I absolutely love the platformers of old. Not only are they good, light-hearted fun, but they once gave me a sense of awe and childlike wonder that is rarely matched in games of today. Effie is a game that tries to play into that. This is extremely evident in both its charming visuals as well as its gameplay mechanics. But is there anything there worth of note once you take off the nostalgia glasses? Let’s break it down.
Effie is available for purchase on the PlayStation store for $19.99.
If you were wondering who or what the „eff“ is Effie, the intro cutscene immediately answers that question. Effie is a little girl sitting in front of a fireplace, listening to the protagonist tell the story of his adventure. That protagonist is named Galand and his story is a somewhat ironic twist of fate.
You see, Galand was once a carefree person who only looked after himself. This backfired when he decided that he’s better off being lazy than helping a young lady who was actually a powerful witch in disguise named Melira. As punishment, she turned him into a surprisingly spry and muscled old man which sprung him on the quest of restoring his youth. Things are never that simple and in order to help himself, Galand has to help everyone else and rid the world of gems of evil that plague the world. To that end, he’ll need to solve all sorts of puzzles as well defeat a ton of fantastical enemies like ghouls, ghosts, and giants. And of course, Melira.
In the vein of platformers of old, the story of Effie is a simple good vs. evil with a somewhat humorous twist that’s very easy to enjoy no matter your age. Additionally, you have the mystery of Galand still being an old man as he narrates the story which will give you a larger incentive to see the story through in its entirety and find out why his youth ultimately wasn’t restored. The story is, however, never the main reason for you to keep playing. It instead serves as a feel-good backdrop and a reason for you to poke your nose into every corner of Effie’s vibrant and colorful world.
Gameplay-wise, Effie is a nice blend of different mechanics and it invokes all the right wonderous adventure feels. Although not very deep mechanically, it still manages to hit the magical sweet-spot that makes it more than the sum of its parts. Most of your adventure will be spent exploring, fighting and solving simple platforming and other puzzles. Most of this will be done using the Runestone shield that you get at the very beginning of the game. Runestone is essentially your swiss army knife and it functions as a shield, a weapon and your main means of transportation. My face turned into a huge smile when I realized that Runestone turns into a fantasy hoverboard that you can use to surf about the open-world.
Yes, you read that right. Effie takes place in a fairly large open-world environment with some huge landmark buildings which serve as dungeons. They are actually where you’ll spend most of your game time as the open-world is actually pretty barren and devoid of life. Sure, it looks absolutely stunning, but there’s just not enough activities to keep you there for a substantial amount of time. There’s the occasional ghoul camp for you to clear out as well as a couple of surprisingly fun hoverboard races but that’s about it.
With dungeons housing the gems of evil, it’s there that you’ll get your fill of most of the game’s mechanics. Each one is visually very unique and it features its own set of environmental and other hazards that you’ll need to overcome using a combination of simple puzzle solving and combat. Speaking of combat, this segment of the game is a fairly simple and easy affair. You have your light and heavy attacks as well as specials skills that you unlock upon entering a dungeon. These are the shield throw, slam attack, dash, and an energy shield.
While the combat is somewhat satisfying, it lacks any sort of challenge and variety. You’ll see all the enemies in your first dungeon and you’ll find that regular attacks take the smaller enemies down in a couple of hits while special skills usually kill them instantly. Two types of hulking monsters can be taken down using only heavy attacks and require a bit of dodging. Additionally, what holds the combat back is the fact that the animations are often very stiff and once Galand initiates an attack, he’s locked into a brief attack animation. This, coupled with some technical issues that I’ll talk about later makes the combat feel like a missed opportunity as the foundation is fairly solid. Luckily, combat visuals and effects mitigate some of these problems and ultimately still make it enjoyable for what it is.
Where the game shines a bit brighter is the puzzles. They are sprinkled about the various dungeons and require you to use your skills and precision jumping to dodge traps. There are also some puzzles where you have to pull levers or stand on pedestals in a certain order, hints for which are hidden in the environment. While simple, they can be very enjoyable, once again thanks to the visuals and very tight and precise controls. Additionally, each dungeon is filled with runestones that reminded me of Crackdown’s green orbs. Collect enough of these and Galand’s health and special attack meter increase in length. Even though their collection isn’t critical due to Effie‘s low difficulty, they are a great incentive to poke your nose in every corner of the game. Plus, we just can’t resist and are hardwired to collect all the shiny floating things. Thanks Mario!
There are even a couple of boss fights against Melira once you get to the end of a dungeon, and each encounter is different than the last. You won’t be attacking her directly most of the time and will instead need to kill waves of enemies or use the environment against her. These encounters serve as a culmination of each dungeon where you’ll usually have all the hazards from said dungeon thrown at you all at once. Once again, these aren’t difficult but are still very fun.
GRAPHICS AND AUDIO
You can tell by the screenshots and my previous comments that it’s the visuals that set Effie apart from the competition. They are what makes everything you do in the game that much more fun, satisfying and above all – nostalgic. The game uses cartoonish, low-poly models and they invoke feelings that I had while playing many older platformers like Jak and Daxter, Ratchet and Clank, Crash Bandicoot and Spyro The Dragon. Every visual aspect of the game, from the world to skills and combat effects is so eye-catchingly vibrant that you’ll just stare at it with a big, fat smile.
Not only that, but the visuals are what drove me to continue playing as I couldn’t wait to see what sort of cartoony, visual splendor would the game throw at me next. As mentioned, each dungeon comes with its own set of unique visuals – from a city surrounded by huge walls and windmills to a sawmill with a Halloween-like aesthetic, all the way to a city floating in a sea of wine next to a plant that looks like a barrel. Most of the flora of the open world is colored in saturated red which gives an awesome contrast to the crystal blue water and the skies.
Unfortunately, there are a couple of technical issues that hinder the game’s full potential with the first and main one being the framerate. 30FPS is nothing new for the PlayStation 4 but it drops well below that hard and often. It’s especially evident when you are in detail-rich areas or when a multiple enemies attack you all at once but that’s not all. There’s FPS drops even when you move the camera around which, when coupled with a generous amount of motion blur, can really bring the experience down. This gets especially painful when a framerate drop causes you to plummet to your death during platforming segments.
What’s worse, the game will sometimes (while standing still) smooth out and give you a glimpse of how much better it would be if these problems were ironed out – only to become extremely janky as soon as you do anything. Additionally, I experienced a couple of, out of the blue, error messages that caused the game to crash – which for me, is a rare occurrence on the PS4. Luckily, the developer is still working on the PC release and this gives hope of these technical issues being fixed down the line.
When it comes to the audio and music, there’s not much here. The only voiced characters are Galand, Melira, Effie and the ever-present narrator, and they do a serviceable job. You sometimes get a cheerful tune or ambient music that sets a tone for the dungeon but you’ll more often than not hardly ever notice the music. One exception is the tension building tune that kicks as the timer starts counting down for a timed puzzle or two.