Preview: Viola (PC)

Given the popularity of GUG’s 2018 Indie Game of the Year, Celeste, I am surprised that there have been so few attempts to emulate its recipe. Even Celeste itself, I have mentioned elsewhere that it is reminicent of Super Meat Boy. Such is the way of the gaming industry, where indie developers in particular struggle to be noticed in a sea of games. 

Here, we highlight Viola, a “platformer/RPG hybrid” single-handedly developed by one Jelle Van Doorne. Generally when those genres mesh, an action-RPG is the result, where the action happens on a screen concurrent with the scenery where exposition and exploration take place. In Viola, the combat transitions to a traditional turn-based JRPG battle screen complete with a menu that allows one to attack, defend, cast spells, or use an item; likewise, all characters have corresponding HP, AP, and CP (special abilities) meters. 

What is an indie platformer without references to Mario such as a speckled mushroom-like rooftop with matching platforms and a large sky full of blue?

Viola‘s combat thus far is functional—nothing terrible nor earth-shattering. Many fights can be skipped a la Chrono Trigger simply by not bumping into enemies during the platforming sections. But speaking of platforming sections, I do find them to be a lowlight thus far. There is just too much bland space on the screen—between running and jumping, there are hardly any interactables. A lack of interactive surfaces and hazards renders the game overall unchallenging, and thus, a humdrum affair. Consequently, the 2D presentation appears to me how Van Doorne circumvents the creative muscle necessary for a traditional isometric-style map. Asking another artist to come along to add some fauna, flora, obsticles, hazards, or random NPCs, as well as some augmented sound effects during combat would make Viola‘s world come alive. 

I once had to take care of my SiL’s cat, a ragdoll named Snowshoe. So I’m familiar with the smell of “cat butt” on my sofa, though we were more “adult” with what we called it.

The highlight of Viola is its dialogue. As seen in the QuickScope video above, some of the banter actually makes me chuckle. Viola, the protagonist, is so like, totally, a Millennial with her wit. Additionally is through the animations in the text bubbles where Celeste’s influence is most evident—these characters are expressive. 

Prepare for some Zelda-like music puzzles.

Those who might be interested in a game that, like Celeste and Undertale, touches on topics such as self-esteem and the power of friendship might find Viola worth their time. At only $9.99, it is not a taxing purchase. Van Doorne plans to launch from Early Access during Q2 2020, so those who wish to support more games with positive messages should check it out. Just expect a modest presentation. 

Maurice Pogue

Since picking up an NES controller in 1985 at the age of 2, Maurice and video games have been inseparable. While most children aspired to be lawyers, doctors, or engineers (at the behest of their parents), he aspired to write for publications such as EGM, PC Gamer, PC Accelerator, and Edge. After achieving ABD status in English at MSU, Maurice left academia and dedicated his writing to his lifelong passion. He is currently the Video Game Editor at Geeks Under Grace.

Leave a Reply