After the madness of my move, Tim asked if I’d be up for playing the Alpha Test version of the game The Iconoclasts by Joakim Sandberg. The premise alone was enough to get me hooked, so I wanted to give it a whirl and give my first impressions.
As this is an Alpha Playtest, I’ll be making a few steps away from my usual reviews. I won’t have AS critical an eye, but I’ll point out the good and the bad all the same.
The game has you playing the character Robin, a mechanic whose hobbies are considered illegal. Apparently, fixing things (or doing anything to change the world) without being licensed or “blessed” is a sin to be punished.
==What You Get==
The Alpha is relatively short, and I cleared it in about 50 minutes of gameplay (with screenshots and exploring).
Outside of issue with my controller (wouldn’t recognize it), the game works smoothly and is very reminiscent of games like Mega Man, Cave Story, and Metroid. Normal walking, holding Jump for longer leaps, and you can charge your gun for a bigger attack.
The music is also rather nostalgic, with that old-school tinny feel with modern elements. It takes me back, and I’m loving it.
Anyway, the game starts off in a simple and classic manner: you wake up due to a loud noise and go check it out. This leads to the obligatory signs that explain controls, a few enemies, and your first boss.
After the first boss, you finally get into some of the story, which explains Robin’s backstory.
From there, the world opens a bit, and you start to see just how this world works. There’s a number of mini-puzzles, a few screens to explore, and more storyline to progress.
In total, you will take on two bosses, gain an ally, take on a few “elite” enemies that require you to use your surroundings, learn of the basics of the setting, and get an “End of Alpha” message right when things were getting good.
Without too many spoilers: the moon is falling apart, and the religion of the world makes it a sin to explore, fix things, or even touch Ivory Oil, the fuel source of the world. One Concern is the big organization that runs the show, and the religion supports them. The religion is run by Mother, whom people pray to for forgiveness for their transgressions (or the transgressions of their family).
You play as Robin, a 17 year old who enjoys fixing things and helping the local villagers by repairing things around the home, even though it is illegal to do so.
Outside of that, there really isn’t much else to learn. There’s one guy in the church that gives you short blurbs on key things, like One Concern and Mother, but most of what you’ll learn is via conversations with various NPCs.
==What I Enjoyed==
Hands down, the music is my favorite part of this. That mix of tinny nostalgia of old 8- and 16-bit games with a blend of modern and classical music themes makes this a surprisingly lovely game.
The artwork is classic, following that same vein as the aforementioned games. Even the interface, like the map, is reminiscient of this era.
Controls were a breeze to get the hang of, even with the slightly awkward keyboard default setup. For the Alpha, you only really ever use eight keys (four directions, jump, wrench, gun, and menu/pause), but that setup might be better on a controller, honestly.
Another fast favorite was the use of the environment as you fight enemies. There are two key times this comes into play, both of which are to get through a locked door.
The first is the appearance of a stag enemy. Said enemy cannot be harmed but it does like to charge at you. Time your moves right, and it will charge into the wall and stun itself, making it vulnerable. The first time you face it, there’s a single block you can use to make this happen.
The second is against a walking rock. Literally. You cannot hurt it, but there is a timed door nearby. You have to literally time this things walking pattern or charging speed with the timer on the door in order to kill it. Nice move there!
There are also a number of times the game doesn’t take itself seriously or breaks the fourth wall. After meeting Black and White, two agents of One Concern, they give you the basic backstory on Robin and literally say “That’s your backstory out of the way.”
While escaping from prison, you need to move whenever the guards are making a lot of noise. They make some ridiculously bad (and raunchy) jokes and make comments to each other that stall the entire conversation into awkward silence for a few seconds.
Not sure if this next one is intentional, but this seems like a nod to Legend of Zelda, especially since the guy who owns the house is a blonde-haired man that is always away from home due to work.
==What I Didn’t Enjoy==
My biggest gripe is all of the teasing. Areas you cannot reach, functions you cannot access, and NPCs that blatantly tell you that “This isn’t available at this time.” Granted, I can expect to see a number of these areas returning to the finished game as-is and having awesome things to unlock, but in an Alpha, that’s a bit of a major tease that makes people wonder if there’s a hidden way to get to it or if it’s just there for the final.
There were also a few minor glitches. Outside of the hassle with my controller (not sure if it’s my controller or something with the game), I’ve had one or two instances of clipping through the walls and found myself unable to get out, forcing me to restart from my last save.
==What’s To Come==
Some parts of the game are left open for later exploration.
For example, you learn early on that you can charge your weapon for massive damage (even though it needs time to recharge), but that charge can also break some (but not all) rocks. This leaves you with a few chests that you simply cannot reach at this time.
There are a few areas that are inaccessible, either due to plot elements or simply not having the item necessary to do so (which could be a plot element). Hopefully we see these in action in the final version!
Remember, this is an Alpha, so we can only grade it on what we have. This is not a sign of what the final grade will be should we see a release.
I’m giving this a pretty decent 3.5 buns.
The Alpha is fun and well worth the time to play. It’s great for those of us who grew up on the old platformers from the NES, Genesis, and SNES era, but may seem dull to those who aren’t into the design.
Honestly, all of the elements of the Alpha are solid outside of a few concerns (length, minor glitches, and teasers), and the story is top notch. I’m expecting to give the final game a 4.5 or possibly a 5 if they continue on as they have.
If you want to play the Alpha, it is available for free here (as well as other free games and abandoned projects). The game has been Greenlit on Steam, and a character video was created this July. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that we see a finished version soon!