The concept of literary and historical figures like King Arthur and Dracula coming together to form one unit of heroes is an eye-catching one indeed, which is why we went into Bookbound Brigade intrigued but not knowing quite what to expect. You see, we knew about the general idea when we headed into a recent demo in London, but we weren't prepared for quite how innovative it was in practice.
The core pillar of gameplay is that you play as all of these heroes at once, except you change your formation. We played on an Xbox One controller, and by holding LB and pressing four different buttons you could change to a flat formation, with all characters in one line; a tall formation, where they all stood on top like a tower; a circle formation, which saw you roll around as they made a ball; and a block formation, clumping together like a big square.
This made us come at the 2D platformer from an entirely different angle, as all the previous rules we knew about just having to focus on jumping were out of the window. Instead, we had to think in-depth about which formation we needed at specific times, as this Metroidvania constantly needs you to change, sometimes at short notice, to avoid obstacles and navigate the environment.
For example, you might need to make yourself narrow to hide from deadly lasers, before using the heightened jump afforded to you by the block formation, since that has the highest jump height. We also found the block formation to be the best way to attack as well, since the rest are stretched a little thin for our liking.
In this way it felt like Bookbound Brigade was a breath of fresh air for platforming, and gave a lot of new challenges to pursue as you thought more about what you were doing, rather than just relying on speed and reflexes. Rolling around is incredibly fun too, as you might imagine.
Then there are the special abilities, including one that sees you all hold your shields up in block formation like the testudo of Roman Legions. This can protect against environmental damages, and there are a lot of these abilities, which cost points to use. Unfortunately, this was the only one we got to try out, but we're eager to see more and find out how they can be used.
It certainly felt challenging to explore the world, even in the brief section of game that we were given to play through, and there are hidden areas aplenty to pick up collectibles (we're not sure what they're used for yet) and health, since you'll be taking a lot of damage as you mash the attack button at bad guys. This was perhaps the weakest part of the demo, but we hope that with more abilities we'll get more options when it comes to attacking as well.
Bookbound Brigade is a really fun concept as a whole, and we just wanted to play more and see what other ideas it had up its sleeve. It's a fun and silly Metroidvania hiding a lot of depth and difficulty, and hopefully it continues to impress when it releases sometime later this year.
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