Over the years, many games, particularly indies, pay homage or even mimic the games of old. Phoenotopia: Awakening does just that, as it looks and feels a lot like Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. That is in no way an insult to the game, because Phoenotopia: Awakening not only pays some serious homage to one of the most underrated games of all time, but it also does its own thing with wonderful style and fun mechanics. But that’s not why you are here. You are wondering if this is a game worthy of your hard-earned dollars or not. Well, let’s get crackin’.
Phoenotopia: Awakening Review
Phoenotopia: Awakening feels like a video game version, and a much more light-hearted version, or Lord of the Flies. You play as Gail, a spunky young girl who seems to have a lot of responsibility in her village despite her age. Right from the start, you are tasked with gathering some of the little ones around the village, and you stumble upon something mysterious. You look into it, and you find yourself fighting for your life only to come out of the situation to learn that all the adults in your village were abducted while you were off figuring out what crash landed.
It is a fun story that was seriously a lot more engaging than I was anticipating. The character dialogs are unique and whimsical, and talking to NPCs is never a drag. Everyone has a voice (Not literally) that is uniquely theirs, and it really helps open up the incredibly large world.
Yes, you read that right. This is a huge game. Not only will the story drag you from desert to lush forest to deadly waters, but the way you play the game varies depending on where you are. In many ways similar to Zelda II, Phoenotopia: Awakening changes based on where you traverse. In the cities, there are tons of people to connect with and learn from, as well as restaurants and shops to buy lots of specialty foods and equipment. While in the overworld, you will move from one major location to another as you try to avoid enemies that teleport you to battle zones that you want to immediately escape from.
Then we get to the puzzles and dungeons that feel exotic and fresh depending on where you are. Like its grandfather, Zelda II, Phoenotopia does an excellent job of combining important and valuable elements of the RPG genre and metroidvania genre that make it look and feel so original among the two crowded genres. No matter the amount of times I felt lost or unprepared, the game never feels unfair in its battles, boss fights, or challenges.
Combat is one of the areas that the game differs itself from Zelda II. First of all, you have a stamina bar that depletes upon any special action, and that includes using your main weapon or secondary weapons. During battles and boss fights, paying close attention to your stamina bar is the difference between a successful throwdown and a complete failure. It may feel so oldschool and natural to rabidly swing your weapon at a big and intimidating baddie, but you will quickly find yourself vulnerable if you do so. Learning to pace yourself is key, and this is what makes the game’s combat feel special.
I know Phoenotopia: Awakening is not the only game that has taken this approach to its combat, but when you consider the vastness of what this game has to offer, the depth of combat is not something you would think to praise among its other amazing qualities. Boss fights, in particular, are an absolute blast, and the bigger the boss, the more exciting and intense the battle.
The progressive powerups in this game range from familiar to oddly familiar for different reasons. Like retro Zelda games, items like bombs, slingshots, and magic rods are represented and are all implemented very well, and I especially loved how you could mix and mash a lot of these items in combat and it never felt genuinely wrong. But then there are items like an inner tube to help you swim that just make you smile and realize that normalcy can exist within a fantasy world.
As you move along, you also make new friends that grant you access to very helpful items and devices. Teleporting is one such thing that could have made a game like Zelda II so much more accessible, and it is done here so wonderfully and you will instantly fall in love with the scientist responsible for the technology.
As the story unfolds and you reconnect with old villagers who moved away and new people from different areas, you will find yourself doing a lot of backtracking and revisiting, and like an excellent metroidvania game, this was mostly exciting and helped make previously visited locations feel even more important.
For a game series that I was not familiar with, I was pleasantly surprised by everything Phoenotopia: Awakening had to offer. This is one of the deepest and most enjoyable indies I have played in a while, and this is one that will keep you busy for a very, very long time. I clocked myself in at around 31 hours to complete the game, and I honestly neglected a lot of areas to make sure I could finish this review in a timely fashion. This is a game that is asking for a measly $19.99 for at least a 30-hour experience, and much moreso for the completionists out there.
When I first started the game, I was sold simply by the cuteness of the bit-style characters and stellar animation, but by the end I realized that I was playing a diamond in the rough. This game has it all; great storytelling, top-notch characters and interactions, engaging puzzles, immensely fun boss fights, and a world that you simply want to explore every bit of.
What more would you want from a video game?
Excellent storytelling and character building
Combat, particularly bosses, is loads of fun
Strong value for your dollar
Direction can be confusing at times
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My name is Jason Capp. I am a husband, father, son, and brother, and I am a gamer, a writer, and a wannabe pro wrestler. It is hard to erase the smile on this simple man.