Taking a cursory glance at Altered Alma’s Steam page offers some tantalizing promises. The game’s trailer is awash with neon as the action juxtaposes between attractive animated cutscenes and gameplay. The protagonist runs through city streets as the colourful backdrops create an enticing aesthetic one would expect from a pixel art side-scroller. Metroidvania’s are, of course, a dime a dozen, so it can take a bit more to really pique a player’s interest. Thankfully, the promises of copious RPG mechanics and aspects of dating sims sweetens the deal. All of this combined to hype me up for the game’s demo.
Said demo, however, doesn’t grant much of a look at much of the above. I found myself in a fairly standard-looking cyberpunk area. The pixel art is attractive-yet-familiar and the backgrounds have a fair amount going on, but Altered Alma’s demo only wishes to whet the appetite. At the outset, Alma herself can walk, jump, and swing her sword in a multi-hit combo. She can slash upward and duck, but can’t slash while ducking as attempting to do so will stand her up straight. My mission was mostly simple: I was to walk right until I found an ability that would allow me to continue making my way through the orange and pink-tinged environs.
There were a few ability upgrades present, even during this brief foray. Two of them are standard Metroidvania offerings: Alma can slide and double-jump. Sliding allows her to make her way underneath areas that she can’t get through otherwise, as she can’t crawl. Acquiring this does make the seemingly rigid combat flow much better, as the slide doubles as Alma’s dodge, since it goes through enemies without causing the player to take contact damage. The double jump is exactly as you’d expect, however.
“The pixel art is attractive-yet-familiar and the backgrounds have a fair amount going on, but Altered Alma’s demo only wishes to whet the appetite.”
The third ability is one I’ve seen on occasion, although with some interesting permutations. Alma can throw a projectile, which is meant to be aimed at walls. Once embedded, Alma will teleport to them. This also works on enemies, which can make the combat feel that much quicker. Teleporting to a foe with a projectile stuck in them will do a small amount of damage. Killing an enemy this way rewards players with a bit of energy to charge Alma’s shield, which was another of the game’s permutations on the standard formula that makes for a noticeable difference compared to similar games.
At the start and after reaching a checkpoint, players will have two energy charges that are used to refill most of the shield’s energy. However, the shield can’t take many hits. There’s also a health bar which is filled by using food items found strewn about. In trouble? Consider eating an entire pizza. Much like real life, this can work wonders. After navigating the straightforward area, the Altered Alma demo concludes with a boss fight against a foe with a long-range electrified whip. The fight was made more memorable by a bizarre backdrop featuring the likeness of Spanish painter Salvador Dali.
After defeating the boss, I found myself right back on the menu with no segue, leading me to worry that I’d glitched it somehow. I didn’t get to see any of Altered Alma’s RPG or dating sim mechanics, so I’m rather curious to learn how exactly those fit into the experience. This glimpse isn’t enough to say just what sort of game we’ll be partaking in once release is upon us, but I would like to teleport to more enemies and slash them in the face while consuming more pizza.