ReviewsReview: The Forbidden Arts

Review: The Forbidden Arts

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Action platform games started their path to greatness on the earlier generation consoles. The N64PlayStation and original Xbox were inundated with many great titles. The colourful worlds, the simple approach and complex puzzles captivated its audience and worked the systems to their limits. Modern gamers want open worlds and realism, so this cutesy cartoon design may not have the same appeal today.

Cast your mind back to 2019. We were all free to gather in pubs, play sports, and take “normality” for granted. Yet with all this sociable interaction just in front of us, we still sat in front of a tele and played computer games. The Forbidden Arts by publisher and developer Stingbot Games is my latest review title, and I’m going to see if it is worth buying in 2021.

A story of fire and puzzles.

The story revolves around a young lad named Phoenix who has dreamlike visions and seeks advice from the Druid counsel. This visit awakens a power deep within, and he discovers he will rise like a phoenix from the flames. He will make new friends, and learn to control his pyromancy secret. Unbeknownst to him, this meeting starts him on an adventure where he must; take on tough enemies, leap chasms, solve puzzles, and master his fiery ability.

The honey is sweet, and the monsters sour!

The main action plays out via a side-scrolling screen. A map highlights the area ahead, and you must search every area to find the lost gold, eventually coming face to face with a colossal boss. Each stage comprises many paths. They twist and turn, leading you to dead ends, armies of monsters, and deadly traps. You must look before you leap otherwise you will fall to your doom and have to start again at the last save point.

In-depth levels, but a simple premise.

Each level is extremely well designed, with many challenging areas to reach. Master the art of wall sliding, and double jumping to reach the highest and hardest to reach spots. Spikes, boulders and other traps will try to catch you out. You will clamber across vines and webs trying to traverse the many gaps that you will find. A variety of enemies will block your path, and you must use your trusty daggers, or fire to overcome them. The fighting mechanic is easy to manipulate in your favour, and none of the enemies put up much of a fight. The end boss follows this same predictable pattern. It’s a larger version of one creature already faced, and you must study its form and attack its weak point. 

The levels may have you bamboozled, but the concept won’t. It’s a game that simply wants you to; explore, overcome puzzles, and attack everything in your path. The side-scrolling movement feels linear. This could have been restrictive if it wasn’t for the maze like stages you encounter. Many of the puzzles are straightforward in premise, but in reality they take a lot of patience and precision to overcome. The easiest part of this game has to be the combat, even though its clunky and inaccurate with its approach. You will sweep aside any foes you face, allowing you to work out how you will get to the top of the latest cliff face.

Small open areas with invisible walls.

The “Overworld” map strays away from the side-scrolling notion and allows a 3D open-world experience. Don’t get too excited though, each area is tiny, and you are caged in by an invisible wall. A vast landscape of beautiful colours stretches as far as the eye can see, yet you walk on the spot being held back by a transparent force field. The lack of freedom breeds frustration, which is compounded with the constant reminder that you cannot access certain areas without completing one task or another. It was as if the developers wanted to allow you the freedom to explore, but couldn’t decide how it could be done, so they tethered your progress to points in the story.

This is how it all begins.

Though your abilities increase the more you progress, and these add elements to the gameplay, and a new way to approach each puzzle. There was a lack of character development for Phoenix. This meant that he was always overpowered compared to any opponent, and consistently weak in the health department. It was an odd combination that made little sense, and I think Stingbot Games should have focussed some time in this area as Phoenix’s progress comes across as unbalanced.

It’s a colour explosion.

The limitations of the 3D worlds frustrated me, yet I had to admire the beauty that surrounded me. The vibrancy of the colours, and the character design was fantastic. Every visual element was laced with nostalgia, and though it had a polished finish, it could have easily have been mistaken for a remake from the late 90s or early 00s. The simplicity of the gameplay meant that the action was smooth, and I found no issues.

The folksy music and old-school sound-effects transported me back to my uni days. The jovial and mischievous tunes inspire you to keep on delving deeper into the maze like levels. And the sound-effects, though a tad annoying worked well with the retro style. 

Who’d have thought that Werewolves could be so angry?

Classic controls.

A simple premise needs an easy to play game, and that’s exactly what is presented. A well designed and easy to learn layout enables the newest of gamers to the genre to pick this up quickly. Attacking, dodging and casting spells are all achieved with ease. The only difficulty will be your own skill level when you attempt to; leap from walls, pass traps, or evade monsters.

You will want to return to play this because of the level design. The drip feeding of new abilities ensures that if you wish to see everything that the game offers, then you must return to each stage at a later date. All of this, and a large achievement list of 60+ tasks to unlock, and you have yourself lots of action to sink your teeth into.

Is it worth buying in 2021?

It’s fair to say that the market has moved on a lot in 2 years. No matter what we are presented with, there is always room for a bit of nostalgia. The Forbidden Arts is a classic platform title with an exploration twist. The many routes that you can take, and the addition of new gameplay mechanics, makes this a title that will keep you thinking. Though very easy in some aspects, it will test your accuracy, timing and patience. It’s for these reasons that I recommend you play it. If you want a go on this unusual platform title, then buy it here! Can you help Phoenix rise from the flames and fulfil his destiny?

SUMMARY

Phoenix discovers a hidden power that must be used to complete his journey. Help him to overcome obstacles, solve puzzles, and learn new abilities. The Forbidden Arts is a fun and nostalgia filled game that will test your patience and precision skill.

+ Vibrant colour palette.
+ A nice art style.
+ Easy to learn mechanics.
+ Lots of replay value.
- The sound effects can get annoying.
- No character development.

(Reviewed on the Xbox Series X. Also available on PC and Nintendo Switch.)
Daniel Waite
My gaming career started on an Amiga and spans many consoles! Currently, I game using an MSI laptop and Xbox Series X. A fan of every genre, I love to give anything a go. Former editor and reviewer for www.bonusstage.co.uk, I'm loving my new home here at Movies Games and Tech. I can be contacted for gaming reviews on the following email: [email protected]

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