I have a nasty habit and I don’t think I’m the only one. When I have a game I absolutely adore and love more than anything I drop it. I’ll reach a point where I just don’t want to continue either to have it lower my opinion of it or have the good times end. My previous GOTY (see the list here) Battlechasers was one such game. I’ve had Iconoclasts since launch (I started this review on the 23rd Jan after I bought the game for review) and all through the year I’ve pushed myself to finish it. Now it’s done was it worth it? Short answer, Yes. Now go and play it. Seriously. The games even on PS Plus now for December. Still need more reasons why? Lets have a look then shall we.
A bit of additional context is required for this one then (just as Tanglewood had for being fully functioning on a MegaDrive). Iconoclasts is essentially the work of one man Joakim ‘konjak’ Sandberg who self developed the game and with some assistance of Bifrost Entertainment published the title. For me personally the title came out of nowhere and to find it had been in production for 7 years as a solo project seemed quite surprising. Now in hindsight, it seems time well spent. It’s also worth mentioning that Iconoclasts even came with Cross-buy on PS4 so you got the Vita port for free (which is also pretty darn awesome) Cross-buy for any game is always a welcome addition and an excuse to play something on the Vita.
Iconoclasts gameplay is a sort of 2D metroidvania platform action title but with a more linear focus with the ability to go explore and find secrets if you want, It’s not forced upon you. In a welcome break from most games of its genre, half the time the games fantastic story easily helps you figure out where you’re supposed to be going. You unlocked a new weapon or skill? Chances are you have a few puzzles near you that you will realise you can now solve. Once you’ve solved them what usually follows is a fairly obvious route back to a previously un-passable section or a route forward to new areas and a map that shows explored routes and items of interest. For some players this will be retreading old familiar territory but for me it was just the right amount of exploration to hand holding that a story this well written needs to progress without feeling like it’s full of needless padding.
For a pixel 2D indie darling this game looks stunning. If you pause Iconoclasts, you see a simple 2D art style that’s unique and well fleshed out. If you see it in action, you see a work of art. Many of the simple little tweaks make the quality shine through. For example the text for the dialogue is clear and easy to read but there are highlighted phrases and words, flows in text, shaking in anger and loud bold bubbles for shouting. It’s packed with little touches like when you go to save your shown a character nodding for yes and shaking their head for no. It all merges into a really nice design that shows the work that’s clearly gone into each aspect of the design.
The music and sounds are spot on for the retro aesthetic and Iconoclasts nails that sweet bit tune soundbite that sticks with you. In short it sounds amazing. The gun blasts, boss explosions, swinging wrench and damage sounds all work together and there’s no annoying “oh god why did they add that” moment to be found. The subtle way the main themes are taken throughout and mixed into later levels add more to moments. In short it’s fantastic and the main theme alone deserves recognition for its brilliance.
It’s not quite perfection but it’s bloody close to it. There is a painfully annoying stealth section but it’s short and the reloading from death is so fast it just feels moderately tedious. Some of the enemies take a while to figure out quite how you’re supposed to deal with them. Still this is fixed when you adopt a more Souls/Bourne patient approach rather than run and gun. It quickly becomes easier to deal with anything Iconoclasts throws at you once you take your time with it. These skills come into play a lot more with some amazing boss encounters that are well choreographed. If you’re finding a particular section too difficult there are Tweaks that are crafted equipment bonuses to give you boosts. Even they have a system where you lose their ability when you take damage but recharge from statues and enemy drops like hearts from Castlevania. The balance is spot on and even when you find yourself dying it’s typically because you’ve missed something obvious or ran ahead when you should have taken your time.
Iconoclasts boils down in parts to the best bits of other titles. It has a similar pacing to Megaman, the memorable escalations from Sonic3, the incredible pixel art of Shantea and a combat system that feels a little Rogue Legacy. Numerous difficulty levels (I found Standard was just right for me) and a New Game + which allows you to explore a little more. The story is bleak, hilarious, subtle and just an all round fantastic ride. It’s also huge for a game in this genre. Every moment where the pacing took a breather to unwind it quickly followed it up with a new area, a new twist and a new objective to progress the story further.
I finally finished Iconoclasts and as the credits rolled I sat back. The controller was carefully put down. I had finished the best game of 2018. Even without 100% completion.
9/10 – The best of 2018 is a blonde badass with a wrench.