In the past year, the Metroidvania genre has seen a huge resurgence. We’ve seen heavily hyped titles such as Ori and the Blind Forest and Axiom Verge live up to expectations and deliver on their promise, and while 2016 seems to be a quieter year for the genre, at least in terms of big names, there’s still a lot to be excited for. One such release is LookAtMyGame’s Chronicles of Teddy: Harmony of Exidus.
Taking inspiration from Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, Harmony of Exidus presents itself as a platformer with many role-playing elements layered underneath. Initially, the game plays overly simple, as the protagonist (who is accompanied by her floating teddy bear) is merely armed with a sword and the ability to jump. The standard attack feels oddly stiff due to the lack of reach, and the game makes a poor first impression from a gameplay standpoint. This is definitely an adventure that takes some time to get going mechanically.
Eventually, though, players will get a bunch of new skills that turn the combat, and traversal, into a much more enjoyable experience. By progressing through the game’s several areas, and working their way through Zelda-like dungeons, the hero will be able to double jump, and wall jump their way to new locations.
Exploration is where the game really succeeds, although it tries to shoot itself in the foot by offering up one of the worst in-game maps in a Metroidvania since Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate. Players will eventually get used to the map though, which is made increasingly confusing due to the game’s usage of doors to transport players to different areas, which is essential since there’s a lot of backtracking to be had just like in any good Metroidvania title. You’ll want to explore each previous area once you’ve gained new skills, too, since there are always hidden goodies stored away for you to find.
The most important thing players will find during their journey will actually be words. A key mechanic of Chronicles of Teddy: Harmony of Exidus is the game’s Musicom system, which allows players to communicate with monsters, environmental puzzles and peaceful villagers. To grow your vocabulary, and thus your ability to solve the game’s tricky puzzles, you’ll have to find villagers and get into conversations with them.
The Musicom is the game’s most unique mechanic, and one that I wasn’t initially sold on. You get 12 different sounds that you can make words with (which are thankfully noted in an in-game dictionary so you won’t have to take notes), and it can be overwhelming and needlessly confusing at first. Over time the mechanic just clicked, though, and now, I couldn’t imagine the game without it.
The first time you use the Musicom to make a previously locked door open up is just magical. In fact, one of the most memorable moments in my playthrough was when a gigantic guardian asked me for a “magic word” in order to pass by them. I was completely clueless, and after looking at the words I could make, decided to go with “please” as a joke. To my surprise, and the developer’s genius, this was actually the magic word that the monster was looking for. It’s this type of satisfying puzzle solving that makes Chronicles of Teddy: Harmony of Exidus feel like something special.
Another area where the game really shines is in its graphical presentation. The colorful 2D platformer is visually striking from the onset, and it never lets up. Each area in Harmony of Exidus is filled with style, and I often stopped playing just to admire how beautiful the screen looked. I rarely use the PlayStation 4’s Share feature, but I found myself constantly Tweeting out photos of gorgeous locations.
If there’s one major gripe against the game, it’s how easy it is to get lost and wander around for hours while seemingly making no progress. The developer saw this as a potential problem, and actually ended up adding an in-game hint system in the central hub, but it’s quite limited to the point where it doesn’t really help the issue. That said, the moments of triumph easily make up for the frustrations that will occur.
Despite being rough around the edges, Chronicles of Teddy: Harmony of Exidus is a gaming delight. While the Musicom system might not be appealing initially, it eventually becomes one of the most unique and rewarding systems in the game. Overall, this is yet another worthwhile Metroidvania title for fans to check out, and has enough of its own twists to not feel like a retread.
This review is based on the PlayStation 4 version, which we were provided with.
LookAtMyGame has created one of the best surprises of 2016 so far. Chronicles of Teddy: Harmony of Exidus is a gorgeous title that is very rewarding, even if it doesn't make the best first impression.