Taking an RPG-style story and throwing it on a 3D plane then giving it the controls of a 2D action platformer is Stingbot Games with their latest title The Forbidden Arts. This Steam game is filled with different landscapes, biomes, enemies, bosses, and an overall story that guides your path along the way. Giving your the choice of using one of your many fire-based abilities to continue your progress or to fight your way through using the might of your sword, the adventure lies in your skill and will to push forth.
Phoenix is a man who grew up being told that there is something inside him. In hopes of understanding what it is and how he can access it, he sets out on a quest to collect the phoenix feathers that are said to give him the understanding and control over his powers. He quickly finds his journey to be facing against another issue as a great evil has begun turning friends into foes with the help of his magical artifacts.
Majority of the game takes place as a 2D adventure. These areas will be the levels you have to get through in order to progress through the game. Each area that you enter will have one massive level, filled with hidden items, such as gold and (in one particular section) the Dragon’s Eye pieces, to collect. Collecting gold is an optional task, but some items have to be found in order to continue.
If you do decide to collect the gold, it can be used to rebuild shrines in the 3D areas that act as a hub zone for each different biome. The hub area is where you can find four gold, the shrines, the level, the boss, and the path to take to continue once you have completed your current section of the game. The shrine areas are challenge zones that fit the theme of the hub world it is located in and doing them will increase your overall health or mana bars permanently.
The levels themselves are projected as a 3D environment, but on consist of a 2D platform laden path. There will be a mix of enemies for each zone with each new biome bringing a new lot of enemies to face off against. Each enemy can be defeated, but some of them will be trickier than others. From forced melee to flying fairies, you will need to find the strategy that works best against each enemy. They can be avoided with good maneuvering, but most of the time taking them out is the easiest way forward.
Boss fights are much like the fights with any other enemy. They all have their own attack pattern and figuring out the strategy to use against them is the key to winning. There is always multiple phases for each fight, so once you land a hit or two in expect things to change up and a new strategy to be needed. Often these fights will force you to use your different powers to be successful, but each player will find what works for them best despite there only being a little wiggle room for alternate strategies in these fights.
As for the powers themselves, a new one is unlocked every time a boss is defeated. Starting with the fireball and ending with the fast feet for quick movement, there will be multiple fire-based powers unlocked. My favorite of which was the fire eyes as I was taken aback at the fact that I had never heard of nor thought of the control of firing giving one the ability to see in the dark without creating a fire in itself. However, the most useful is the classic fireball.
The key item in the game to collect are the phoenix feathers, but the good news here is that even if you reach the end where they are needed in order to continue the guy will send you to the nearest feather if you haven’t already collected them yourself. I do suggest exploring to find them yourself, but if you fail to find all of them they practically hand them to you. From here the fast travel option will become handy, so once you get your feather you can race back by opening your map and just picking the location you want to go.
Visually the game is very cartoonistic, but it fits the style of the game. Giving it an RPG-style story is fitting to have a cartoon or anime style look to it. Each section is pulled off well and there is no guessing needed to figure out what it is your looking at or fighting against. The clarity and overall visual is both appealing and fitting.
Sound effects wise, everything is spot on. When you fire off your fireball, you get to hear the sound queue that you landed your hit off screen. Every enemy sounds different, every power use has its own unique sound, and the atmosphere is brought together with the background noise blending with the beautiful music used in every area of the game.
There is the option to go back and get all the collectibles which they list what you missed in each area on the map for you. The challenge shrines are also worth doing and if you haven’t completed them on your first go through the game, it is worth going back to do them. Other than being a completionist though, there isn’t much reason to go through the game again.
What It Could Have Done Better
I felt like the connection between my keyboard, and eventually using my controller, on the Goblin Dance section wasn’t connecting very well. It had an odd timing to sync up with, although it is possible. Then the reward to completing this was a song that I didn’t care for and would have liked to have skipped instead. This whole section could use optimization and improvement for cleaner control input and better musical aspect at the end, if it is insistent to have it in the game.
The Forbidden Arts is enjoyable from start to end, aside from the one side note listed above. I thoroughly enjoyed my playthrough of the game and couldn’t wait to get back to the journey when I had to get off. I found myself digging through each level to find all the collectibles simply because I enjoyed playing through every level presented in the game. This game is a must-buy for fans of 2D action platformers!