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Iconoclasts review

A mechanic tries to fix a broken world.

Our Verdict

Slick platforming, well-designed puzzles, and a huge, connected world, with occasional moments of frustration.

NEED TO KNOW

What is it? An action platformer starring a tool-swinging mechanic.
Expect to pay £18/$20
Developer Joakim Sandberg
Publisher Bitfrost Entertainment
Reviewed on GTX 1080, Intel i5-6600K, 16GB RAM
Multiplayer None
Link Official Site

Robin is a mechanic, but the authoritarian society she lives in doesn’t want her to be. Jobs like this are outlawed for regular citizens, forcing her to keep her tool-slinging talents a secret from One Concern—the sinister religious regime in charge. Even so, she still helps out around the village with repairs, using a wrench hidden in her basement. You can’t keep a good mechanic down.

But after an unexpected run-in with Concern agents, she decides the thing that needs fixin’ most is the world. And so she embarks on a quest to make it a better place, accompanied by a group of like-minded rebels who share her hatred of the society they live in. It’s an engaging premise, bolstered by colourful writing, lavish pixel art, and superb animation.

Iconoclasts is clearly inspired by games like Metroid and Castlevania (if only there was a clumsy portmanteau to describe a game like this), but it has enough new ideas to stand on its own and not feel like a direct homage to either. It’s also a lot heavier on story than these games usually are, with reams of dialogue to click through, a huge cast of characters to meet, and frequent cutscene breaks. It balances pathos and humour pretty well, although I found some of the jokes a little too goofy for their own good.

A grease monkey is nothing without her tools, and Robin’s best abilities stem from the variety of gadgets she has hanging from her belt. As well as projectile weapons, including a stun gun and a grenade launcher, she can batter enemies with her wrench and spin it around like a Wild West gunslinger. And she can also jump in the air and unleash a devastating butt slam.

But the wrench has other, more interesting uses. Around the large, interconnected levels you’ll see glowing bolts, some of which can be swung on to leap over obstacles, and others that operate machinery. The latter forms the basis of the game’s well-designed environmental puzzles, which involve finding hidden bolts and cranking them to slide increasingly complex networks of doors and moving platforms around, creating a path through the level.

She can batter enemies with her wrench and spin it around like a Wild West gunslinger

Otherwise, Iconoclasts is a fairly standard shooter/platformer hybrid—but, thanks to precise and responsive controls, an enjoyable one. Leaping around feels wonderfully snappy, and there’s a huge bestiary of enemies to fight, all with their own distinct attack patterns and weaknesses. It’s evident a lot of time has been spent refining the controls, making them feel just right.

The art is impressive, with chunky, smoothly animated characters reminiscent of SNK’s Metal Slug series, and some beautifully detailed environments. Robin’s journey takes her to a lush forest filled with weird geometric plants, a sun-baked desert, an underwater city, the roof of a speeding train, and other locations, all of which beam with colour and personality.

It’s a challenging game too, especially when one of the big, screen-filling bosses shows up. While they all boil down to memorising a few patterns, some of them are incredibly fast-paced and chaotic. Often you’re accompanied by an AI partner, including shotgun-toting pirate Mina and Royal, a man with telekinetic powers. And you’ll need all the help you can get. 

The level of challenge is nicely balanced, although a few sharp difficulty spikes did catch me off guard. I also had problems with clarity, occasionally unsure where to head next to progress, or how to take down a particular enemy. Sometimes characters will yell out hints during boss battles about how to beat them, but I found the wording of these confusing more than once.

Upgrades called Tweaks bring a little customisation to the game. These can be crafted by finding materials hidden in treasure chests, and offer useful buffs when equipped: holding your breath for longer, doing more damage with your wrench, running faster. And you get to choose which of these you equip, giving you some freedom to tailor Robin to your own specific play style.

Iconoclasts is a fine game, offering both satisfyingly sharp platforming and shooting, and some really smart puzzles. It’s enormous too, packed with secret areas and other stuff to discover. And although I found the humour a little glib and childish at times, it tells its heartfelt story well. A lot of Metroidvania games go for a bleak, downbeat atmosphere, but Iconoclasts is infectiously vibrant and sunny, even if the story does occasionally venture into dark territory.

The Verdict

Iconoclasts

Slick platforming, well-designed puzzles, and a huge, connected world, with occasional moments of frustration.