Every now and then I come across a game that just “clicks” for me. The click can happen for a variety of games and a variety of reasons. It might be a platformer with outstanding level design. Sometimes it’s a Metroidvania that just scratches the itch. It could be a storyline that just goes off the rails and SOMETIMES it’s just a girl with a big wrench. Iconoclasts is all of the above.
Did I mention the boss fights?
Oh Deary the boss fights!
Meet the Clasts
Iconoclasts is the story of happy go lucky mechanic “Robin”, a somewhat silent protagonist that spends her time going around helping people. Unfortunately for Robin, her trade is illegal as Powers that Be have a monopoly on, well…anything technical really. As Robin just can’t stop being nice to people this eventually gets her in trouble. Her arrest is the inciting incident and after that the story takes off in ways that kept surprising me with it’s twists and turns.
Oh, you thought you were just getting a MetroidVania shooty McJumpy game?
Well, you DO, but it comes packaged with a story and world you would normally find in RPGs.
As I went through the game, I found the supporting characters so rich with personality that it would be unfair to just talk about the game mechanics (ha).
My favorite supporting character, Mina, is a shotgun wielding pirate with bad body odor who has strained relationships with both her mother and her girlfriend. For a MetroidVania Shooty McJumpy game, I would expect these characters to be window dressing at best, but as I learned more about them, you can actually understand why they are just fed up with her shit.
Besides Mina, there is a wealth of supporting characters, but part of the joy is to learn about these yourself and figure out where they fit in the story.
The Nuts and Bolts
Even if Iconoclasts would do away entirely with it’s lore the gameplay would still manage to stand on it’s own. The game combines gunplay, traversal and puzzle solving really well and you’ll find yourself constantly using all of it on almost every screen. Your stun-gun takes care of small enemies. Your Wrench is both a melee weapon and your main tool to solve puzzles and your bomb gun is used for all of the above. During the game you’ll unlock upgrades for your Wrench which will allow you to perform feats that grant you access to new areas and treasure. These upgrades are essential to make it through the levels you are currently in, but as previous levels remain open, you can backtrack to try out your skills and find new stuff there as well.
Stay sharp though, you’ll encounter several puzzles that SEEM unsolvable, which might make you skip them and wait for a new Wrench. However with some resolve you’ll realize the game leave plenty of room for ingenuity. Your tricks are mostly rewarded with upgrade materials that allow you to tweak your gamestyle a bit. For example, you can increase your running speed, hit harder with your Wrench or increase your lung capacity for underwater levels and making it through gas filled dungeons.
The lung capacity one is interesting as it’s not just a tweak to make things easier, it allows you to dive deeper and again discover new stuff you couldn’t reach normally. The tweaks are easy to ignore completely, but Iconoclasts really rewards taking full advantage of it’s systems.
Oh, there is also a secret double jump that the game doesn’t tell you about which is a fun game changer when you discover how to do it!
There is a lot to unpack in a game like Iconoclasts that I feel a short review like this barely does it’s greatness justice.
First of all, the game looks fantastic. Every time you scroll into a new screen it becomes obvious how much care was put into each section by the sole creator. For over a decade Joakim Sandberg has been pouring love into this game and it shows.
Of course the levels often function as puzzles as well and while some are there just to explain how your tools work, later on you get to tackle a whole tower that takes some serious brainpower to line up all the pieces that you need to proceed. It’s challenging, but never cumbersome. The same can be said for the boss fights.
I LOVE the boss fights.
Pretty much every time I see a new boss, I die 3-4 times before I figure out the mechanics and then the fight actually begins.
These aren’t simple “Shoot the glowy orb” fights. They often require proper positioning, proper use of all your tools and in my favorite boss fight so far the use of tagging in and out with a partner.
A forgiving retry option takes the frustration out of these challenges and makes it accessible for almost all skill levels.
The combination of the story, the exploration, mechanics and boss battles packed into a beautiful looking game, makes Iconoclast one of the most fun games I have played in a long time.
Iconoclasts is available on PS4, PC and Mac but most importantly, it’s also on the Vita and that is a real gift to all you Vita owners out there (Hi Dave).
Buy this game, it’s fantastic.
(Review copy for PS Vita provided by developer)