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Phoenotopia: Awakening is a gosh darn delight

narcodis

the titular game boy
(he/him)

Phoenotopia is good as hell. It's most readily compared to Zelda 2, in that it has an overworld where little greyscale monster encounters appear randomly on the map, and its side scrolling 2D action everywhere else, but the comparisons mostly end there. P:A has tons of thoughtful puzzles, challenging minigames, fishing and cooking, fun characters, gorgeously and impossibly detailed pixel art, an amazing soundtrack, and a nice story to go along with it all!!

But dont just take my word for it. Our own madhair had plenty of good to say about it: https://www.nintendolife.com/reviews/switch-eshop/phoenotopia_awakening

I bought this game on a whim and I cannot express how pleased I am. I havent stopped playing it. There is just SO MUCH TO DO!! The towns are so densely populated & lived in, and begging to be explored. There are so many little side areas, each with it's own carefully constructed challenge or puzzle to overcome.

Alright, alright. I'm gushing. But I just gotta talk about this game, and I think the TT discord is getting sick of it. Someone else playing this?!
 
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Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
(He/Him)
Hell yes I am! It’s easily the best Zelda 2 since my dearly beloved Elliot Quest, but whether or not it’s better is a debate I’m not ready to have yet.

Not far enough just yet to say that the game front loads its difficulty, but it does feel like that’s the case as I’ve now got enough healing items that I’ve run out of room for them all, as opposed to the opening of the game where I had to wander between rooms grinding for monster meat.

Is there anywhere to sell items yet? I’ve got a few that look to be vendor trash, but haven’t yet found any vendors to trash them with yet; just got the Bombs
 

narcodis

the titular game boy
(he/him)
Yeah! Over to the west of Atai, there's the Rhodus checkpoint, where you can "recycle" your items (into money). The best way I've found to make money so far is to get a fishing rod, and then go around to all the fishing spots, catch a bunch of fish, cook em up, and then recycle them all. It won't be long before you've made up your investment that way. Another good way to get some cash is to use those bombs to break the rocks near Adal's house to get a bunch of Amberite Ore for recycling; you can re-spawn the rocks by just constantly leaving and re-entering the area. Aside from that, though, there's money to be found in the little side-areas hiding behind some sort of puzzle or challenge.

One criticism I might offer for this game is that money is quite sparse, recycling items doesn't net you quite as much as you might hope, and there is a TON to spend your money on. I'd say my two best purchases so far have been the crossbow and the fishing rod, but the upgraded bat(s) and armor(s) have definitely been worthwhile also.
 

narcodis

the titular game boy
(he/him)
Oh, and one more way to make some money: There's a berry vendor in Atai who will buy 4 Berry Fruits for 25 Rin. They're pretty easy to farm up in the various areas of Panselo (they come from those spikey fruits that hang in the trees), but it is a little time consuming. More something to just be aware of when you're exploring Panselo a bit further, that hanging on to those berry fruits will be worthwhile.
 

StriderDL

Still just a dad
(He/him/his)
The berries are the way I was able to scrounge enough cash to buy out Atai. I made the mistake of buying the fishing rod last. This game has a bananagrams amount of secrets. I'm about to, I think, finish off the story in the 3rd area but I keep getting sidetracked between Ouroboros scrolls, sparkling fishies, trading items, music block riddles, and so on.
 

narcodis

the titular game boy
(he/him)
For real, I honestly can't believe the breadth of content in this game. And now I just discovered the GEO club, so that's another slew of side quest stuff opened up to me!!

