ReviewsReview: Itorah

Review: Itorah

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Here’s an easy no-measurement one-bowl recipe. Combine some solid platforming, almost too easy melee combat, a light splash of Metroidvania elements, a gorgeous Meso-American art style, and a forgettable story. Mix well until blended. Slow cook for 10 hours, and voilà you’ve got a healthy helping of Itorah for one. 

This Feels… Familiar

You might have guessed by the above-mentioned recipe (you’re welcome by the way) that the title in question is Itorah; an action platformer and the first title from Grimbart Tales. You play as the titular character, Itorah, who is awakened by a mysterious disembodied voice urging her to rise from her slumber deep in the wilds of Nahucan. Who she is and why she was just napping in the middle of the forest are not questions you’ll have answered immediately. But when you get some answers you’ll come to find out, along with Itorah herself, that humanity is long gone. She is the last known human being alive. Which means she must have been asleep for a pretty long time. 

It’s not exactly a premise we haven’t seen before. And unfortunately, things don’t get any more exciting or innovative narrative-wise. A malignant force referred to as “The Plague” is responsible for humanity’s untimely demise. Now it’s taking things a couple of steps further corrupting the various creatures of the world to produce a rerun of history. She befriends a talking axe and the new inhabitants of the world, mask-wearing anthropomorphic beings, and begins uncovering what happened to her people. It’s up to Itorah, and her big-headed axe companion to fight and finally put an end to the plague.

Honestly, the story was pretty forgettable and I never found myself getting invested at all. None of the side characters really stood out in any way to liven things up either. The closest anyone got to being interesting was the talking axe I mentioned, who has a huge ego. He’s always fishing for a compliment about being among the greatest warriors ever, and always up for a brawl. Even then, I can’t say I really got attached to him. The rest of the people in the land of Nahucan were similarly bland archetypes you’ve seen time and time again. A worried and protective brother, a wacky and risk-taking explorer, a stoic and distrustful elder… You get the idea.

Hop, Skip, and Jump

However, while the story was a bit of a bland affair. The real draw of Itorah is the gameplay. Platforming is what you’ll be spending the majority of time doing and Grimbart Tales really did a great job considering this is their first developed title. There’s a nice variety of obstacles, that escalate in complexity as you move through the game. Going from simply jumping between ledges, to using a mix of timing and the use of Itorah’s abilities to work your way through the levels.

These levels, however, were not very complex. In fact, they were pretty linear. Which for a game with Metroidvania elements was a bit unfortunate. It felt like there was a bit of a missed opportunity to be able to fast travel to entrances of different areas and use newfound abilities to explore secret or optional areas later in the game. The flashes of Metroidvania gameplay are often just a couple of inaccessible paths, where moving in the direction the game leads you will bag Itorah a conveniently placed ability that immediately displays its value by helping her move toward her objective. There’s a little backtracking, but it really felt like I was being led by the hand to where I ought to go. A linear path, with spoonfed backtracking, resulted in a lack of an explorative feeling. 

Itorah is a forgiving game. While enemies can and will hurt you if you run around recklessly. Patience and a little precision can see you avoiding most attacks without breaking a sweat. They don’t do an awful lot of damage either. There’s also an absurdly high amount of enemies you can just straight up ignore. Run past, swim over, or dodge/roll through them never doing or taking any damage. It felt like a choice by the developers to give you some options when it comes to dealing with foes. Especially if you died after a long trek without any checkpoints. This way you can just skip a bunch of the fights you already got into. However, there will be moments where the only way forward is to employ a little old fashioned violence.

Combat and Controls

With Itorah being a less punishing game, you can make more risky manoeuvres and just enjoy some of the fast-paced combat. After a while, I found that the gameplay is what you make it. It can be a slow and tedious process if you refuse to take any damage at all. A war of attrition, snagging a hit on an enemy in any windows of opportunity. 

Or you can play the game as was intended. I mean, the fact that there’s a dodge button tells us that taking risks and getting a bit brazen in not that bad of an idea. Use I-frames to your advantage and roll through an attack in order to counter, or jump over an enemy and riposte the rump. The game even gives you more than one way of approaching things. A downward slam to use when jumping over an enemy. A crouched blow to avoid projectiles. A charged move that can do considerable damage if timed right. The ability to throw your weapon at some of the more annoying flying enemies. All these options in combat keep things fresh and fights exciting. 

However, while gameplay is fun and fast, I feel the controls could be a bit tighter. Sometimes when you string certain moves it feels like the input wasn’t registered. It makes it so you’ll put yourself in a dangerous position to attack and be unable to do the move you planned on, taking damage in the process. I’ve had many instances of taking damage I never would have if my input registered appropriately. Especially in moments when I would need to turn myself around and immediately dodge roll. I would often just turn around and the input to roll would be ignored, which was a bit frustrating. This made movement feel clunky when more precision is needed.

Would You Look at That

One thing I can find no fault with though is the art style. Visually this game is absolutely stunning. Inspired by a Meso-American aesthetic, the world of Nahucan was lovingly hand-painted to give the 2.5D environments an amazing amount of colour, depth and general beauty. The use of saturation and shadows in its lush and detailed environments are expert and I simply loved looking at it. While the gameplay may have been the initial draw, the backgrounds are what kept my attention the longest. I lost count of the number of times I audibly commented on what I was seeing. It’s a simple beauty that doesn’t over-rely on spectacle as much as it does a great art style. 

Itorah misses the mark in a couple of places, but was crafted so well in terms of its platforming and artwork. It may be a little too easy and straightforward for hardcore platforming fans. However, it’s perfect for anyone looking for a casual adventure in a beautiful world. 

SUMMARY

+ Great platforming
+ Gorgeous visuals
+ Fast and fun combat
- Metroidvania elements underutilised
- Forgettable story
- It's almost too easy
- Controls need to be tightened up

(Reviewed on PC, also available on PS4 & Xbox One)
Jonah Ehlers
Jonah Ehlers
A lover of films, dogs and cooking, even though I'm terrible at it most days. Ever since my first console (the legendary PS2) I have had an immense love for Video games. It has given me some of my favourite memories, my closest friends and countless hours of fun.
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Review: Itorah+ Great platforming <br /> + Gorgeous visuals <br /> + Fast and fun combat <br /> - Metroidvania elements underutilised <br /> - Forgettable story <br /> - It's almost too easy <br /> - Controls need to be tightened up <br /> <br /> (Reviewed on PC, also available on PS4 & Xbox One)