Shadow Complex was fun on the Xbox 360, looks like it had a remastered version for PC/Xbox One/PS4 in 2016. I’m not sure how it holds up now, but I liked it a lot at the time.
So, both @LMN8R and @CraigM recommended the Steamworld Dig series, and I bought Steamworld Dig 2 which seems like a perfect fit for me. It’s cute without being overly so, and has a forgiving platforming requirement, without a bunch of tricky jump combos, etc. But man, I’ve had some problems with the genre’s expectations. On the very first level, I couldn’t find my way back to the beginning because I somehow didn’t see one of the pathways. Ok, my fault. But then there was this shooting robot area where there was no way out and the game expected you to jump on the robot’s and hammer it with your pickaxe. Was I supposed to know that? I guess I would eventually have done it out of frustration, but I didn’t – I just went to a walkthrough video. Which makes me wonder if I have the dedication required to get through one of these.
Different games handle this differently in the genre. Steamworld Dig’s unique element is the mining aspect, where you literally reshape the world and passages.
There will be unique enemies and blocks later that require specific tools, largely earned through caves found scattered in the environment, but broadly speaking your pickaxe is both your primary traversal element and combat tool.
The first game is much simpler on this aspect, being in many ways a proof of concept of the blending of Terrarria/ Minecraft style digging with Metroidvania progression.
When in doubt, hit it with the pickaxe/ drill is always an option.
Y’all had that whole conversation a few days back without one of you recalling Castlevania 2. Tsk tsk
Simon’s Quest is the second Castlevania game to depart from linear gameplay, following Vampire Killer for the MSX2 in 1986, and instead feature a non-linear explorative world. This design has been compared to Nintendo’s famous Metroid series, yielding the Metroidvania subgenre. The game’s exploration system and ideas introduced adventure elements to the series, and it would heavily influence future games. The first game that drew inspiration from it was Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.
Ok I get it now, it’s making me do some stuff with the environment–jump up on this thing to shoot that thing, to make the block fall, so I can jump on it to be one level higher to shoot that other thing, to make a hole to get to the passages over there. I can do that. I’d rather not have to go back and forth with stuff I’ve mined to buy upgrades, but ok, it’s a mining game, I can dig it.
There will be shortcuts. Now I’m only a little into Steamworld Dig 2, having just bought 1&2 in the last month myself, but in 1 there were teleporters you could buy and place at will, for a resource cost. But these would take you back to town. There were also elevators for direct access. I have to imagine that there would be similar mechanisms to limit the 2 of backtracking to sell loot.
Like you fairly early get access to a pneumatic tube which provides instant transport back to town, and returns to that location from town. So the level of backtracking should stay fairly constant and never exceed more than a minute or two of time.
Unless they radically altered that for 2. Which would be unusual. It was a smart design choice in 1, there was backtracking to sell loot, but it was always a very reasonable level.
Thirded! In my quest to satisfy my souls itch on a MacBook Air I stumbled across this one and I realised reading this thread it absolutely should count as metroidvania as defined. Sadly it doesn’t have cloud save, but that’s probably my only real gripe with it.
I bounced off Hollow Knight few years back, but after I finished other “hard” games this year I think maybe I could get back into it. The point I struggled with was a boss fight that had ghosts in the long run back to the boss. Horrible stuff. But I think I probably could’ve gone somewhere else entirely without realising it.
In Hollow Knight that is very likely, along with La Mulana 2 it has one of the most open progression designs. It’s part of what makes exploration in those games so satisfying. There is very little bottlenecking in the mid-game.
The correct genre name is “search action.” It’s already the term Japan has used for the genre for ages, and it’s evocative of what these games are about without relying on existing genre knowledge or invoking the names of existing IPs.
I’ve seen “explorative platformer” used recently and like that.
Whatever the JP term that correlates to “search action” may be fine, but my goodness does that sound dumb in English.
I was onboard with “exploratory platformer” for years, but the fact that it excludes games that aren’t platformers, like Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet, makes it inherently flawed.
Also, “search action” sounds a trillion times better than accepted genre terms in the west like “action adventure,” “MOBA,” and “Metroidvania.”
It occurs to me that even in the current naming, “metro-vania” would be a better portmanteau, removing any specific IP references, and being more easily pronounceable.
Explorative action makes sense.
Action Labyrinth? Maze Adventure? Passagefinder?
It doesn’t really matter if there is a better term. There’s an accepted term that is generally understood, and if you try to use a different term you’ll have to explain what you mean every time and probably no one else will use it regardless. Like when Idle Thumbs tried to popularize “lords management” for MOBAs. Is it better? Absolutely. Does anyone in the wild use or understand that term? No.
“Search action” sounds like a video game about TSA agents.
I mean, it was a joke. But it’s still better than MOBA. :P
I’d buy that.
By the way I’ve been watching a Let’s Play of this Souls-inspired metroidvania (thanks to it being selected as a subject of the Patreon-only revival of the Bonfireside Chat podcast) and it seems pretty incredible. If nothing else, the aesthetics and worldbuilding are off the charts inspired: