A few years after their successful Kickstarter campaign, developer Bit Kid has released Chasm for PC, PS4 and Playstation Vita. Here’s our review of the Vita version.
The fact that we’re reviewing the Vita version at all is almost newsworthy enough – we’ve seen plenty of would-be-awesome Vita projects be canceled or not get off the mark in the past few years, including Transistor, Nier, Hand of Fate and fellow Kickstarter success The Banner Saga. And I don’t even know where Mighty No. 9 falls here….
Luckily, Bit Kid stuck with their original promise, and even though we’ve been waiting for ages Chasm is finally here – and on the Vita! And even though the Vita’s been seeing plenty of retro/pixel style games over the past two years, Chasm definitely stands out from the bunch. The game has some gorgeous pixel art and excellent animations, and it’s clearly a labor of love that looks and runs beautifully on Sony’s handheld.
In Chasm, you’re a young and inexperienced knight in the Guildean Kingdom, sent out to investigate a mystery surrounding a village and its mine, after reports come in that production has halted. Before long, you enter the mine and uncover that dark creatures now roam the underground domain instead of the townspeople you set out to find, and your adventure is born.
Chasm doesn’t just take place underground though, as the adventure takes you across a diverse game world that is medieval-themed – complete with castles, elaborate gardens and secret underground passageways. The game world itself is worth mentioning though, and it’s randomly generated each time you start a new game. “Sure, doesn’t at least one in five indie games now claim that?” I hear you thinking, but it’s handled a little differently in Chasm’s case.
I’m not a huge fan of procedurally generated games, and Chasm isn’t one in the way all those others are. My main gripe with the trend is that a procedurally generated game world can feel a little underwhelming and uninspired, not featuring the kind of well thought out level designs I’m used to playing. Chasm solves this dilemma by having hand-crafted sections from start to finish that each form a building block – and world generation simple means you get a random selection of these carefully designed building blocks. Or a “seed”, as they call it – and you can write down an individual game world (or seed’s) code as well, should you want to share it with someone else or play it again at a later time. It’s a clever concept, and works in making an individual run more interesting and also enhanced replayability.
As clever and original as Chasm’s seed mechanic is, many of its gameplay elements aren’t. That’s not a bad thing, but you’ll see many familiar elements if you played any of the PS1/PS2-era Castlevania titles – clear inspirations for Chasm. You’ll see some of these examples visually, but it’s most apparent in the game’s combat. Again, not a bad thing, especially because the Vita never got a Castlevania of its own (Symphony of the Night is available for the Vita though, and I suggest grabbing it if you’re interested in Chasm).
As much as there is to like about the game, however, it’s not all great. The easiest way of regaining health is through the automatic boost you get when you save your game at save points. Since you’ll sometimes run out of food and healing points, you’ll have to backtrack to a save point in order to heal yourself – which breaks some of the story immersion. I also had a few instances where I wasn’t exactly sure what to do, who to do it for and how far I was in getting it done – in other words, Chasm would have benefited from a quest/journal type of log – seen in nearly every action RPG since Diablo and in many Metroidvanias as well. Speaking of which, the game also lacks clear explanations for some of its RPG elements (what do attributes stand for? what do they do?) – relying on the player instead to figure them out, which won’t work as well if they’re not a genre aficionado.
Having said that, I still came away overjoyed that Chasm can now be played on the Vita. It’s a beautiful pixel art Metrovania title that was lovingly designed, even though a few of the design choices (see above) had me scratching my head. Despite those, it’s a must own for everyone who waited all these years for a decent Castlevania-inspired title.