28/11/2021

๐Ÿช™๐Ÿ—ฟ๐Ÿ”ฑTreasures of the Aegean | Xbox Series X | Review | 8/10 | "Imagine a 2D Lara Croft, with Prince of Persia Moves..." ๐Ÿช™๐Ÿ—ฟ๐Ÿ”ฑ @NumskullGames #IndieGames #IndieGame #GameDev

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Imagine a 2D Lara Croft, with Prince of Persia moves, graphics reminiscent of the great Another World, and you're getting close to Treasures of the Aegean.

Marie, the main character, is a puzzle-solving, treasure-grabbing force of nature, able to run, jump and slide around an absolutely massive map at high speed and without getting tired. 

The game starts with a volcano erupting in the bay of Santorini, uncovering the ancient Minoan city of Thera, thought by many to be the inspiration for the story of Atlantis. The devs have added some pretty deep lore to the action if you're keen to dig into the whys and wherefores of your quest. Solving puzzles and collecting treasures tells you more about the game world, and as you play, you unlock cut-scenes that fill in various character backstories as well.

These cut-scenes are shown at the start of every attempt because Treasures of the Aegean employs time loop gameplay, which is of course the hot mechanic in indie gaming at the moment. That's not to say it's poorly employed here though - in fact, it works well. At the start, you get 15 minutes to explore around you, and when the loop ends you end up back on your Santorini balcony (because of course you and your companion were on holiday there), using your tablet to read more about the city, then dropping back in to continue where you left off.

Each loop starts you in a different place that you've already been to, but certainly, at the start, you will be exploring new areas all the time. As I said above, the map is absolutely gigantic, and almost all accessible from that start (there is a bit of unlocking of some areas required, but not a lot). When you start this game the first couple of times, if you look at the map in-game you can see how much you have still to visit. It probably took me 15 attempts to get to all the areas you can access from the start. And, excellently, you don't get the standard you-have-to-unlock-this-ability-to-jump-this-gap stuff - the vast majority of areas just require you to get to grips with the controls a little, occasionally requiring pixel-perfect skills, but not often enough that it wound me up.
The graphics are great, drawn in a comic book style, and the backgrounds vary wildly between areas, meaning once familiar with the city you can work out where you are fairly easy. The music is quite minimalist for the most part and suited to the gameplay. 

The written dialogue is a bit unpolished though, dodgily translated and spelt in places, which for a lore-heavy(ish) game is a bit annoying. The in-game map is also a bugbear - although it fills up a little as you go through, you have to manually mark out areas of interest with icons - it took me out of the moment and stood out as a pain. I would have liked the option to have the game do it for you, although maybe I'm just lazy.
One thing that stands out about this game is how much fun it is. Marie is fast and agile, so you'll be wall-jumping and sliding under barriers in minutes, grabbing treasures from every part of the city to fill in the events that led to its downfall. And when you push it a bit too far and fall several screens, or get shot by the occasional enemy, Marie just picks herself up, dusts herself off (bulletproof vest, you see) and gets on with it - but at the cost of a minute of your time. 

You can extend the time you get, though - collecting treasures give you slightly longer per loop, until you end up with over 20 minutes at a time, which is still cutting it fine to solve the big puzzles (full disclosure, I never managed it). But one thing Treasures of the Aegean has in spades is one more go

If you're a twitch gamer, you'll love the occasional precarious jumps. If you're a lore-lover, there's plenty to dig into - as well as the real-life conundrum of what happened to the Minoan civilisation. If you loved Prince of Persia, you shouldn't have even needed to read this far. 

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