High Strangeness Wii U 5/15/2015

Move over Axiom Verge, you’re not the only indie title this year made by a very small dev team that is heavily, heavily inspired by a Nintendo series. This games journey started in 2009 with a Kickstarter funded at $1500, and now High Strangeness has been released on the Wii U E shop. With a development team of 4 people they promised to bring us a retro game that was inspired by the NES and SNES adventure classics of old.

Inspiration is one of High Strangeness’ biggest strengths but also one of its biggest downfalls. Within minutes you’ll know the inspiration for the game draws heavily from the Legend of Zelda. From the fireworks (bombs), to the CDs (boomerang), or the similar jingle when you find a secret in a room. Your main weapon is a flashlight that you swing like a sword, but it has no additional functions other than hitting enemies. This game aspires to be The Legend of Zelda but the lack of originality is unfortunate though. Renaming items and not changing their functions is not good enough to set itself apart, it is just putting a new skin on a weapon.

The 16 bit graphics are very well done and look great while the 8 bit style is intentionally ugly, but works within the confines of the game. You have to switch between the two art styles frequently and both serve the game fine. A small complaint is that the enemies seem too big for the screen, it’s most likely to draw detail to the enemies but it can cause a bit of a claustrophobic feeling as if the game was zoomed to a resolution that isn’t changeable. The music is great. It’s a simple chiptunes soundtrack sure to dredge up nostalgic memories of games from your past. It never seems out of place and since you’re never in one place too long you won’t get sick of any of the music.

The game feels great on the Wii U gamepad but it also works just as well on the TV, there’s no difference between the two. The combat is reminiscent of your typical Zelda game but begins to show its flaws on the very first boss fight. The complaint I had earlier about the enemies being too big comes into play here.The boss spawns enemies nonstop making a already small screen even smaller. You don’t get the crisp feeling of hitting a enemy, the crack of the bat so to speak. You swing your flashlight, see the visual cues of red and eventually the foe will die.

Nearly all enemies drop the eyeball, this games health restore and currency. Each time you have to manually pick them up each time and it’s always 1 currency per enemy. You could repeat killing the same easy enemies over and over again and spend maybe a hour to max out your character. Death means nothing which takes away the tension of any battle. When you die you will not lose currency, and you just start again in the same room losing no progress. Even if you’ve killed enemies and didn’t pick up the currency, the currency remains there for you to grab. It causes the game to almost become a zen experience. Traversing from dungeon room to dungeon room solving the puzzles, and defeating the bosses. It’s relaxing in its own way. There’s no missable items or sidequests so you are on rails opening up the remainder of each dungeon area until you get to the boss.

The puzzles are a fair amount of fun and requires you to use all the items in your inventory to solve them. Nothing too original. Use your 8 bit vision find a hole in the wall, blow up the hole with fireworks. Use your records to hit a switch you can’t reach. That kind of stuff. Unfortunately like some other games of old you have to go into your menu to switch items when that could have been assigned to a button to scroll through them.

It makes it very disappointing that once the final couple of dungeons come along that they lower the amount of puzzles making a short game even shorter. The final dungeon didn’t have any puzzles, the one before it had about 3 puzzles most using the item given to you immediately before the dungeon. The games limited length really comes in to hurt it. There’s not many boss encounters and the ones that the game does have are either too easy or only challenging due to the weird sizes of the enemies.

The story is your typical chosen one story. Your main character is sucked into a world he doesn’t understand with new monsters and allies (a talking cat?!) he must go into the dungeons to collect all of the crystal skulls to save everyone before the mysterious hooded men get to them. Unfortunately, the story comes off as fairly predictable. The majority of the story is told through cut-scenes which are a bit of a letdown at times due to the art needing more polish. It makes you wish they would just use in game assets for them rather than have scrolling text on a poorly drawn picture. The story also falls apart at about the halfway point of the game, leaving you with a unsatisfying rushed ending.

High Strangeness can be beaten in 3-4 hours. There are no side-quests, no optional routes or collectibles to keep you occupied. The game is by no means bad but with the length that it is and it lacking any incentive to replay it, I cannot highly recommend it for the current price. If you are a die-hard fan of Zelda and Secret of Mana and other great adventure games this game would be fine to buy and complete in one afternoon.

Score:4

(This review was based on the Wii U Version of the game)

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