Even though I own every system, ever since the Nintendo Switch released I almost exclusively play indie games on it. That’s because they are generally less taxing graphically and thus look and play the same and I get the benefit of being able to play on the TV or on the handheld. So, when Iconoclasts was announced out of the blue, I knew virtually nothing about it, even though it had already released on the PS4. I took one look at the game and was instantly drawn to its beautiful sprites and colorful environments. Beyond that I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but luckily it was one of those leaps of faith that paid off!
Incase you didn’t already know, the definition of iconoclast is: a person who attacks cherished beliefs, traditional institutions, etc., as being based on error or superstition. In this game you play as Robin, a young girl who has recently lost her father – one of the rare mechanics in this dying world. You see, the moon has been broken and shards of it have been streaming down onto your planet below. Robin simply wants to pick up where her dad left off and help the world by fixing it with her magic wrench! However, there’s one major problem: she doesn’t have a license to be a mechanic, and in this world you’re not allowed to fix things without that or you’re a sinner. Soon the One Concern agents are hot on her trail and will stop at nothing to capture and or kill her. In their eyes she’s going against the grain of their religion and they must make an example out of her and her friends and family. This leads to some pretty serious plot developments that I didn’t expect coming out of a cartoony adventure platforming game like this.
You begin the game with a stun gun and your trusty wrench. The gun has a very limited range, but it does at least have a homing function that will automatically blast the nearest enemies. The wrench (at the start) is used to twist bolts to open new passages. In a throwback to Bionic Commando, Robin can also swing on them to reach new areas. As you progress through the game you’ll unlock new weapons and upgrades to your wrench. Some sections of the game play out in a puzzle-like fashion where you must clear the way of obstacles and platforms. That’s where the Roller Bomb Shot comes in handy. You can shoot bombs and they will roll for a bit before exploding. Playing around with the angles and physics will allow you to proceed through these sections.
In many respects this game plays a bit like Metroid, where you’ll see a spot that you can’t access yet, but Robin will gain a new power later on so you can come back to that area and discover what’s there. Sometimes it’s a whole new path to explore, and other times it will just be a treasure chest with a resource. Resources can be used to power-up Robin with attributes called Tweaks, which give her abilities like higher run speed or allow her to hold her breath longer underwater. Only a select number can be activated at any one time, and as you take damage you’ll lose access to some of them until you regain health by collecting power cells dropped by enemies when killed.
The entire time I was playing Iconoclasts I was impressed with just how well the game controlled. Everything feel satisfying, from the jumping to the cranking of the wrench. The world is fun to explore and the story kept me interested. I very quickly came to hate the religious zealots and the game does a fantastic job of painting the bad guys in a really horrible light. I loved discovering secret areas and finding all of the hidden resources. There is a lot more dialog and interaction with NPCs than I thought there would be, but most of the time I found them to be interesting conversations.
Obviously from a screenshot and video perspective the graphics will undoubtedly draw a lot of people in. They’re bright and great to look at. There are layers upon layers of parallax scrolling and oftentimes other special effects are peppered into the backgrounds to give it the extra visual punch. The game’s visuals reminded me a bit of a mix between Mega Man, Ninja Gaiden, and Sonic the Hedgehog. That might sound like an odd mash-up, but in this case it works extremely well and I can’t really think of a single complaint. If you’re looking for gigantic bosses (and lots of them), excellent animations, and beautiful sprites, then this game delivers across the board.
Equally impressive is the soundtrack, and it’s one of those that seeps into the inner recesses of your brain and refuses to let go. In some ways it slightly reminded me of Stardew Valley, with mostly happy background music to go along with its bright cheery colors. I can’t say the game really does anything revolutionary with its soundtrack, but the quality of tunes here is very high and complements the game perfectly.
It’s obvious that Iconoclasts has been developed with a ton of love and dedication and all the more impressive that it was created by a single man: Joakim Sandberg. The story is a bit convoluted at times, but honestly it’s the creative world and addictive gameplay that kept me coming back for more. The game does have some difficulty spikes and some bosses can be tough to figure out how to damage them. Luckily there are a variety of difficulty levels to choose from, and these can be changed at the title screen. The easiest mode will pretty much make Robin invincible for those that just want to take a relaxed approach to playing the game. Even though the eShop is already crowded with plenty of Metroidvanias, this is one of the best ones and should definitely be given the time to shine on your Switch!
Iconoclasts was reviewed using a final retail Nintendo Switch download code provided by the publisher.