We have seen it so many times now; an indie developer jumping on the bandwagon with its own retro-styled, pixelated 2D Metroidvania title. It’s something that we are seeing more and more of and you could argue that the genre as a whole is becoming a little stale. There are titles that are exceptions to that rule but it’s hard to say which end of the spectrum Chasm falls into, as I had fun all throughout my playthrough, but it felt all too familiar.
Chasm tells the tale of a mute knight, sent on an assignment to a small mining town where the townsfolk there have been disappearing after coming into contact with creatures that lurk in the mines, and it’s your task to rescue them. It isn’t the most in-depth story you will ever encounter and it certainly didn’t hook me in that sense, however, if you want to delve a little deeper you can find diary entries dotted around but they can get a little wordy. Ultimately, it is a rather dull way of learning about a rather drab plot.
Once you gain access to the mine, this is where the game properly gets going, allowing you to explore to your heart’s content. There are lots of different paths you can take, it isn’t just one linear route to the goal. At many times I was faced with a dilemma of a few different ways to go at any given point. Larger rooms were naturally the prime suspect here, with the majority of those having three or four exits. Luckily then, there is a decent map system in place that you can always refer back to and see the rooms that have exits that you haven’t yet been through. You can also set a marker on the map in the room you are currently in, so if you feel like you have stumbled on a room that catches your interest and you think you might want to come back to later on, just set down a marker so you know for later on. It’s a nice touch.
Speaking of the map, Chasm features a procedurally generated map, which when you hear somebody say that, it always sounds like a good thing, but its quite the opposite. What I think the developers on Chasm went for, is for the map to feel a bit more natural, which is what a randomised map would theoretically give you, but it doesn’t work out that way. Many screens look almost identical to one another, but maybe with a couple of different monsters. If we take a game such as Super Metroid, each room and area looks different, so you remember the different rooms and you almost start to visualise your very own map in your head. You learn more everytime you pass through an area when you inevitably have to do a bit of backtracking. Here, everything looks the same, so its impossible for me to learn anything when I feel like I have been through it a few times already when in reality it is actually the first time passing through.
Chasm undoubtedly uses Castlevania as its prime influence and it doesn’t try to cover up that fact in any way. Its overall theme, setting, RPG elements, controls and similar gameplay took me right back to playing some of the amazing Castlevania titles on the DS, but more so Symphony of the Night. It isn’t a bad game to borrow from by any means and the overall gameplay found here is decent enough that I found myself enjoying playing through it. It can feel a little stiff at times, especially at the start where its more of a shock, but I got past that barrier early on. You cannot swing your weapon and move at the same time, leaving you routed to the spot even after the animation has finished. The way we get around this is by jump attacking, which gives you more freedom in terms of movement but only emphasises the poor design choice for ground combat. Again, it never bothered me too much as I learnt to deal with it, but it is just something to keep in mind.
Similar to other titles in the genre, you will learn new moves as you progress, making traversal much easier. Double jumps help massively and the sooner you get that, the better. It gives you a bit more room for error when jumping towards a narrow platform or across a slightly lengthy gap. Light RPG elements also make an appearance, allowing you to alter your stats by equipping different weapons or clothing. It doesn’t go overboard with the different elements, you can only equip two pieces of clothing and two accessories for example, but it was enough to keep me interested in that side of the game. Likewise, equipping different weapons can make combat feel a little different as different weapons have different swing animations and speeds.
I do feel that the art style we have on display here is now being a little overused and as such, it doesn’t give any kind of wow factor, despite it looking rather lovely. I just can’t justify lauding the visuals too much with how often we see other games looking just like this one. Contrary to that, however, is that I still personally love the graphical style and will happily see it used by countless other games in the future, it just doesn’t make the title stand out from the crowd anymore, it actually makes it blend in more.
Chasm doesn’t quite have its own identity, as it borrows so much from other games. And, while it does that decently, it’s not best in class. The randomly generated level layout, which is the game’s one unique feature, actually ends up being its biggest weakness. Maybe I am being a little too unkind, as I did have fun playing, but I just feel like it could have been so much more and that’s what bothers me the most. It’s a decent enough tribute to those games of yesteryear, but that’s its problem, as it ends up being yet another Metroidvania title on an ever-increasing pile.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by Leadman Games