Itorah review for Nintendo Switch, PC, PS4, Xbox One

Platform: Nintendo Switch
Also on: PC, Xbox One, PS4
Publisher: Assemble Entertainment
Developer: Grimbart Tales
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No
ESRB: E10+

Given how many metroidvanias there are on the Switch (and in general), it takes a lot for newer ones to stand out. As I wrote about Elderand a few months ago, you often need some kind of hook or gimmick to really make it work. Elderand, to continue with that example, tried to be bloodier than its competitors (and failed because Infernax did it better), while Yoku’s Island Express added in pinball mechanics to spectacular effect.

Itorah?s attempt at standing out is to have visuals that draw from a unique source: its graphics are inspired by Mesoamerican indigenous groups ? which, to the game?s credit, are definitely sources that aren’t usually drawn from.

And, what’s more, its visuals are pretty nice. The designs, the costumes, the buildings, the colour palette: they?re all a little different than what we usually see. What?s more, it all looks very nice, with obvious care and attention that have gone into every frame. There was one moment, in particular, where the titular character was running against the backdrop of a setting sun, and it looked absolutely spectacular.

Unfortunately, that?s the beginning and end of what makes Itorah interesting ? because the gameplay certainly isn?t.

For one thing, even though the world looks gorgeous, it?s pretty empty. There?s the occasional enemy to battle, but for the most part there?s not much to do. There aren?t any hidden areas to uncover, no secrets to be revealed: what you see, for the most part, is what you get.

This, in turn, highlights one of Itorah?s other flaws, which is that it?s incredibly linear for a metroidvania. There?s not a moment where it doesn?t feel like the game is funneling you in one specific direction. There?s little reason to backtrack, and, as noted above, no reason to explore, since you?re not going to find anything that interesting apart from the odd gem (and even those are kind of useless, as I?ll explain shortly). Given how much love went into the game?s world, it?s unfortunate that the developers weren?t interested in making you explore more of it.

Worst of all, it?s not that fun to engage with enemies. Combat feels clunky: you can?t move and swing your weapon at the same time, which means that you?ll often have to take hits just to get some of your own in. At the same time, though, Itorah is kind of a sponge for attacks, which means you can usually just hack away at the enemies until they die. You?re also helped by the fact that the enemy AI is extraordinarily dumb, and usually doesn?t take any note of you, even if you?re bashing away at it. Even for someone like me, who enjoys easier games, it quickly becomes repetitive.

And that?s really disappointing, since, based on its looks alone, it feels like Itorah should stand out more. Unfortunately, all the effort here went into those visuals, and once you get beyond those, you?re left with a game that?s not very fun to play.

Assemble Entertainment provided us with an Itorah Switch code for review purposes.

Grade: C