage arrives, destroys the village, defeats the guardian, then rips off one of its horns. Some of the villagers survive and chase after him, as does the main hero. The remaining horn of the guardian then turns into the Everblade, and the hero takes it up to hunt down the mage. It’s a simple story of revenge, and it kicks the action off quickly.
A Sharp Edge
If you’re going to receive a mystical blade, you can only hope that it will be a quality weapon. Everblade definitely does its best to provide that. One way it does that is through its pixel presentation. This game captures a lot of the aesthetics reminiscent of classics titles while also adding its own flair. The sprites and backgrounds are clear and solid, while also having detail enough to really make them pop. The vibrancy also comes through in the animation, which brings fluid movement to the pixel art.
Then there’s the main mechanic of the Everblade itself. This is a game that revolves everything around the main weapon — which works wonders. You have a series of quick strikes for melee combat as well as a ring of three crystals that encircle you. As long as the crystals are there, you can throw the Everblade as a dagger in multiple directions. This gives you plenty of options when it comes to dealing with enemies and fighting bosses. As you go through the game, you seek to make the Everblade stronger, and when you do, it’s quite satisfying.
Finally, there’s the level design and difficulty level. Since you get to decide which available levels you tackle first, there needs to be a sense of balance. Not only is there balance, but every mistake feels legitimate and makes you want to get better. The bosses in particular can appear deceptively simple only to surprise you to keep you on your toes. The game is quite fair, taking time out to introduce you to its mechanics and elements. Still, you can expect a bit of challenge.
No matter how much you take care of your weapon, you can’t keep it pristine forever. This also applies to Everblade, where some wear and tear is visible in terms of the world layouts. Each level is rich in locations, enemies, collectibles, and secrets, but it’s all a lot to take in. It’s clear by certain assets that you’ll need to do some backtracking if you want to fully complete a level. While this is normal in such a game, it’s also quite heavy. Since there’s no map system, make sure to take notes so that you know where to return.
There’s also the upgrade system, which frankly doesn’t shine as brightly as it could. As previously mentioned, a core part of the game is upgrading the Everblade, which can be done in one of several ways. In order to get new magic attacks, you’ll need to find ingots which are very rarely found and far between, limiting your access to spells. To learn new skills, you’ll need to collect Skill Coins, which are also quite hard to find, and the cheapest skill costs a minimum of eight coins. Then there’s finding Everblade powers-ups, which give you access to new attacks, but there’s no indicator as to which levels have them. Each provides a great payoff, but comes with a very slow and at times tiring buildup.
The Everblade Awaits!
Everblade is a retro-style 2D pixel platformer about fighting through different worlds and toppling bosses to avenge your village. It has great visuals, an entertaining core mechanic, and a very fun level of difficulty. However, expect to encounter trouble remembering interesting locations, and be prepared for long periods of waiting in between learning new skills and abilities. Thankfully, the game makes it easy to learn the mechanics as you go along, soon becoming an expert in slaying evil with the dynamic Everblade.
This review is based on a PC download code provided by the publisher. Everblade is available now on PC via Steam.