I’m not sure just how many of you will be shocked to learn this but I am a bit of a Metal Head, in particular 80’s metal. Glam/sleaze, thrash, Goth, NWOBHM but none more so than that classic heavy metal sound that gave birth to Power Metal. Just that feeling of total domination within the depths of my core bands like Manowar, Dio, Grave Digger, Helloween, Iced Earth, Judas Priest and Iron Maiden is just hard to beat. It just goes hand in hand with particular styles that I am so used to, particular artwork, comics and games just bleed je ne sais quoi. All this is just say I needed a segue into the overall atmosphere for the review of Valfaris.
Valfaris is a very simple tale belonging right at home in Heavy Metal magazine and the movies it produced the French counterpart which inspired it Metal Herlant. Valfaris was once a intergalactic paradise, a fortress among fortresess that was so grandiose it put the Death Star to shame. Or atleast it did until one day it just mysteriously disappeared, poof gone, only to reappear sometime later in the orbit of a dying sun. Now it is up Therion (the character you play and a proud Son of Valfaris) to return home and find out what evil has taken over the once beloved paradise. Like holy crap that sounds metal right? It gets even more metal when your spaceship is unable to dock on to the planet so you just crash it into a bunch of bad guys within the first 30 seconds of starting up the game.
That is the kind of game Valfaris is, I could tell you how it handles, looks and sounds but they aren’t a huge part of what this game is about. Don’t get me wrong, all that I just mentioned is just like a dream, running, jumping, controller lay out it is all beautiful. I found ZERO issues with any of them, they are for lack of a better term perfect which makes it hard to really tell you about as all I can do is apply emphasis on just how excellent it all is.
Instead the focus of Valfaris is it’s heavy metal roots, it’s general aesthetic from visuals to sounds is somewhere between Heavy Metal, Judge Dredd and H. R. Giger, which as someone who loves those things is awesome. It’s dark and grimy yet full of vibrant highlights and rockin’ tunes, which funnily enough sums up the game. You get a gun, laser shield and a sword to start with, you make your way from left to right, right to left, up to down and down to up killing everything in your path while making sure you stay alive which isn’t as easy as it sounds as you only get a couple of hits until you die and you head back to a checkpoint. Checkpoints are nicely distributed though so it never feels like you are having to fight and replay your way back through tonnes and tonnes of game. The only real negative I have is that the game can rely a touch too much on trial and error gameplay as there is a chunk of luck involved with enemy spawning.
Along the way you will find better weapons, chainguns, swords with better abilities all the good stuff you would expect in a game of this magnitude to make shorter work of enemy soldiers, monsters, robots and bosses. This tiny aspect leads into possibly the coolest feature of the game, upon unlocking new weapons and equipment the game throws some epic head banging metal at you before the character himself turns to the screen and starts headbanging. That is the type of game Valfaris is, again funnily enough that kinda sums up everything you need to know it.
If you wanna run around in a 2D environment shooting and slash all kinda of enemies while listing to some killer tunes and have a fondness for Heavy Metal then this is a game crafted for you. If you don’t have a huge fondness for those things, it’s still one hell of a game the plays so damn well. I know a couple of people who have already put it in there top 10 games for the year and at least one of them is putting it up for serious consideration for his game of the year. He also falls into the category of NOT being a metal fan so that goes to show just how great Valfaris is and can stand on its own.
Zombie played a review copy of Valfaris on the Nintendo Switch.