Iconoclasts review (Vita)

Iconoclasts has been released and is now available on PCs as well as Sony’s Playstation 4 and Playstation Vita. For this review, we focused on the handheld version of the game.

No less than seven years in the making, Iconoclasts has been a long time coming – its initial stages of development even predating the Vita itself, which came out near the end of 2011. Developed by indie developer Joakim Sandberg (also known by his handle Konjak), it’s definitely been worth the wait – especially on the Vita. The platform doesn’t get too much love these days and the release schedule for 2018 is currently not looking too promising either, but Iconoclasts is right up there with some of the best games for the platform ever developed.

Clearly a retro-inspired game, Iconoclasts’ art style resembles something that sits at the higher end of the 16-bit era console platformer, or perhaps closer to the lower end of the 32-bit era. Backdrops have that 16-bit “I’m built out of tiles” look to them, while the characters themselves are far more detailed – especially when looking at them on a bigger screen (I believe Iconoclasts is Playstation TV-compatible as well, if you’re not playing the PC or PS4 version).

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The game is an action-platformer, which its creator describes as being influenced by Metroid Fusion, Monster World IV and Final Fantasy IX. For me personally, it also echoes games like Flashback – a 2D platformer with a strong emphasis on its narrative and character development. Iconoclasts is much more action-oriented than Flashback though, with plenty of need for quick reflexes and a good aim as you take down enemies and screen-filling bosses.

Perhaps the narrative in Iconoclasts is part of why this game made me remember my childhood favorite Flashback. Set against a future in which a group called the One Concern governs life and all technology, you’re a budding mechanic looking to break free from the mold. Of course, your desire to fix and upgrade technology makes you less than beloved in the eyes of the rulers, and thus the story unfolds. Along the way you’ll run into several other well-developed characters who all contribute to the narrative in their own way. Despite some characters that are kind of forgettable, the game world in Iconoclasts feels alive and breathing mainly because of its diverse cast of characters.

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Aside from the narrative and the characters, the diversity in backdrops and gameplay also definitely help. During your adventure you’ll find yourself outside in the woods, inside military complexes and even under water – and the action isn’t just straightforward platforming but frequently gets broken up by puzzles and boss fights. All of this amidst a story that is, despite the role that technology plays in it, very human.

Iconoclasts is a game that was clearly developed with a lot of love and attention for even the most minute of details, and it’s a joy to play as a result. What definitely helps is that its performance on the Vita is superb as well – with crisp and colorful graphics and fluid frame rates throughout the entire game. It’s the kind of game that works great on the Vita – both from a technology standpoint as well as in terms of the controls needed. It may be a matter of personal preference, but this is possibly my favorite indie platformer on the Vita – edging out the likes of Shovel Knight and Super Meat Boy.

Score: 9.1/10

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