Itorah Review – Simple Naturalism

    Title: Itorah
    Developer: Grimbart Tales
    Release Date: March 21, 2022
    Reviewed On: PC
    Publisher: Assemble Entertainment
    Genre: Action, Platformer

Gameplay feel is such a vague, all-possessing omnipresent term vital to a player’s derived enjoyment. It encompasses how a game portrays its core identity and making sure it’s driven by intention is crucial to a developer’s vision.

Still, achieved intent doesn’t necessarily guarantee overwhelming success. The Grimbart Tales developed Itorah is a 2D action-adventure whose intended purpose is fulfilled, but a few questionable design choices and the absence of particular supplementary incorporations make it a mixed experience only meant for a specific subset of crowds.

Throughout Itorah, players control the titular protagonist as she explores a wondrous world as the seemingly final remaining human on the planet. However, on her journey of self-discovery, an ominous plague is set to infect the world’s residents. I’ll be honest; nothing about the plot intrigued or compelled me in any way.

There’s barely a tether at the start of the game to initiate attachment, and the infrequency of dialogue, especially for the first few hours, did little to establish a hook. Some players may find themselves invested, though chances are most aren’t going to particularly care where the narrative goes. It’s unfortunate because the premise is remotely thought-provoking, but its execution feels lackadaisical above all else.

Itorah

Thankfully, the gameplay is the central facet of this experience as players control Itorah throughout a genuinely gorgeous series of landscapes and dungeons mainly inspired by South and Central America. Movement and combat are quite simple, with the former comprising a dash and jump and the latter consisting of basic combos.

The unique mechanic is a Stamina meter that is thankfully not reduced when attacking. Health and Stamina can also be upgraded, though the Metroidvania DNA feels more supplementary than the core due to scant items. You rarely have to take your Stamina into account, and I often forgot it was even around, so its inclusion perplexed me at points. At most, it can mitigate you in a battle, but the extreme enemy simplicity will make those occurrences rare for the average player.

Players will undoubtedly understand the gist of how these mechanics work as there isn’t much to parse. It quickly becomes evident that simplicity is a running theme with this title, with enemy design, progression, and combat all feeling rather elementary. Still, this simplicity isn’t an inherent negative since these factors manage to coalesce to create a consistently low-stakes, rewarding gameplay loop.

Itorah 1

The title is also quite linear, rarely requiring forays into the map menu to figure out where to go, save for a few instances. As a result, the best way I can describe my time with Itorah is that it was pleasantly unmemorable. Thinking back, I honestly don’t remember many specifics about what occurred gameplay or story-wise. I enjoyed the overt directness of progress as it was happening, but none of it managed to leave an effectively lasting mark.

This mentality also applies to the boss design, which tends to feel immensely effortless. The undemanding controls and moveset were rarely capitalized on in battles since enemies did not pose much threat. While a lack of intense challenge isn’t a detriment on its own, I would have appreciated greater necessitated thought for victories due to how simple movesets greatly benefit from more intricate telegraphs and pattern recognition.

Platforming is at least far more enjoyable since the animations and speed were gratifying morale boosters that kept me going. In fact, there were a few notable segments where I struggled, such as a chase sequence where I had to closely acclimate myself with the momentum-based and admittedly somewhat stiff controls.

When jumping and attacking, the lack of fluidity with movement afterward may negatively impact some players, but the stiffness just requires some time to get used to. Regardless, those experienced with action platformers should have little issue processing in Itorah, as it is readily approachable.

Itorah 2

I briefly mentioned this prior, but the art style of Itorah is arguably what impressed me the most. It’s vibrantly naturalistic, with a few visual surprises later on that stuck with me. In addition, I love the main character and NPC designs since they manage to stick out charmingly amongst the flowing greenery and stifling interiors. Truthfully, I’ve never recommended this, but the art style alone is worth experiencing this game for.

It’s considerably jaw-dropping, and I wholeheartedly believe that even if you find the gameplay loop and narrative moderate at best, the impressions the art will leave will be worthwhile. The sound design and soundtrack also deserve acclaim as the former is crisp and practical, with the latter being decently atmospheric. Similar to the gameplay design, they aren’t particularly memorable but more than fulfill their role for the momentary fulfillment they instill.

Itorah is a great time for those yearning for a simple action platformer with little to look out for. While it may be an underwhelming Metroidvania venture for those seeking a more intricate experience, it’s endearingly crafted with clear love that permeates from its breathtaking presentation.

Score:
7.5/10
A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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Orpheus Joshua

Random gamer equally confused by the mainstream and the unusual. Fan of JRPGs, Action, Platformers, Rhythm, and Adventure titles.