Valfaris

Year: 2019
Platform: PlayStation 4
Genre: Action
Review Date: 11/30/19
Rating: ***

From the same team that brought you "Slain: Reborn From Hell" (2016), "Valfaris" feels like it slithered off the pages of "Heavy Metal" magazine. Therion is a proud, arrogant, and bad-ass warrior who returns to the former paradise world of Valfaris to slay his evil and corrupt father. He must traverse ten different areas of the decaying eco-system, fighting all sorts of nasty beasts and boss monsters. It's a 2D side-scrolling game in the vein of "Turrican," and the gameplay is very reminiscent of those early 90's run-and-gun action games. Unfortunately, it's also relentlessly difficult, which sucks all the fun out of it fairly quickly.

Similar to "Slain," the 2D pixel art is gorgeous, the art direction is superb, and the heavy metal soundtrack by Celtic Frost bassist Curt Victory Bryant sets an appropriate tone for the aggressively gruesome combat. It's also unapologetically hard, which is very disappointing. After playing for a couple of hours and achieving a trophy for dying fifty times, I gave up and gave my blistered thumbs a rest. It's unfortunate because I won't be able to experience all of the great scenery that the game has to offer. And for being such a supposedly tough guy, Therion dies really easily, which doesn't give you much feeling of empowerment and accomplishment.

The controls are pretty tight for the most part, but crouching is finicky, which leads to lots of instant death scenarios when you're trying to dodge enemy fire. Checkpoints are appropriately spaced out, but require an idol token to activate. An unfortunate feature is that the game punishes you for using checkpoints, which diminishes the thrill of victory when you defeat a really tough enemy. Also, there's no checkpoint after the first boss, so it's really easy to get picked off by a low-ranking grunt while you're running for the exit with a sliver of health left. That alone made me rage-quit the game. The game certainly has the potential to fill a "Turrican" sized hole in my life, but the unforgiving difficulty brings me no joy.