Monday, October 29, 2018

Momodora II - Thoughts

There's a small, quiet quaintness to Momodora II that I... well, had been expecting, having played the first Momodora only a day prior. Like its humble predecessor, Momodora II is a cute, free, pixel-based platformer that can be completed in a single sitting, but there's a big difference this time around—the world has opened up! No longer will you find yourself hopping down ledges you can no longer climb back up, or missing collectible goodies—the world is your oyster!... even if that oyster is fairly small.

One of my favorite things in gaming is to see how a series changes from title to title, especially when it's being guided by a single author. Larger companies can tend to produce sequels that feel rote, predictable, and incremental, whereas the lone indie developer can (ostensibly) play with the formula however they wish. That's why Momodora's foray into the Metroidvania genre was kinda interesting, since it's structurally different and yet very recognizable—there's a noticeable through line from the arcadeyness of the first to the gentle exploration of the second. Whereas Castlevania experienced a staggering sideways leap from Rondo to Symphony, Momodora I to II feels like a very natural, forward progression for the series, almost as if rdein had been planning this since the beginning.

A lot of aspects have been improved: ranged attacks now run on a resource, there's more variety in the settings (every background isn't just rocks, hooray!), and the palette is much more pleasant. I appreciate the inclusion of an automap and adore that health upgrades come in the form of "love letters" (d'aww). The only drawbacks I can think of are that there are less weapons, the game is surprisingly easy despite being melee focused, and the soundtrack is lacking the engrossing melodies of the first Momodora. For some, the drawbacks will be worth it, especially since Momodora II feels significantly less like a Cave Story fan project and more like its own thing. Lastly, what continues to impress me the most about rdein—besides cobbling this together with the help of only a few friends—is his precious monster design. Despite foregoing the eyeball motif for the enemies, there's still a lot of cuties, like the foxes with their little lanterns and maids that sweep up skull-shaped dust clouds. It's probably what I'm looking forward to seeing the most with the other games in the series!

Though I enjoyed Momodora II for what it was, I don't have a strong preference for one game in the series over another. The first scratches a nice basic platforming itch, while the second is a delectable exploration-focused experience. The rub—at least for me—is that both games are content being appetizers, offering at most a 1.5 hour break for you to get lost in their bite-sized worlds. They're still fun and well made, but I couldn't help but want more rather than different coming off of the first Momodora—perhaps third time's a charm?

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