Emberwind is an adorable game, that much is certain. It seems to pay homage to the multitude of platformers many of us played all those years ago when consoles didn’t know what HD was, when you knew what console was better because of how many bits it had, and when blast processing seemed like a neat idea. This feeling of nostalgia is sullied by the fact that you play a gnome.
If, unlike me, you are able to look past the fact that you play a gnome, then hit the jump to find out the other non-gnome related aspects of Emberwind.
This 2D platforming game feels like a retro classic from the first moment you dive into combat, as you play as a fire gnome tasked with defending the kingdom from the invading goblins. The smooth controls help you blast through the levels, with simplicity being core to the design. However, it is this simplicity that at times drags the game down. Combat can feel fairly repetitive at times, with continuous mashing of the space bar making the game feel not at home on the PC; were this title to be released on consoles, through something like XBLA, I think the game would thrive and prove to be a solid title.
Fairly often with titles that make an attempt of feeling retro, they try to capture this “old game” feel and make very little effort to update the graphics. Timetrap, however, have excelled, and the graphics are cute as a button and certainly hold up to contemporary indie titles.
Within the game there are elements that are remarkable in their innovation, such as the boss battles. Instead of the regular affair of having your health bar, and an enemy’s health bar, and the fight being over when one of those hits zero (and you better hope it’s yours), Emberwind opts for a tug-of-war, with health bars going back and forth depending on the damage you can do, which feels somewhat more satisfying than the beatings I regularly take on boss battles in games like Castlevania.
There is also the addition of small little imp creatures, called brownies, who imbue you with an additional power; however, this feels poorly handled, as even with them combat mostly boils down to the same old dynamic of “mash the space bar to hit everything in sight with your stick”. Unfortunately, this isn’t the only element to generate a less than positive reaction, as the story is slightly hit and miss. On the one hand, there is a rich and entertaining lore, if you have the heart to read the website, but the presentation of story within Emberwind itself remains a fairly bland and trite affair.
If you fondly recall time spent playing old platformers, then Emberwind is most certainly a game for you. Regardless of any niggling flaws, the game is an almost illegal amount of fun to play, and I have to admit almost makes me less gnomophobic.