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So I had earmarked my gaming time for the last couple of days toward playing Slain, but it sounds kind of rough (and in some places unfinished) in terms of level design at the moment, which is unfortunate, since looking gorgeous while not playing particularly well are basically the opposite of how I think 2D games should be prioritizing. I wish I could say I am shocked by this turn of events, but... freakin' Kickstarters, man.
Still, it turns out things worked out for the better, since that left me with a grim-2D-action-game-shaped-hole in my schedule and coincidentally Odallus: The Dark Call was on sale for half off (and comes bundled with another game from the same developer for a dime) this week. Kind of wish I had bought it for full price, since it plays like a dream.
And by 'dream', I partly mean it plays like what I fantasize Konami would have created if they had decided to try to make a Castlevania game to bridge the design gap between the Classicvanias and the Igavanias, and it somehow took place in a timewarp that resulted in it coming out at the tail end of the 8-bit era.
Basically, it has the linear stage-based progression and semi-sadistic level/boss designs from the former and the exploration/hidden secrets/ability progression and the requisite-incentives-to-return-to-old-levels-with-newly-obtained-skills-to-unlock-alternate-pathways-through-the-levels of the latter.
(There is also the increasingly-prevalent modern design choice of how although there is a system of limited lives that sends the player back to the start of the level after they run out, key actions accomplished within the stage still persist even after Game Over, which means the short-cuts through the level that get opened stay open and mini-bosses that get killed stay dead.)
It is sort of a weirdly tense feeling to running through the levels trying to be hyper-vigilant about enemy and trap placement (and usually trying to get through as fast as possible before said placements can have a chance to murder the player) while simultaneously trying to keep an eye out for any environmental cues (such as subtle shifts in color gradation) to determine things which walls are destructible and have goodies like health upgrades behind them.
And that tasty gothic-horror, mmmm.