All It’ll Cost You Is Time
Sony does some decidedly original marketing when it comes to the release of indie games. One of their riskier tactics is to make games free, which basically means they paid the developer a certain amount of money to ensure they didn’t starve to death while people happily downloaded their brand new game courtesy of a PlayStation Plus subscription. It happened at the launch of the PS4 with Contrast and it’s happening again with Apotheon. So, what does a free game get you? In this case, a Metroidvania game with a Greek urn aesthetic.
God Of Metroidvania
Nikandreos is just your average Greek warrior minding his own business when the entire realm is endangered by none other than Zeus himself. Having decided that worship was overrated, Zeus has forsaken Greece, leaving it ripe for the picking for anyone that left the land alone for fear of divine retribution. Nikandreos, as the request of an annoyed Hera, travels to Olympus to set the King of the Gods straight by exploring different areas, finding out he doesn’t have the right tool/ability for certain parts, and going to other areas to fight Olympians get what’s needed and finish the job. In other words, this is Metroidvania game.
Of course, the biggest thing selling Apotheon is the aesthetic. Alientrap have heavily channeled the style of Greek urns and other examples of ancient Greek artwork, and created a look and animation that resembles this. It’s quite striking in motion, and on the PS4, performs buttery smooth, which you’d expect from a 2D, side-scrolling game. The sound is also surprisingly rich for a small indie game, complete with voice acting. This may be an independent title, but it’s one that enjoyed a decent budget.
The game, however, doesn’t quite live up to the lush presentation. It’s a side-scrolling Metroidvania game, so most will already know the drill. This is about combat, some RPG-lite mechanics with upgrading equipment and stats, and getting new abilities through the acquisition of new weapons and gear, which also makes it possible to explore new areas. It’s a tried and true formula and Alientrap does not mess it up. Neither, however, do they make their design shine brilliantly. Combat is a little clunky, using a combination of trigger buttons with the right analog stick to aim, awkwardly combining twin-stick shooting with melee. It’s not broken, but it never feels as responsive as it could. On the conceptual side, some boss fights, like the Artemis confrontation cleverly use Greek mythology in fitting ways, while others like Apollo are just standard hacking and slashing to get the life bar down to zero.
Apotheon is never a bad game, and occasionally, it’s even a great game, but it’s never consistently great enough to become a classic in the same way other indie titles like Journey have. That’s not to say the game isn’t recommended, and at the February price of “free” with PlayStation Plus, it’s definitely a worthwhile addition to your collection. At the regular price of $15 on the PSN Store and Steam, it’s still a good title for Metroidvania fans looking for their next fix. It’s just not necessarily going to stick in your mind as a classic of the genre once you’re done with it. Alientrap has shown some real ingenuity with some portions of Apotheon. If this small Toronto studio can keep it up, and make their future games as consistently imaginative and fun as some of the best parts of Apotheon then they’ll have a bright future in the indie scene.