So this one is a little tricky to classify, but it reminded me a lot of two games: Evoland and There Is No Game. The entire concept of tERRORbane is lampooning the many tropes and genres both old school and modern. The tone is very tongue-in-cheek and meta fourth-wall breaking, and I know that this kind of referential humor can be polarizing however, I really found it to be all in good fun, as the quickness of it all helps keep things from ever overstaying its welcome. I enjoy how much fun the developer had playing a character in his own game, as well as how the meta narrative weaves in with the in-universe stories.
The game is on the short side but I found the pacing to be just right. There’s also a good amount of replay value because you can experiment with unlocking branching paths and find the intentional “bugs”. There were many moments I couldn’t help but have a smile on my face just seeing the inane little Easter eggs and silly ways I could interact with the game world. The game thrives when it breaks your expectations, and often the smallest details and gags really worked on me. I will say in terms of the game’s structure, it feels more puzzle and story driven than the RPG presentation might suggest. There are gameplay segments that mimic other genres, but I think the interactive narrative and secret hunting is the real pull of the game rather than building a team/character or a real ball-busting challenge.
It’s a little difficult to discuss the game without getting into spoilers, but broadly speaking, the game starts by parodying SNES style RPGs as an overzealous developer/narrator assures you that the game you will be playing is ten out of ten pristine with absolutely no bugs or glitches. You can tell the creator had a lot of fun satirizing the quick to release under-tested nature of some games on the Steam Page nowadays. I will say I played a version of the game where every path was available just to see how the branching paths function, but when I returned to start fresh, I can definitely see how figuring out what different sequences can produce a new result would be really fun. Like I said, getting to an ending may be relatively quick, but the replay value is pretty nice for an interactive narrative game like this. In addition, each branch has its own list of bugs to discover that are weird oddities in functionality or errors. In some ways, it reminded me of the checklist from Untitled Goose Game. Sometimes it’s the way NPCs interact, sometimes it’s a menu option glitching, the environment, etc etc. Later on, you unlock the ability to manipulate objects on screen and change their values, which can be used for puzzle solving and general mayhem. You are essentially “hacking” the properties of select in-game objects or characters.
There are many moments where the game completely flips conventional game mechanics on its head and it’s pretty fun to see how you break the game in each scenario. The game plays around with a lot of genres even beyond standard JRPGs, so that was a pleasant surprise. The game is pretty breezy as you transition from scene to scene, which makes exploration that much easier to get into while figuring out the various branching paths.
It’s hard to discuss much more without going into spoilers, but I had a pretty good time with this one. It’s a love letter to SNES era games, mixing in just enough modern gaming sensibilities and commentary to stay relevant. There are times where the pop culture references may seem a bit too pandering, but that’s up to you to decide. I mostly found the jokes harmless at their worst, and often at least chuckle-worthy. I like some of the conversations the developer has directly with the player: I was worried about how it would come across, but overall I’d say it worked albeit it can be a tad cheesy. All in all, I’d say this is a recommendation.
A review copy was provided by the devs
Hellfirebam has awarded tERRORbane the Indie Gamer Seal of Approval.