Full Disclosure – Review copy provided by Dangen Entertainment.
Platform – Nintendo Switch
Publisher – Dangen Entertainment
Release Date – 10th January 2019
Developer – Bombservice
The ‘Metroidvania’ genre has had a real resurgence these past few years. Titles like ‘Hollow Knight’, ‘Deadcells’ and ‘Axiom Verge’ have lit the long abandoned sconces in our hearts. Momodora: Reverie Under The Moonlight is the latest game to attempt to rekindle our hearth – but how does it fair?
I have a confession to make – I had not heard of Momodora until Reverie hit the eShop. This is somewhat embarrassing because it is actually the fourth title in the series. Worry not though, you do not need any experience with the previous titles to enjoy Momodora 4. However your enjoyment will vary heavily based on what you want from a Metroidvania – more on that a lil’ bit later.
Momodora starts off with you, a humble priestess from a small village. After a ravenous plague infests your hamlet, you set out seeking an audience with the Queen of the neighbouring Queendom of Karst. As you make your way towards the City, you quickly learn that not all is as it seems. As the plot slowly unfurls, you will meet a bevy of strange characters who will give you little tid bits that flesh out the world. Plagues, corruption, terror and religious cover-ups are abound, although how much you learn is entirely down to you. Momodora’s plot is very much in the background, and only through optional player interaction, will you get the full scope of the tale.
The first thing you will notice when you boot up Momodora is that it’s staggeringly beautiful. It uses large, wonderfully detailed pixel art for its character and enemy designs – both of which are loaded with subtle animations that really bring them to life. Where the graphics truly shine however, is in its boss design. Bosses range from pint-sized humans to screen filling monstrosities, with the larger foes being a treat for the eyes.
Environments were given a similar level of care and attention. Each area you explore is oozing with atmosphere – especially the City of Karst. Interestingly enough, this is also where you will spend most of your time with Momodora as it serves as your central hub. The streets are abandoned, houses are filled with terrified citizens hiding from the undead and at all times, a crimson moon looms over you. Whilst this will bring my journalistic integrity into question, Karst feels an awful lot like ‘Yarnham’ – which is not a bad thing.
Unfortunately, this is where most of the positives with Momodora come to an abrupt end. In true Metroidvania fashion, your goal is to explore the map, find new abilities and use said abilities to explore more of the map. Momodora certainly has a sprawling map with many branching paths to take, but where it really falls flat is with its upgrades – or in this case lack of them. Momodora has one noticeable upgrade, which is your cat form. It operates a lot like the Morphball in Metroid…but that is it. Your travel options do not really expand beyond run, jump, dash and cat.
It doesn’t end there either. You get no meaningful upgrade to your attacks, with none of them really impacting how you play the game. Similar to the cat, there is only 1 real upgrade to your attacks. That upgrade us also optional and very, very miss-able. It is a real shame that there are very few reasons to explore Momodora’s world, as it is truly a world that begs to be explored.
Momodora does pull it back with its combat however. Whilst you only have one melee attack and one ranged attack, running in guns blazing will get you killed fairly quickly. Instead, utilising your dodge roll and recognising enemy ‘tells’ so you can strike at the right moment is exhilarating from start to finish. Boss battles are once again the highlight brilliant, often forcing you to pull off a series of death-defying acrobatic manuevers before laying into them with a series of attacks. Momodora doesn’t pull its punches either – even basic enemies can kill you in a few hits, and bosses can even one-shot you if you are not prepared.
To help you in your quest, you can equip certain items that confer a number of passive and active abilities – namely healing. I found these to mostly be superfluous beyond the direct healing abilities however. I also found myself forgetting about passives and strolled into the end credits without much hassle. You can find these trinkets scattered around various vendors you encounter throughout your adventure, although you can find some of them slightly off the beaten path.
When you are not running around leaf-whacking, you are jumping. Momodora’s jumping mechanics are rock solid giving you the perfect amount of control for the platforming challenges the developers throw at you. These challenges often amount to avoiding instant-death spikes – Megaman style. I never found myself screaming in rage at brushing these spikes as save-points are frequent, cutting down on tediously replaying the same sections.
From start to finish I blitzed through Momodora in around 5 hours. In those 5 hours I got 100% Map Completion and the Good Ending (there is obviously a bad ending too). To keep you coming back for more there are Hard and Insane modes. These change up enemy placement and generally make the game harder. Personally, I did not have enough incentive to go back and replay the game, but did hit the End Credits feeling satisfied with what I played. 5 hours just feels like a good length for the experience Momodora provides.
Overall I enjoyed my time with Momodora: Reverie Under The Moonlight, but as a Metroidvania it really does fall flat. As a flashy action platformer set in an interesting world, Momodora manages to give you some enjoyment over its 5 hour length, but look elsewhere if you are looking for your next ‘Hollow Knight’.
I give Momodora: Reverie Under The Moonlight a 2 on the Toaster scale. You put it in, set it away and comeback to a half-cooked slice of toast that may look appetising, but doesn’t really sate your hunger.