Valfaris (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Justin Prinsloo 04.11.2019

Review for Valfaris on Nintendo Switch

Valfaris is a 2D action game that makes no secret of its intended audience. It's positively dripping in sci-fi nostalgia and leaks brutalism from every pore. From its gargantuan, neo-industrial setting to its brutally heavy soundtrack, this is a hardcore experience that is only matched in its gory atmosphere by its steep difficulty level. Developer Steel Mantis's love for this sort of vibe is no secret - after all, this is the studio behind Slain: Back from Hell, which was an intriguing title, if a little rough around the edges. With Valfaris, Steel Mantis has taken that promising formula and attempted to refine it into something with even more of a vicious bite.

For the most part, Valfaris attempts to hold itself up on the twin pillars of its breakneck soundtrack and its violently grim space-age world. That's not to say that the rest of its assets aren't of equal value; on the contrary, there is very little in Valfaris that doesn't fall perfectly in sync with its larger vision. It is, without a doubt, the most metal game ever made. That's not just because of its excellent doom/thrash metal mashup of a soundtrack, either. As you navigate through the intricately designed environments of Valfaris, the titular homeworld of protagonist Therion, there is a palpable sense of absurdism that only a mad-heavy soundtrack can truly complement.

Screenshot for Valfaris on Nintendo Switch

From knotty industrial wastes to putrid organic cesspits, the intricate artwork on display is quite breath-taking. It's a joy to behold as it unfolds its nostalgic vision of a hellish future, and the fact that it has zero load times serves to give it a seamlessness that is a rare joy in modern gaming. Furthermore, the few scripted dialogue segments are very well-written and perfectly contextualised within the world; no sentence feels out of place, and despite the fact that none of the characters are voiced, they all feel distinct purely because they "speak" differently from one another.

Gameplaywise, it's extremely fun and never takes its foot off the gas even though it relies on some fairly simple controls. The enemy variety is fantastic - there are no reskins of past foes and each new environment offers some uniquely designed opponents whose attacks become increasingly difficult to counter as the intensity ratchets up. The same can be said of the game's myriad bosses - they're mostly superbly designed, and each brings a new challenge to the table. Despite the fact that boss battles occur quite frequently, they all pose enough personality to provide an adrenaline-fueled spectacle time after time.

Screenshot for Valfaris on Nintendo Switch

Therion has three forms of attack: ranged, melee, and a special attack which costs a portion of the energy bar to use. The energy bar is recharged by attacking with his sword and is also used to power Therion's shield, an extremely important mechanic given that there is unfortunately no dodge button, the absence of which is sorely felt. Nevertheless, the controls are very responsive, and attacks weighty and satisfying, particularly because enemies explode in a gory mist when killed. There is an absolute shedload of weapons, too, which are scattered at perfect intervals along Therion's journey, ensuring that the experience never becomes stale. Weapons can be upgraded to give them even cooler perks by using Blood Metal. Some of these upgrades are very punchy and always satisfying to acquire.

A welcome mechanic comes in the form of Resurrection Idols: the green, diamond-shaped pick-ups that are thoughtfully positioned throughout the game's linear world. These act as single-use tokens that activate Valfaris's many checkpoints, effectively allowing you to choose where you respawn upon death. Many 2D platformers suffer from some poorly positioned checkpoints, so this has provided more than enough to keep everyone happy… but they can only be activated with a Resurrection Idol. It's a shrewd design choice that keeps the checkpoint system from becoming a frustration.

Screenshot for Valfaris on Nintendo Switch

There are, though, frustrations elsewhere. While Valfaris's difficulty is intentionally tough and death seldom feels cheap, some of the combat and platforming challenges can err on the side of annoying. This was a big problem with Slain and it would be unfair to claim that it hasn't been addressed here, but Steel Mantis seemingly still hasn't found the perfect balance between difficulty and playability. They are very, very close with this effort, though.

Difficulty imbalances aside, what you get with Valfaris is exactly what it suggests on the tin: a headbanging, sword-slashing, face-blasting and creepy-crawly mashing experience that never stops bopping to the tempo of its own tune. It's a shame that it doesn't have more replay value at the time of this writing, but the developer has teased a New Game Plus mode that will come in a future update. Even without it, though, this stands apart as an epic platforming adventure that has all of the thrills and more than a few gut-spills.

Screenshot for Valfaris on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

9/10
Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

Valfaris is a near-perfect 2D action platformer with an excellent sense of style in every aspect. Its industrial sci-fi setting is like Doom on steroids, and its breakneck soundtrack does a great job of tying the whole experience together. While it is weakened somewhat by difficulty imbalances in some sections - particularly in later levels - it nevertheless stands apart in the tide of indie platformers by virtue of its rock-solid personality, beautiful world and graphics, and great mechanics.

Developer

Steel Mantis

Publisher

Big Sugar

Genre

2D Platformer

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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