Review | Emberwind
Format: PC | Genre: Platformer | Publisher: Timetrap | Developer: Timetrap | Release date: 08/12/09 | RRP: £7.84
By Greg Giddens
Evil forces have seen an opportunity for mayhem and destruction. They’ve invaded the kingdom under the cover of darkness with an army of gremlins, led by the demon warlord Candlefinger. All is not lost for the poor denizens of Grendale, however, for fire gnome Kindle and his trusty snow owl Wick remain to light up the darkness and purge the evil. Gremlins can’t stand the light.
Emberwind has a distinct personality and charm that makes it stand out from the crowd. It’s a 2D platformer with all the benefits of yesteryear, with smooth controls and widespread accessibility, but with a visual and aural fidelity, as well as a few extra elements to make it relevant in today’s gaming scene. The traditional platforming premise remains: side scrolling levels with enemies to kill and a goal to reach. But in addition, collecting enough points will raise your maximum health, collecting Flamesprites will increase the damage you can inflict, and picking up Brownies (small creatures, not the snack) adds a ranged attack until you die. The combination of new and old works together in a very organic way, forming a game with something unique and interesting to draw you in.
//New and improved
The premise is a good one. Enemies are dispatched well enough by beating them stupid with your cane, or setting fire to an area to burn them, but they’re always looking to get you back. Some have higher levels of health or different weapons, and if all else fails, quantity over quality is always an option, where dozens of the little gremlins gank you. Getting you own back proves to be mightily fun: by chaining a certain number of attacks together, and finding the aforementioned Flamesprites and Brownies, you can perform special moves to augment your standard attack to deal with them – and to great effect.
Your goal is to travel the kingdom during the night, lighting up a number of houses in each area so to save the lives of those who live there. Once the houses are lit, you need to rendezvous with Wick, then it’s off to the next level. The boss fights that conclude each section are a little different to those of traditional platformers, with the health at the bottom of the screen acting as a tug of war, with each hit you score on the boss reducing his life and increasing yours. It’s a refreshing change from the norm, making the encounters a little more interesting but also more drawn out, which can lead to frustration if you struggle to adapt to your enemy’s attack pattern.
In keeping with traditional 2D platformers, though, the narrative sets the scene and attempts to drive the player forward. It is, unfortunately, nothing too captivating or ground-breaking, but it’s fun, with a light sprinkling of mirth to keep both the older and younger audiences happy. The dialogue its self is certainly aimed at the younger player but the odd joke and the overall presentation is universal. As such, Emberwind strikes a great balance in its appeal, and although the narrative is superficial, the rest of the experience is a treat.
//You’ve got style
The presentation is mostly fantastic, with its beautifully designed and animated characters, and a powerful score really bringing the world to life. The brightly coloured cartoon art style makes Emberwind feel like a moving painting, and the attention to detail is highly impressive. From the smooth animations to the impressive AI of the gremlins, it’s all very polished. Unfortunately, the variety in levels is slightly lacking. The structure and backgrounds change depending on the area, but levels still tend to look very much alike. The vegetation remains the same and the architecture looks very similar throughout, so it’s not always obvious that you’re in a different area of the kingdom. It’s certainly not a deal-breaker, but a little more variety in the environment would have been nice.
Still, Emberwind always remains entertaining, and it’s nice to see some originality and flare improving on the genre rather than it resting on the laurels of nostalgia. It’s a pretty short game, clocking in at around three hours, and it certainly doesn’t have the depth many other titles have. But as 2D platformers go, it’s a good effort, and its minor flaws don’t amount to much more than nit-picks. Anyone in the mood for a good platforming title will certainly find one here.
Emberwind is available to purchase from the developer’s website.