Review – Valfaris
Right out of the gate, Valfaris delivers on its promise to be a heavy metal 2D action platformer with the hardest soundtrack you’ve ever heard and some of the most ‘metal’ bosses in history.
Available now on Nintendo Switch, PC, PS4, and Xbox One (version reviewed using code provided by the publisher) the game looks like a 70’s or 80’s heavy metal album cover come to life in both the colours, which are trippy and vibrant, and the enemy design, which oozes that hand-painted style even though it looks ripped out of the 16-bit days.
Playing a bit like Contra, a bit like Gunstar Heroes, and a bit like its own unique thing, Valfaris has you running around large 2D levels shooting a massive variety of guns at everything that moves and a few things that don’t. Aiming isn’t as precise as I’d have liked, with your aim ‘locking in’ to up/down/left/right plus the diagonals, but the weapon variety is fantastic, with secondary weapons ranging from standard machine guns and shotguns to homing missiles, lasers, and a variety of melee weapons – but if you run out of ammunition for your special weapons there’s always your trusty sword and ‘regular’ gun with infinite ammo.
Replenishing your ammo provides a bit of depth to the gameplay, as you need to get up close and perform a melee kill with your sword in order to fill the blue meter that powers your secondary weapons and shield. The shield is interesting, though I probably didn’t use it as much as I should have, as it will – if you can time the block correctly – bounce back incoming fire or stun enemies who try to melee you.
There’s even a weapon progression system, though it’s hard to tell which weapons you’re going to like enough to want to sock away ‘Blood Metals’ into. I spent a pile on one weapon early on only to find one later that was much more fun to use, and I wish I’d saved up to make it even more powerful.
Players can even play a risk/reward game of their own, that feels like some of the Souls-style games out there. Gather up a currency called Resurrection Idols and they extend both your life and secondary weapon meters, but you can also spend them to create checkpoints at designated spots in the level. Do you risk having no checkpoint to keep the buffed-up meters for an upcoming boss fight?
What I liked:
- stellar weapon variety
- heavy-hitting soundtrack
- 16-bit take on mid-70’s heavy metal album covers
- great boss battles
- risk/reward Resurrection Idol mechanic
What I didn’t like:
- aiming didn’t feel precise
- some cheap hits, especially in boss fights