I just beat the boss of the 3rd area. That now makes six bosses I've fought so far, assuming everything that has a health bar on the bottom of the screen qualifies as a boss. Going to rank them in order of difficulty along with some fairly spoilery discussion about the fights:
  1. The guards in Daea castle - hard as hell. Must've attempted 20 or 30 times. Taking one hit from these dudes often meant taking multiple more hits just due to how far you get flung. My strategy involved staying MOSTLY on the top platform, but also leveraging the divots in the floor for cover when the big dudes charged across (they just charge right over you if you do it right!), and then shooting my crossbow. Or if I could hack it, swatting at them with my bat while their back is turned could do a lot of damage. Once the kobold appears, the crossbow takes care of him fairly quick. Mostly just a really hard fight, but oh boy it felt good to win.
  2. The big slime in the Anuri Ruins - In retrospect, this boss is more just teeing you up for how tough this game is, but it's definitely made harder by the lack of upgrades or instant-consumables available at the time you fight this guy. The key for me was realizing that staying really close and behind the slime was actually best, because the spike attack gives enough of a tell to let you dash away, and everything else leaves a nice wide open window of attack if you're right behind the boss. Still tough as nails though, and I really do think the bosses attacks are a bit too quick. Very little room for a delayed reaction.
  3. Katash (kobold general) - Pretty damn tough fight, but the pattern was fairly easy to dodge once you were able to spot the visual cues. Biggest thing for me was realizing that trying to eat food during this fight was pure folly, and it's actually better to discard it all since he STEALS it from you. Other than that, having spears in place on the walls beforehand to help avoid the big laser helps. Most my damage was done with the crossbow on this fight, since getting in close quarters is almost impossible. If you time it right, you can shoot his red explodey attacks right as he fires one, and it'll explode in his face for some good damage. Easiest to do from right below him when he's up on that platform.
  4. Wrecker robot in Thomas' lab - wasn't super tough once I could read the bounce of the EMP grenade. I think if I hadn't read Thomas' journal I might not have known how to beat the boss right away, but as it was it only took like two or three tries.
  5. Great Drake (bandit lair boss) - Hardest part about this boss was dodging the big rolling attack, which I'm not sure I ever successfully did. Otherwise just making sure to steal the treats ensured I was able to pump out the damage fast enough.
  6. Giant rock toad in Anuri Ruins (secret?? boss, accessible using bombs - I think I only died once to this one. It's tricky because it requires some pretty deft movement to throw bombs into its mouth while being sucked in, but once you get it down it becomes pretty simple.

Excellent boss fights! Especially that last one. Good times.


Oh, and one game mechanic thing I discovered that is pretty neat... the game lets you stand on bombs! You can stack two bombs on top of each other, which is equivalent to the size of a small box. Wonder if this could lead to any potential sequence breaking? Certainly could lead to getting some items earlier than intended.
 

madhair60

Video games
Came here to shill my review for this belter of a game but I see my work has been done for me.

Definitely under the radar, buy this game. <3
 

StriderDL

Still just a dad
(He/him/his)
Oh boy oh boy I've found some optional boss fights that you haven't yet. Double sandworms! Splitting acid slimes!

There's a way to reduce the ping ponging with multiple enemies/projectiles. I don't think you even need pay the guy in the second part of the Moonlight Ravine, but hit ZL just before hitting the ground to land without bounce damage and momentum.

Exploding spears + concentrate (quick charge) + temperance (hold charge) have been my bread and butter for a lot of the fights, fast and decent damage at distance.

I haven't been able to sequence break with bomb stacking yet, but it has helped me reach spears that I had thrown just out of reach. Considering how much care they put into this game I wouldn't be surprised if they built a puzzle around it. Love it so much!
 

narcodis

the titular game boy
(he/him)
There's a way to reduce the ping ponging with multiple enemies/projectiles. I don't think you even need pay the guy in the second part of the Moonlight Ravine, but hit ZL just before hitting the ground to land without bounce damage and momentum.
Ahhh!! I did the training with that guy, but I must've completely forgot what button actually did the landing, because I've been trying to stick the landing with B this whole time. I just thought it was super finnicky, but turns out I've been doing it WRONG this whole time. WOULDVE BEEN HELPFUL ON THAT BOSS, FOR SURE

Exploding spears + concentrate (quick charge) + temperance (hold charge) have been my bread and butter for a lot of the fights, fast and decent damage at distance.
I just got the quick-charge and charge storage myself, and I'm very much looking forward to using those.

I haven't been able to sequence break with bomb stacking yet, but it has helped me reach spears that I had thrown just out of reach. Considering how much care they put into this game I wouldn't be surprised if they built a puzzle around it. Love it so much!
Seriously. The puzzle design here is SO good, and it offers multiple ways to solve lots of puzzles, so it often feels extremely novel and intuitive. The only puzzle I've really groaned at so far have been the sudoku puzzles in the Panselo GEO house, but even then they only took a few minutes to solve.

