It’s all about indiegames in this port rondup, where we check out PlayStation ports of Alwa’s Legacy, Guardian of Lore, Alexio and Ball laB.
When it launched on the PC and Nintendo Switch last year, Alwa’s Legacy from developer Elden Pixels made some serious waves. It was well received by critics, and became a fan favorite as well – especially on the Switch. We played it on a PlayStation 4 now that it’s been ported over, and we can definitely see what the enthusiasm was all about.
In Alwa’s Legacy, you play as Zoe, a young girl dressed in purple robes who wakes up and finds that she’s lost her memory – a familiar trope in gaming indeed. This starts you off on a quest to find magical artifacts, go up against antagonist Vicar and defeat the enemies that stand in your way – though as a retro-inspired action platformer the narrative isn’t exactly front and center.
Instead, expect a good mix of exploration, puzzles and platforming, as well as metroidvania elements where you unlock additional abilities that let you push on. Abilities (like a lightning strike) can be upgraded as well, and sometimes combining special abilities is the key to finding a few well-hidden secrets. Special items called “tears” will turn save points into warp zones as well, so those are especially handy to have if you don’t want to spend too much time traveling back and forth across the game map.
You’ll frequently come across Zelda-like dungeons, the trickiest of which feature challenging puzzles, some tough platforming and strong enemies. They also feature some clever level design, which repetition isn’t just avoided by a different visual design but also though mechanics that are regularly changed up – posing different dangers and challenges for each dungeon.
Alwa’s Legacy is also a gorgeous example of retro 16-bit visual design, adding subtle details while retaining that retro look and feel. Combine that with chiptune-inspired music and this is an audiovisual feast for those of us who are nostalgic. As with developers like WayForward, we can’t wait to see what Elden Pixels does next, and it’s great to have this on PlayStation now.
Guardian of Lore
After an earlier Steam launch, Guardian of Lore from Top Hat Studios and Round 2 Games is now available on PlayStation and Nintendo Switch as well. It’s an action platformer, which a twist in its premise that sees you trying to save ancient stories from the influence of dark magic by entering them – each level representing a different story that needs saving.
There’s a fantasy element to Guardians of Lore and besides running, jumping and combat you also have access to spells – which feature crafting elements as well. Finding secrets inside levels lets you enhance protagonist Sayri’s abilities permanently, and having different paths available to you in each adds to the game’s replay value – the game lets you know how much is left undiscovered.
In combat, each weapon feels distinct, and can change your playstyle – which also gives you different strategies for the game’s boss fights, which are also creative in their designs and mechanics. Sometimes it pays to try and upgrade first, but getting to those upgrades can be tricky, introducing a risk vs reward element to the game.
Guardian of Lore features some lovely visual designs as well, with a distinct look for each of the levels/stories. Character models are detailed, but do feel relatively small compared to the rest of the level. This gives a good sense of scale, but can make it hard to time your moves or see what’s going on. Those are minor issues though, as Guardian of Lore is another indie worth checking out.
Alexio is ChiliDog’s next console port, and was first developed for PCs by Duck Team. It’s a rather typical 8-bit style retro platformer, but designed to be challenging to make sure it takes you a while to complete its dozen of levels.
On each level, you have ten lives to try and get to the end, which gives you a pretty good idea of the kind of challenge you’re in for. But where many challenging platformers succeed through a “tough but fair” approach to gameplay, Alexio feels like “unfair, but you can make it through memorization if you stick with it”.
This is because some enemies and/or their projectiles just aren’t visible until you get hit by them, causing an instant and frustrating death. How they behave to you jumping on them is also something you just have to learn through trial and error, because while some enemies can be taken out by jumping on then, this will cause other enemies to instantly kill you, and yet others to change form – near-instantly killing if you didn’t know that was going to happen.
There are certainly better challenging platformers out there, but a manageable trophy list and a cheap asking price are redeeming features. And call us soft, but having a cute little duck as your main character is pretty endearing too. Shops give you access to abilities like double-jumps and guns. Slightly less cute that way, but certainly effective.
Viktor Yurchuk’s Ball laB is our second hardcore platformer in this roundup, and this one too premiered on Steam. Eastasiasoft is bringing it to consoles now though, and for fans of this genre it’s a solid though somewhat generic take on the genre.
Part of that are the game minimalist graphics, which make it not really stand out despite its black and white palette. We’ve seen a few great indie games this year make use of black and white, but Ball laB’s minimalist approach is so generic that you’ll just focus on the gameplay instead.
Luckily, that part is well done, with responsive controls, tough but fair level designs and hitboxes, and a decent amount of content. Ball laB features 60 levels to play through, and should last you about three hours or so, which is more than decent for the price. And while levels aren’t large, first appearances can also be deceiving. Many of the levels open up more and/or change when you reach certain spots, suddenly showing you a new path to take – of course bringing new dangers with it as well.
This can add stress because you’re never quite sure how close you are to the end of a level, but a challenging platformer thrives on stress, so that’s not an issue at all. You won’t need a lot of perseverance to get the game’s platinum trophy though – it’ll unlock after completing the first ten levels and dying a bunch of times. For us, a fun (but untracked) challenge was beating the whole game before hitting the 300 deaths mark for the last trophy. We barely did it.