Get ready for some heavy metal adventure! Developed by Steel Mantis (the minds that brought us Slain: Back from Hell back in 2016) and Stage Clear Studios and published by Big Sugar, Valfaris is a run and gun pixel art adventure in the depths of space where you play as Therion, the fearless son of Valfaris that comes back to his homeworld to uncover the truth beyond this planet vanishing and later reappearance where the main suspect is no one else than his father.
Venture into the most inhospitable planet of the galaxy fighting ferocious beasts thirsty for blood and soldiers with one mission: stop you at any cost. Eliminate all threats the planet throws at you with your trustworthy arsenal and be ready to show your old man who’s daddy here!
What do you do? In this game you will explore the tainted world of Valfaris, eliminating everything that moves before they eliminate you! To do so, you will have at your disposal a melee weapon and your sidearm. Later in the game, you will have access to a special gun, much more powerful and with limited ammo that consumes energy from your shield. Investigate the pits of this world, fight countless enemies and bring down all defenses of this planet – before they terminate you!
What we liked!
- Insane visuals: Do you like pixel art graphics? Good for you because Valfaris brings some of the most amazing and well-detailed game worlds of the year! The level of care with the gruesome visuals of enemies being sliced, electrocuted or fried (toasty!) really impress! Every scenario in every stage has so much detail, both in the background and in the front elements: particles flying, grotesque animations and awesome use of light and shadows create the perfect atmosphere for this metal adventure! And let’s not forget about the special effects of your guns and the havoc they create in enemy ranks… so satisfying!
- Music for my ears: Something tells me the developers from Steel Mantis (Andrew Gilmour and Thomas Jenns) are great headbangers: as in Slain, Valfaris music is stuffed with an impressive heavy metal soundtrack, courtesy from Curt Victor Bryant, former Celtic Frost guitarist. And in case you don’t know, our protagonist, Therion, has the name of a Swedish metal band from the late 80s, proving my thesis about their musical preferences. But not only the soundtrack is good because the sound effects of the game are equally outstanding! Enemies and each one of your weapons has remarkable sound effects. I felt the game missed some voice acting… But that’s ok. It won’t diminish the great work done here in any way.
- Level design: Eachlevel in Valfaris feels distinctive. Yeah, I’m sure you have already seen most of its ideas in other titles, but play along, will ya? Because these side-scrolling levels bring everything the best games from the genre offer: vertical elements, keys to collect, switches to activate, moving platforms, stairs, vehicles (or something that works like vehicles) to ride and EVEN A FREAKING MEGAZORD! Part of the challenge of the game comes from the smart placement of enemies and hidden secrets you will want to discover.
- Your arsenal: Composed by a sword, a handgun/side-arm (your main gun) and a special weapon, you will be ready to face all challenges the planet throws at you. You can find new weapons (some well-hidden, others literally in your way) in special containers throughout your adventure. Each one of these weapons plays and feels unique with differences that include range, fire rate and damage to your opponents. You will have your favorite ones, I’m sure of that, but each one of these guns is more suited for a different situation – try to find the best one for each stage. Your arsenal can be upgraded with special components you find exploring the levels or when defeating some (tough) enemies. Each weapon can be upgraded a few times to make it the ultimate destruction tool.
- I wanna tell you a story: Something I enjoyed a lot in Valfaris is the fact that the story is happening inside of each stage, not only between one and another as most of games do. This way you will understand the reasons to enter a fully guarded enemy base or to destroy a monster as you approach it explained to you in short breaks during your gameplay, not only at the beginning or end of the level. It feels different than most of games do and it was well implemented, making it something worth mentioning.
- Challenging… but not unfair: Prepare to die on this planet. A lot! But every time you fall in combat, you know you and only you are the one to blame! With that in mind, that ‘only one more try’ vibe will be always present in your gameplay.
Save system: Something I’m reticent about is the save/checkpoint system of the game. To use it, you need to activate some altars present in specific points of each level. And to activate it, you will need to use some special items you can find scattered in each level – components that can be converted in elements to upgrade your weaponry. Not that it consists of a problem, but I’m not a big fan of limited saves.
What we disliked
- Respawning enemies: Not that more cannon fodder for you to eliminate in the game is a bad thing, but when these enemies respawn from holes in the background in the exact same spot as your character is, sometimes making you fall from a platform to death makes you remember why run-and-guns used to be so tough back in time.
- Meaningless upgrades: While the first upgrade for your standard gun DOES a lot of difference, the following one doesn’t even seem to change it at all. And unfortunately, the same can be said for most of your weapons – well, except that enemies fall faster… sometimes. This way, it’s hard to say if it’s worth or not to upgrade it to the last level – considering your resources to upgrading all your weapons is very limited!
With astonishing visuals, outstanding audio and vicious gameplay, this is by far one of the best games I’ve played this year! It’s challenging and will keep you coming for more and more until you finally manage to beat that level or boss – and boy oh boy you know how good that feeling is! Yes, you do! Prepare to face these ugly monstrosities and overcome the challenges of this world to unearth the truth Valfaris hides in great style!