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.
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.
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.
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.