Not every game has to be a huge AAA blockbuster. For as much as I dump on indie games, I’m willing to accept when a smaller project turns out to be worth a look. Case in point: Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight, which we’ll just call Reverie for brevity’s sake, is the latest in a long-running series of games that does a lot with a little and looks good in the process. Indie developer Bombservice has teamed up with publisher Playism to bring this one to PlayStation 4 after spending a year bewitching fans on Steam.
Previous Momodoras appear to be platformers, but Reverie’s a little different. If you’ve played Dark Souls and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, you’ve got a basic idea of what’s going on here. It’s a little different, of course, namely in the fact that you’re smacking enemies around with a giant maple leaf instead of a sword, but Reverie shares the Metroidvania-style platforming and combat of the latter and the punishing difficulty of the former.
Leading lady Kaho has the aforementioned leaf, a bow and plenty of mobility that you’ll need to use to stay alive. You can buy and find items and upgrades, but mastering your fundamentals is key and that remains the case throughout the game. Learning how best to deal with enemies is what Reverie is all about, and that means it’s incredibly rewarding when you manage to take down an opponent that at first glance seemed insurmountable. Everything has a weakness, after all, and just like in Souls it’s all about learning what that weakness is and how to exploit it without becoming too careless regarding taking damage yourself. Reverie’s bullet hell elements also incorporate an element of twitch dodging that’s less present in the Souls games’ preparation and memorization-focused style.
“But what about how the game looks?!” you cry. Yes, it’s pixel art, and yes, that’s been a refuge for indie developers for over a decade now, and yes, it’s understandable if you’re tired of it at this point. For what it’s worth, though, Reverie looks and sounds great despite (or perhaps thanks to) the art style. It’s all about the animation; everything moves and acts just fluidly enough to give the game a unique feel, which also gives the combat a nice, crunchy flavor. You’ve probably seem some screenshots of the various bosses around; they’re pretty impressive in action as well, and yes, that includes the giant zombie lady with the…uh, yeah, the game also sounds nice.
Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight isn’t an especially long game, but it’s also not especially expensive either. If you haven’t already checked it out on Steam, you can’t really go wrong with the PlayStation 4 version, which plays about as well on an actual controller that handles the necessary platforming precision with aplomb. There are certainly less impressive Metroidvanias available for your $10. What’s more, none of those will let you smack people around with a leaf. You can’t really ask for more than that.