Nintendo Wii U Reviews

High Strangeness Review: Neo and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls

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For a small, kickstarted indie game, there’s a lot going on in the world of High Strangeness. It starts simple enough, with our main character, Boyd, living in a quaint town, getting ready to say goodbye to his friends as he’s moving to another city. But everything goes awry when he is attacked by hooded figures, finds out his cat can talk and is blasted off to another dimension, all in the course of the first 15 minutes of the game.

It starts off a story that pulls from all kinds of science fiction and fantasy to create a narrative that is interesting and deep. There is a lot of exposition in the game presented in text – there is no voice acting – and a lot of it is interesting stuff. After being watched for most of his life, Boyd is “released” Matrix-style and taken to another dimension. Boyd finds out that his is the chosen one who can fight against a terrible force. This force is an Illuminati-type race that is responsible for all kinds of calamities; not just on Earth, but the entire universe. They plan to unite the crystal skulls, magical tokens that house immense power. It’s all a little cliché but it’s compelling enough to keep things moving.

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High Strangeness is a fairly straightforward action-game in the style of The Legend of Zelda. A flashlight doubles as a sword, thrown CDs take the place of arrows and fireworks replace bombs. However the best mechanic comes directly from its old school aesthetic. While some games use pixel art purely for style, High Strangeness incorporates it smartly into gameplay. Everything is presented in 16-bit graphics but you can also switch to 8-bit graphics on the fly. This modifies everything in the game. Enemies are slower, but so are your attacks. Traps that are indistinguishable in 16-bit are easily avoided in 8-bit. It’s a brilliant mechanic that is used in some really interesting ways.

Much of the game is focused in Zelda-like dungeons where you clear several rooms, solving puzzles and killing enemies until you make it to a final boss. Unfortunately everything in the game is incredibly brief. The dungeons are incredibly short and there is nothing in-between dungeons save for some exposition. Total time to beat the game is two to three hours maximum. Combat is incredibly simple and none of the bosses – except for the final boss – require any type of strategy. The final boss is actually very interesting, forcing you to use all of the abilities you’ve learned to defeat him.

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High Strangeness has a lot going for it. The style is cool and switching back and forth between 16-bit and 8-bit is used in a lot of cool ways. The combat is not that interesting but the puzzles are well done. However, just when it seems like the game is really starting to come into its own, it’s over. The asking price of $10 just seems too high for the amount of content you get here.

SCORE: 6.0 out of 10

A code for High Strangeness was provided to Pixel Related for this review.

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