Video games can be daunting endeavours, especially for developers who expect the player to spend time and effort into mastering every mechanic and minute nuances. Such is the case with the likes of soulslikes and metroidvanias, two prevailing genres in the indie scene.
It’s an experience that many appreciate, but this might scare away casual gamers who just want to dip their toes into the genre instead of diving headfirst into the deep end. The term “git gud” can only apply to those who want to take the first step towards achieving that goal.
Which is why developers from all walks of life are encouraged to diversify and present varied experiences to all kinds of gamers. Such is the case with indie studio Grimbart Tales and their debut game Itorah.
We have been enamored by Itorah's amazing art style before, which is why we were excited to play the full game. Does this game play as well as it looks or is it merely a cautionary tale? Let’s check it out.
Meso-American Fairy Tale
The story begins with the main character, Itorah, running away from a swarm of giant spiders as a mysterious voice speaks to her. After breaking free from the webs that had entangled her, Itorah comes across a talking axe.
The pair escape the catacombs and meet up with a lemur explorer Ahui, who names the axe Koda. Ahui leads the two into the outside world, explaining that Itorah is the last human alive in their world.
The goal is to uncover this mystery, which is sort of like Finn the Human’s plight in Adventure Time, only with the veneer and vibrancy of a Disney Renaissance film. Needless to say, Itorah’s simple story is very much heightened by its amazing art style.
From there, players are free to roam the lands of Nahucan, which contains varied biomes, quirky anthropomorphic inhabitants, and deadly creatures that stand in Itorah’s way. The only way forward is to jump and hack their way across the trials of Nahucan.
Itorah starts off with a pretty small moveset: she can attack using Koda, do a singular jump, and refill her health. Later on, players unlock more sophisticated moves like a double jump, a ground pound, and the ability to throw the axe Kratos-style.
All in all, combat is a breezier version of Hollow Knight, and the same can be said about the Itorah’s platforming challenges. The game’s world may also be similar to the ones seen in a usual metroidvania, but Itorah is very much a linear affair.
The Old Battleaxe
With its hand-painted artstyle and stripped-down gameplay mechanics, Itorah almost feels like a callback to a simpler moment in gaming, one that presented a straightforward adventure that neither overwhelmed the player with complex mechanics nor an abundance of collectibles.
It would have been great to see more combat options, as battles can feel quite repetitive by the end-game. Bosses break up the monotony but they don’t appear frequently. The same can be said about the game’s platforming physics, which can be a little finicky especially when it comes to bouncing platforms.
Overall, as a debut game, Grimbart Tales has made a commendable title, one that truly shows off this up-and-coming studio’s strengths and weaknesses. Surely, things can only go up from here and we can’t wait to see what they come up with next.