More thoughts on this game to come... this game keeps getting better, it's wild.
 

narcodis

the titular game boy
(he/him)
I'm so impressed at the nuance and detail that has gone into the movement and combat mechanics of this game. Dashing, jump-dashing, rolling, swinging the bat, the slight kickback from the crossbow, the floaty-ness of the slingshot, the way aerial bat attacks do slightly more damage than normal attacks, the way you can jump backwards and do fade-away crossbow shots...

AND, I love that there are so many minigames and challenges that exist purely to test your proficiency with these mechanics!! The free-running guy in every village is basically just a way to practice maintaining constant speed when dashing/jumping/rolling, the archery minigame is a great way to learn how to use your slingshot properly, the box-breaking minigame is a great way to figure out how to use your bombs and bat swings effectively... it's all very very cool!!

I've gotten to Cosette now, and am working on clearing the windmills. I found a dog biscuit in the first windmill I found, aptly titled the "Dog Tower", and of course I went back to the village and fed it to the puppy that is hanging out near the east entrance. But it didn't appear to have any lasting effects or anything. I'm curious if feeding the dog more treats leads to anything at all...
 

StriderDL

Still just a dad
(He/him/his)
I knew the dog treats had a purpose! That or kobolds, maybe? They do drop them, but I haven't reached a place where they don't want to kill me.
 

narcodis

the titular game boy
(he/him)
Cleared all the windmills and now I've made my way underground to the ancient... vault? thing? and now there's like an entire ancient underground city filled with a whole bunch of robot security guards and stuff... This game is rad as hell!

Also, I spent like thirty minutes trying to figure out how to deftly maneuver around a whole bunch of spinning sawblade traps to grab a heart ruby before realizing there was a switch on the other side of the room that turned all the sawblades off. 🤓 I mean, I knew it seemed insanely hard, but that also is kinda par the course for this game.

The charged sonic spear has pretty much become my main way of dealing with enemies. With fast charge and charge storage it is just so ridiculously strong.

Strider, you got any tips on catching fish?? I was able to catch the big sparkly fish at the oasis near Atai, but I just found a big sparkly SHARK in the water off the shore line and it is fucking hard to catch. Is there a way to like... i dunno, cheat?
 
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StriderDL

Still just a dad
(He/him/his)
I haven't tried the shark, but there's a place in the Aqua Line you can play the royal melody and open up a deeper area that eventually leads to a pier where there's a fisherman. Do his request to get a better rod.

Also chug honey brews for more stamina before you fish. Also you can pause and adjust where your line is to cut some stamina loss trying to get realigned.
 

StriderDL

Still just a dad
(He/him/his)
Wow, that shark can go to hell.

Also honey brews won't help with the actual fishing, it only boosts regen.
 

narcodis

the titular game boy
(he/him)
Wow, that shark can go to hell.
I got him! He had a heart ruby, so not a bad catch.

Also, trying to figure out what moonstone upgrades are most worthwhile. I just got the crossbow one since that weapon was so fortuitous during the Katash fight but I find I don't even use it that often. Maybe I shoulda got the bomb one, that seems pretty cool.

Anyway I am also beyond the wall! I found a shortcut to the sewers back under Daea, which was pretty cool. And yeah, the wendigos, man... can they even actually die? Like I couldn't find a way to hurt them at all yet.

Also I'm just straight up bathing in side content at this point. New area means like a dozen more side thingies to explore!! So good.
 

Kalir

Do you require aid.
(whatevs)
The store preview said 25 hours of content or so, would y'all say that feels accurate?
 

narcodis

the titular game boy
(he/him)
I've plugged over 30 hours into it so far, no idea how close the end is, but feels like I'm definitely at least past halfway. I have spent a lot of time doing side stuff, though.
 

narcodis

the titular game boy
(he/him)
Further beyond the wall -- sure is lonely out there. The Mul Caves sure were something else. Just swarming with nasty enemies, but lots of neat stuff going on. Felt very alien and cool. Also got me some Rocket boots! Then I found the Spider boss and was instantly overwhelmed... died pretty quickly having done very little damage to the boss, and I was completely dumbfounded, how the hell was I gonna beat this thing? And then next time around I realized the boss was optional. Heh.

Opened up another shortcut, this time back to the teleport house, whatever it's called... This game sure is pretty good about making travelling between areas pretty easy. It's great!
 

