Riffing on an established game or franchise is a risky business. Do it wrong and you're constantly compared to your inspiration and lamented by players for not being up to scratch, but do it right and you can quickly capture the attention of a passionate audience and win goodwill from the get-go.
The enemies themselves have a variety of looks, depending on the area, and reflect different levels of graphical fidelity, depending on how much the memory of them has decayed. Some are in full 3D, but many are deliberately janky-looking 2D cut-outs, flailing their way towards you through the levels, with a similar vibe to the stained glass window knight in Young Sherlock Holmes.
The tongue-in-cheek presentation is one of the reasons the game feels refreshing and fun from the very beginning...
Don’t let the enemies’ simplistic look lull you into a false sense of security though, they hit hard and they hit fast. The bosses too have all the might and terror of your classic Dark Souls beast, with a sense of scale which takes encounters to a level beyond what you might expect from an indie game.
Memory isn’t just a souls or runes-like levelling mechanic, but a theme which keeps coming up throughout the world. With weapons in particular, many have a special ability which can be unlocked by taking them to a specific area of the world and performing a specific action.
This was one of the most interesting and unexpected mechanics, and encouraged us to explore the world in more depth, giving us an opportunity to pick up on more of the environmental storytelling.
One early area shows the NPCs are actually self-aware, with a sort of locker room complete with motivational posters like “Remember to occasionally miss!” and even a city of their own, as if the game were a day job.
The tongue-in-cheek of the presentation is one of the reasons the game feels refreshing and fun from the very beginning, and the team has managed to sustain it as you gradually discover more of the world of Nostalgaia. You can even coop with a friend and explore together for maximum destruction of bad memories.
In all, the experience is everything you would expect from a pastiche of the FromSoftware formula, but also some unexpected fun and games thrown in for good measure. Ready your sword and get ready to take on both nostalgia and Nostalgaia with a well-placed heavy attack.