Review Code provided by Scarecrow Arts.
Whenever I have a spare moment in life, I like to jump into a Rogue-like, expend a portion of my soul and self worth, and a drop a few failed runs before crying in the corner. It is a cathartic experience, that made me the man I am today (as broken as that may be!). So, whenever a new game graces the Switch, I am compelled to give it a go, and see if this new title can satisfy that ever-present, primal itch. The Story Goes On is the latest in this ritualistic chopping block.
The Story Goes On is a game with a singular, overarching purpose – to provide the maximum amount of Rogue-like carnage, in the smallest amount of time possible. Games with such clear-cut, well defined focus often lean on the more difficult side of the spectrum, however Scarecrow Arts went in another direction. They decided to provide a high-octane power-trip that is executed nearly flawlessly.
Similar to games like The Binding of Isaac, The Story Goes On has you controlling a weak, almost defenseless hero as he battles through various, enemy infested rooms. During these escapades, your courageous champion will pick up various upgrades, encounter larger-than-life bosses and eventually advance to the next zone/biome/floor. It is an addictive formula, that relies heavily on gradual power gains through randomised upgrades and satisfying combat. The Story Goes On delivers on both fronts.
Your diminutive daredevil comes pre-equipped with a piddly pig-poker, and must go around stabbing, slashing and generally slaying, all manner of foes in a fairly kinesthetic, if ineffective, manner. It feels great, with each strike and kill having a satisfying amount of weight. The heft only increases as you gain more, and more power through the uncovering of various artifacts. Scarecrow Arts made the decision to tip the balance in your favour, quite heavily. Something quite unusual for a genre typically about dying.
This is achieved through a comparatively small loot pool, with very few, if any, objectively bad items being present. This grants you immense power, very at a steady pace, without the stress of picking up a run ending “upgrade”. This has a couple unfortunate knock-on effects, one of which is the difficulty, which is leaning quite heavily on the easier side of things. Also, there is very little room for experimentation, as most upgrades are entirely standalone, or stat-increases. I personally enjoyed the focused, almost refined, power trip the game provided, but it does impact the games longevity.
Which, oddly enough, is fine. The Story Goes On, as the name suggests, wants to tell you a story. Or more accurately, it wants you to be in a story. Your character is literally traversing the pages of a seemingly mad authors novel, ncluding his discarded notes, in an attempt to alter the ending. Which is of course, your untimely, yet inevitable, death. It is an interesting concept, told in a way that is both unique and interesting. This is not a game that wants you to play it for thousands of hours on end. It is a game with focus. It wants you to play for around ten hours, and get the experience of a game-winning run, without too much trial and error.
Keeping the game together, is the inclusion of your floating, fourth-wall breaking Scarecrow friend. He boops around spewing exposition, dropping red-hot puns and generally being the heart and soul of the whole narrative. He even doubles as your shopkeeper. Comedy in games can very easily fall flat, but The Story Goes On nails it perfectly. It never gets in the way of the gameplay, and it isn’t trying too hard. It is there to keep the game moving at a relaxed canter, and it succeeds.
Graphically, the game isn’t much to look at, although this is mostly due to the game being an ‘almost’ top-down/isometric hack-n’-slash. Your character is little more than a circle with a protruding sword, and the environments are quite basic – a common feature for games in the genre. However the enemy design is quirky, your Scarecrow companion looks brilliant and the bosses all look great. The various effects that litter the screen are especially nice. I was initially disappointed in the lack of enemy variety, however I realised that, like the pool of loot, this was by design. Each enemy has a unique way of attacking, so recognising each enemy and engaging in the correct manner, was all part of the fun.
One of the aspects of the game that surprised the most, is the sound design. The music is brilliant, with each area having its own, very well constructed theme, and the boss music in-particular being a highlight. Sound effects are also very meaty, further adding to feel of the combat, with all manner of thuds, chinks and clangs. The visuals might be a little bit simple, but the same cannot be said the quality of the sound.
The Story Goes on is a great little game, that successfully delivers on a promise I imagine it made, but I likely made up. It is short, concise and perfectly balanced to provide a good time. This is a perfect entry point for those new to the genre, and are (rightfully) intimidated by the disturbing depths of the Binding of Isaac, or the lunacy of Enter the Gungeon. For veterans, this is a chilled experience that you can jump into over a weekend and get a solid experience.
Are you nabbing this hidden gem? Have you already swiped it up? What do you think? Let me know in the comments below!
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