StriderDL

Still just a dad
(He/him/his)
The Mul Caves were totally nuts. For the spider I ate spicy noodles and honey brews and shot double crossbow at his butt. Good times.
 

narcodis

the titular game boy
(he/him)
Got to the SPHERE and acquired the complete Spherealis. I'll admit that I thought the story would pull a fast one and have the golem head betray us or something, but it's been surprisingly straightforward. Maybe that's coming later on, or something. The Phoenix is allegedly in the rooms ahead, which feels somewhat end-gamey to me. I've largely ignored most the side stuff beyond the Wall, but I feel I must go do some backtracking at this point.

Anyway, now having the Spherealis, I of course did the most reasonable thing and beelined it immediately towards an area earlier in the game that it allows me to interact with. I've been greeted by one of the hardest challenges in the game, one which I'm not sure I'm capable of doing yet, which involves weaving through a pattern of lasers being shot at you while jumping over a series of pits. But who knows; this game has tested me quite a bit, I'm sure if I try at it enough I'll get it.
 

StriderDL

Still just a dad
(He/him/his)
Anyway, now having the Spherealis, I of course did the most reasonable thing and beelined it immediately towards an area earlier in the game that it allows me to interact with. I've been greeted by one of the hardest challenges in the game, one which I'm not sure I'm capable of doing yet, which involves weaving through a pattern of lasers being shot at you while jumping over a series of pits. But who knows; this game has tested me quite a bit, I'm sure if I try at it enough I'll get it.
I am at the same spot. I no like.
 

narcodis

the titular game boy
(he/him)
I ditched that puzzle area for now... I cleared the A B and C puzzles, but just ran out of steam on the D puzzle and went to go explore other areas. Anyway I think I might've stumbled upon the end of the game??? Looks like the whole plot came out all at once, which... it's a twist, and I didnt see it coming, but uh, seems like maybe it's out of nowhere? It's ok though. So now I gotta get past this boss. Gave it a couple tries, but I feel like its gonna be pretty tough.
 

StriderDL

Still just a dad
(He/him/his)
I did clear the vault next to Adar's, and the reward is very underwhelming but if you want to know you get a teeny bit of lore and a heart and an energy gem.

I swore the most at this section than I have at any videogame in recent recollection. My wife was concerned.
 

narcodis

the titular game boy
(he/him)
I, apparently, beat the game!

So here's what happened. After running through the last bits of the playable game, some dialogue happens and then the screen fades to black, where an ending montage is supposed to play out. HOWEVER, when I did it, the game faded to black and then... nothing happened. Nothing! The game just froze. Some light piano music was playing, but that's about it.

I scoured around online to figure out what happened, and deduced that this was indeed the ending and that I had encountered a bug. On the Phoenotopia website, there's an email to report bugs, so I sent an email. To my surprise, the developer Quell responded within minutes:

Sorry to hear that happened! The game shouldn't hang there. The ending should have played out properly. For a small percentage of people, the game does hang there for some reason, we're not sure why yet, but we're investigating it.

It's not ideal, but in the meantime, you can catch the ending here in this youtube clip.

Sorry again!
Quang
So, yeah. I beat the game! And I made a small exchange with the developer and it was cool for me. I'm still not done with the game, though. There's tons of side stuff I still haven't checked out, including some optional bosses I never beat. I also might just try re-beating the game for the hell of it, to see if I can get the ending to play out after all.


In other news, looks like the developers have a patch inbound, the contents of which are still undergoing eshop approval, but the changes are listed in this google sheet document: Phoenotopia Version Notes

Outside of bug fixes and typos, there are lots of balancing concerns addressed. Nerfs to enemies, bosses, how much damage certain things deal, and some ways to adjust the gameplay mechanics to make things quite a bit easier. Seems like the main criticisms this game gets are surrounding the difficulty, because the first major patch is all about addressing the difficulty to make things more accessible for a wider audience. Which I'm all in favor for! This game deserves more recognition!
 

narcodis

the titular game boy
(he/him)
Alright, I sat down and beat the final boss again. The ending played out for real this time. I wound up with only 50% completion! Jesus, this game is big.

Final playtime was just over 42 hours.
 

Kalir

Do you require aid.
(whatevs)
That sounds like a good satisfying romp. I may have to pick it up as my next Switch game!
 

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
(He/Him)
I’ve sunk more than a dozen hours just into the first couple of areas because there’s that much Stuff.

mane also because the game is really hard and stingy with money so I want to be able to afford some upgrades. But I also don’t mind that aspect since it’s really fun
 
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