Anodyne is the type of game where you feel the passion that drove the developers while making it. It’s a love letter to the Zelda games of old, mostly A Link to the Past and the Gameboy Zelda’s, but also the very first (there’s a dungeon in the game that while it doesn’t feel much like the first Zelda, has a decidedly NES-graphics style approach). From the shopkeeper who has too high prices to the art itself and the gameplay, everything reminds you of the games of yore.
Gameplay-wise, the game feels a bit less polished than the classics it’s referencing, but overall if you’re only there for the gameplay alone, the game is okay. You enter dungeons, collect keys, solve simple puzzles in each room to open gates or use keys to enter locked doors until you meet the boss monster. Various big gates are strewn throughout the game that can only be opened when enough cards have been collected. Collecting cards, besides beating the dungeons, is the other major gameplay mechanism at play. They are a kind of the treasure and depict various monsters and characters you encounter.
Sadly, while I can see the passion of the game creators, their product doesn’t do much on the story/plot front for me. The whole surreal, dreamlike state Anodyne presents is pretty much a constant, annoying background noise that reminds me what this could have been with a proper plot. As simple as the stories and plots in all the Zelda’s were, a game like Anodyne reminds me that simple is better than convoluted and plain surreal. I really, really hate surreal.
It always leaves me feeling, at the end, not satisfied with what I’ve achieved but the nagging feeling I could have done something better with my time than follow crazy, illogical allusion that make more sense for the game creator than me as a player. Ultimately, with the gameplay not focused by a good story, some of the later dungeons felt more like a chore and overall I can’t really recommend the game.
But I got the urge to replay the old Zelda games, which is at least something.