Smelter (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Eric Ace 24.06.2021

Review for Smelter on Nintendo Switch

Platformers have been on a huge resurgence as of late. Often titled metroidvanias for their focus on exploring, finding new items and expanding where players can explore and move around to, the moniker oddly leaves out Mega Man, which was arguably just as much or more of a progenitor of the genre. Smelter has a unique RTS style of over-world expansion and exploration, which leads to dungeons that are platformed conventionally and feel more like a very hard Mega Man title.

If nothing else, check out the very cool anime opening for Smelter, which sets the tone of heroine Eve, who falls into a hole, surrounded by demons, and meets the eponymous 'Smelter,' who merges with her as they fight their way through the hordes. This has some very cool things going on with it, but has a few divisive issues that ultimately hold it back from how outstanding it could have been. In this case it's the RTS section, and the absolutely crazy difficulty walls that are randomly encountered.

It starts with Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, with the player controlling Adam. Going over to eat the apple starts an apocalypse with Eve falling into a pit. She can only jump and kick, but soon finds Smelter, some sort of armour demon that can fuse with Eve to give her better powers. As the game progresses she gains a wide variety of moves, which really help expand the general feel, such as wall jumps, hovering, double-jumps, air dashes, and so on.

Screenshot for Smelter on Nintendo Switch

Upon leaving the dungeon, players are thrown into the overworld map, where the strategy portion is played. Yes, a strategy portion in a platformer. The developers have mentioned including a future mode that does away with this, so don't be put off by this. Regardless, players move around the map, building simple structures like defence, housing, or food. As they expand, they move into new dungeons that can be explored. It is an interesting gameplay loop. The only major criticism is the strategy portion is pretty barebones. Spam a bunch of structures and call it good.

The dungeons are where this shines, though there is one fatal flaw that really detracts from the experience. The sprite artwork is just great, Eve looks good, and each monster looks solid. Some of the backgrounds from underground waterfalls, to eerie alien spires in the distance show the art team was on point. Eve moves fairly fluidly, with the only major complaint being how the wall hangs feel just a touch off - she doesn't grab as often as the player might expect, but then conversely when you are trying to not grab the wall, it happens too often.

One of the main gimmicks is there are three different elements to swap between. The earth element has higher defence, and most importantly a double-jump; the electric element is all about speed and mid-range whip attacks, and allows a type of long jump; and, finally, the air element gives Eve a Mega Man-like blaster, and the ability to float. All of this is great, and the level design is cleverly taking advantage of these different elements, such as long jumping over a cliff, or having to double-jump to progress.

Screenshot for Smelter on Nintendo Switch

So what is the issue? This suffers from an incredibly inconsistent difficulty. Widely so. Some levels and 'Challenge Rooms' can be walked through without a second thought, then others can be rage-inducing, hour-long slogs of dying over and over. And over… and over… and over. The challenge rooms are side mini-levels that give needed upgrade gems, so pretty much have to be done, and they are some of the worst in terms of balance. A few can be beaten the first time without even thinking, some of them require absolute pixel-perfection and control that make speed runners envious.

The worst part is the game itself is consistent in what Eve is doing. As an example of this, one of them has players running away from some huge sand worm things. Eve has to dash over and over, jumping over pits, climbing walls, all with near-zero margin of error. Oh, jumped five times instead of four? Dead. Oh, didn't get seven full dashes, only six? Dead. Oh, trying to fall but not grab the wall, and just grabbed the wall? Dead.

Screenshot for Smelter on Nintendo Switch

Some of the bosses are incredibly frustrating as well. They are not that hard - they just take annoyingly long beatings, like upwards of 10 or 15 minute-long ones. So even if they are only moderately hard, due purely to time, mistakes will be made, and Eve can't take too many hits. As another egregious example, one dungeon oddly turns into a top-down twin-stick shooter that takes 30+ minutes to kill everything. It is not even that hard, it's just really annoying shooting at an enemy that takes five hits and having 50+ of them in a room.

In some ways, it feels similar to MO: Astray; a great indie pixel platformer ruined by its own difficulty. Eve herself is also oddly missing from the story, never talking, and never reacting, which is another missed opportunity. In the end, playing the game leaves one aching from more, namely how close it was to being legitimately very good. Instead, each level or each boss brings about another wave of anger because dying and restarting the last couple of minutes over and over is not a lot of players' idea of fun.

Screenshot for Smelter on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

6/10
Rated 6 out of 10

Good

This game has the makings of something really great. The art and sprite work is outstanding. Wildly inconsistent difficulty jumps, frustratingly long bosses, fights, check point lengths and cheap deaths all ruin what absolutely would have been a title much higher rated. The majority of the experience is fun, with a good difficulty level, but inevitably there will be these randomly, absolutely killer, difficulty walls, which ruin how good it was going up to that point.

Developer

X PLUS Company Limited

Publisher

DANGEN Entertainment

Genre

2D Platformer

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

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   

Comments

There are no replies to this review yet. Why not be the first?

Comment on this article

You can comment as a guest or join the Cubed3 community below: Sign Up for Free Account Login

Preview PostPreview Post Your Name:
Validate your comment
  Enter the letters in the image to validate your comment.
Submit Post

Subscribe to this topic Subscribe to this topic

If you are a registered member and logged in, you can also subscribe to topics by email.
Sign up today for blogs, games collections, reader reviews and much more
Site Feed
Who's Online?
hinchjoie

There are 1 members online at the moment.