Ever thought about what it’d feel like to wake up one day and find that you’re destined to become the sole saviour of humanity..?
In all likelihood you probably have, it’s a very familiar trope in games, movies, books, TV, mosaics, classical art, graven images… err, you get the picture. So much so that when I first started up High Strangeness and realised I was playing yet another game where you play the magical, hero character with unexplained, superhuman powers destined to save the world, I couldn’t help but roll my eyes and let out a little stifled groan. It gets better, for sure, but it’s not a great first impression.
You play Boyd, a seemingly normal teenager who whilst one night chasing after his errant cat finds himself descending down the rabbit hole into a tale of intergalactic adventure and 12-bit exploring. A malevolent race of creatures called the ‘keepers’ has come to Earth, and only Boyd can stop them, traveling from world to world in the hopes of acquiring ‘crystal skulls’, ancient artifacts that grant him new abilities with which to fight his enemies and solve puzzles.
Honestly, that’s pretty much all there is to the plot, aside from a few twists and turns. Simplicity should never be a fault in a game, but sometimes you do need a little more than the bare basics, that little something that gives a story the hook draw you in – even if the overall plot is something you’ve experienced a thousand times. And this is really how I felt in general about High Strangeness. It doesn’t do anything badly as such, the story, the mechanics, the art, all decent; it just also doesn’t do anything amazingly original either.
Gameplay follows from short cutscenes that move the story along and consists of exploring small linear environments, fighting enemies and solving simple puzzles with the tools at your disposal to move onto each new area. Combat is simple enough, just repeatedly mash the A button (on controller anyway) to combo enemies, whilst using the increasing array of special abilities you gain to turn the odds in your favour; each downed enemy drops an eye, an consumable item that increases your spending power in the game shop and also either restores some of your health if it’s red or your mana/stamina if green.
You also have the ability to switch between an 8-bit view and a 16-bit view, each of which offers subtle changes in the environment which may either help or hinder you – for example, in 8-bit mode you seem to be a much less capable fighter but environmental traps are much more easily navigated, and vice versa with the 16-bit mode.
Overall I’d say I enjoyed High Strangeness, not enough to feel like it’s something I’d want to call a classic or replay repeatedly but I did enjoy myself. The story is pretty passable and the gameplay perhaps a tad too simplistic but everything just seems to come together well enough to make it fun. I liked the mythology elements to the story, and I liked the unique art pieces that popped up erratically throughout the game as I progressed; but I can’t help but feel the game basically re-treads territory that got pretty well trodden back in the Snes era, and doesn’t really do anything drastically original from what, or even as well as, the games of that era did.
I can’t really recommend people buy High Strangeness at full price, as for about 3-4 hours of content of this quality it seems a bit much but if it’s the type of game you tend to enjoy I’d definitely recommend picking it up in the sale sometime.