Agartha Review – A Strange Indie Platformer That Doesn’t Hit its Mark

    Title: Agartha
    Developer: Shindenken
    Release Date: March, 20 2019
    Reviewed On: PC
    Publisher: Fruitbat Factory
    Genre: Puzzle Platformer

I don’t have a good track record with platforming games. I struggle with early Mega Man and Mario games, but I play them anyway and suffer. I do however perform much better with puzzle games. So when Agartha, a small 8-bit Japanese indie title by Shindenken, comes in teasing a hybrid, I think, “You know what, I can get behind this.” Then I pick a god and pray that I don’t utterly suck at playing it.

Agartha is a puzzle platformer where you start out as a gunner. Just so we’re clear this is a game that is a heavy case of “No plot? No problem!” as the player’s only goal is to complete as many of the 64 stages as possible and defeat the final boss located at the bottom right-hand corner of the stage selection screen. Each stage contains a variety of environments and enemies, which don’t always try to kill you but more than often do. During a level, the player is tasked with finding the exit, but how you do that is up to you. During gameplay, you’re provided with a variety of tools which allow the player to burn, blister, and blast their way to escaping. Other doable actions include freezing water so you can run across it, blowing holes into walls so you can pass through, or trapping foes under masses of dirt or water.

agartha ss01

Throughout the level, you’ll be able to find rare gems and collect food drops from enemies. These materials can be exchanged for more playable characters, each with their own set of skills. For example, the squishy wizard blasts foes with powerful magic, which makes this character great for killing enemies, but their only method of destroying the environment is the powerful close-range flare spell that has limited ammo and leaves them open to enemy attacks.

However, characters like the Alchemist, lack conventional attacks but fights by transforming the environment leading to unconventional stage solving. This is useful as sometimes stages will have secret exits that need to be found to access different routes. Every now and then you’ll run into large boss battles who provide a nice way to break up the various stages. Boss battles can’t be evaded so, so you’ll need to pummel them into submission in order to progress.

agartha ss03

I found Agartha to be quite fun and interesting, at least, in the beginning. However, the lack of actual progression leaves the game feeling rather empty at times. With only 7 characters to unlock, the puzzles quickly start feeling frustrating and redundant as there is little to encourage the player to progress. Rewards are lackluster, given that there is nothing else to do after unlocking everything. In the later parts of the game, many puzzles become infuriating as they devolve into “use this character to win”.

That being the case, I quickly started rushing my way through the game to just get to the end. Thankfully, the bosses are a welcome relief in the later stages, but there aren’t nearly enough to break up the monotony the game falls into. The final boss is also extremely misleading and painful. You aren’t told how to fight it, and from my experience, you need one specific character to win or it’s flat out impossible. To sum it up, the game just stops being fun.

agartha ss02

Agartha is a game with a lot of potential and it sadly doesn’t know what to do with it. The game has puzzles that are made out of destructible environments, with a handful of interesting character skills to unlock, and cheery 8-bit music which should lead to a fantastic little indie game.

However, the uninspired stage design and lack of real progression rewards lead to frustration and dissatisfaction. I can only recommend Agartha to those who love old school platformers and super indie gems, but sadly to no one else. It’s a real shame honestly because there are some charming features about the game that don’t last long after the first few stages.

Noisy Pixel is giving Agartha a 4/10

A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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Pyre Kavanagh

Senior Editor - Illusions to illusions. Will solve murder mysteries for money so they can buy more murder mysteries. @PyreLoop on twitter