bhlaab's Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight (PC) review

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Not Perfect, But Good Enough

This is a well put together indie Metroidvania, although it is shockingly short for the genre. The map is quite small; I'd estimate it to be about 1/3 of the size of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night's (and that's not even counting the inverted castle). I finished in five hours, but that was after a lot of wandering back and forth across the map in a (failed) attempt to find every stupid hidden bug collectible. A less thorough player would probably finish in 2 hours. It's not that there's anything wrong with a game being short, but I was left with a feeling of, "Oh I'm at the end already?" which suggests a level of dissatisfaction with the length and pacing. Contributing to this is the fact that there are very few secrets or hidden routes to find, limiting off-the-beaten-path discovery. Despite being small and fairly straightforward, the world is well considered and quite pretty. Backtracking never becomes too bothersome, with lots of shortcuts creating easy new pathways back to old checkpoints.

Straight away one is likely to notice that the animation in Momodora is fantastic. The protagonist's combat animations impress most of all, with every impact coming through. The style and satisfaction of hitting enemies alone may pull players through the entire experience.

Momodora's combat and difficulty curve is very strange. Your only attacks are a three-hit combo, an aerial attack, and a ranged arrow attack that can be charged. If I had to make a direct comparison to any other game it would be to the basic loadout of the Megaman Zero series. On top of this Momodora adds in a dodge roll, during which you are totally immune to all damage. What's odd is how the entire structure of combat is based on stunlocking enemies. Once they've been hit by a melee attack, any non-boss monster is done for so long as you keep up an offense. This does allow the player to clear rooms in a quick and decisive manner, which is befitting of the Metroidvania genre, but it does fail to train you properly for boss fights. Bosses either cannot be stunlocked at all, or can only be stunlocked at moments of opportunity. The player's combat animations, with their long windups and follow-through, aren't quite up to dealing with this and a player might find themselves taking damage because their animations are pushing them into the bosses' hitbox. That's another rub of mixing a 2D pixel aesthetic with 'Souls-like' animation priority in melee combat. The animation downtimes don't play well with 2D action game motifs such as taking damage from simply touching enemies.

After a while you might recognize that the aerial attack has near-zero windup or recovery and does about as much damage in one swipe as your ground combo does in all three. The only downside to using the aerial attack is that you cannot dodgeroll. You can't, that is, until about halfway through the game when a powerup grants you an air-dodge maneuver. Suddenly the difficulty curve plummets, with the discoverable powerups that increase one's maximum health pool and maximum number of healing items only exacerbating things further.

There are also a handful of what I'll call, "indie developer mistakes." These are things like death pits being not immediately discernible from passageways downward, or rooms with enemy placements that are fine when going from left to right but are either trivialized or outright unfair if approached from right to left. All of these are understandable given the size of the production, but they do make the game feel a little bit sloppier than it otherwise would.

I liked Momodora quite a lot. It's certainly worth $9 and I'd recommend it to people who are otherwise wary of indie pixel art Metroidvanias (there's a lot of them and not many are even half this good). If you find yourself not liking it, I recommend sticking with it at least until you get the air dodge.

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