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Promenade

Promenade

Holy Cap and Red Art deliver one of the most beautiful and challenging platformers of recent times.

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It may not be the most fashionable genre today, but if there is one thing that platform games have stood the test of time, it is that they have always captured the spirit of the game in its purest form. It doesn't matter how deep or simple a story is, it doesn't matter how detailed or crude a stage is, and it doesn't even matter if there is more than a dot on a screen. A platformer is a journey in which the player has to get to the end, and Holy Cap's Promenade asks us to make that journey, which will be as fun as it is challenging, by taking a nice walk.

The truth is that I already had the opportunity to get to know this game in a early build during the last Gamescom, becoming in fact one of my favourite titles of the fair. Now that I've had more time to delve into it, I've noticed that my first impressions were indeed accurate, but I also feel that it should have been fine-tuned to make it a must-have.

Promenade

Promenade (which means "walk" in French) is a 2D side-scrolling platformer that takes us on a dreamlike journey with its young protagonist Nemo and his companion, a small pink octopus, as they search for a way to ascend the Great Elevator to the top in a world populated by small creatures, bright colours and memories. One can immediately conclude that what we are experiencing is a journey through a child's imagination with a somewhat dark undertone, but except for a few specific scenes, the whole "ride" takes place among clouds, cushions, toys and colourful, beautiful and friendly scenery.

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It's a curious comparison to make with a 3D exponent of the genre, but there's a lot of Super Mario 64 in Promenade. In order to ascend the Great Elevator, you must retrieve fragments to repair the platform you're using to rise up level after level. This area of the lift also acts as a hub between the different levels or sections of Nemo's memory, where the pieces are scattered. Getting the pieces usually depends on traversing an area by jumping and dodging enemies and falling gaps to collect them, but others will be by linking the pieces together in clever perspective puzzles, memory puzzles or time trial challenges. I was talking about Super Mario 64 earlier, because in addition to the designs of some of these tests, each one has its own name to keep track of the tally in Nemo's album, similar to when you were collecting stars in Peach's Castle.

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Promenade is also a fairly peaceful game, as our character doesn't die at any point. He can be weakened (we have a hit counter that will decrease if we are touched by enemies on the screen), but checkpoints are common, so you won't be broken by the general course of the game, at least until you get to the boss fights. These levels are true tests of skill in which we'll have to put everything we've learnt up to that point to the test, including double-jumping, dodging and rolling, and the timely use of our octopod friend. You can tell that these points are the entry to a higher difficulty level, but at the same time each of these fights unlocks a new skill for the octopus, such as a hook to grab onto hooks, and thus open shortcuts or new sections where you can find more fragments.

So far I have no objections, as it's clear that Promenade aims to be an accessible and enjoyable adventure for all audiences, but perhaps there are a couple of underlying issues with the achievement of the objective that obscure the colourful experience. The progression and complexity of the trials and jumps soon start to ramp up in intensity, and while the double-jump system of interacting with objects (which you must first grab with the octopus, the centrepiece for moving and interacting with the environment) presented in the tutorial usually goes well, I found myself on more than one occasion noticing how the response time between button press and in-game action is not as precise as I'd like it to be. It's not limiting, it doesn't break progress at any point, but it seems to me that Promenade could have a much more comfortable pace without having to repeat so many sections because of inaccuracy. Fortunately, the save point loading is almost instant even on the Nintendo Switch version we used for the review, so it's not all bad.

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Likewise, I understand that the decision to be aware of contextual language and environmental puzzles is also a decision to support the narrative of Nemo's story, but it is easy to find yourself lost on several occasions, especially as there is no overarching map to access, and you have to go back down to earlier sections to open new paths with new tools. There is a Metroidvania element, yes, but it's not entirely essential to reach the end credits, as there are far more pieces than necessary, and this replayability is for those looking for the full challenge.

But don't let these less bright spots mislead you. Promenade is a great game that I still find just as solid and engaging as when I first encountered it. If you're interested in a platformer that's different and offers an extra dose of puzzles, this is definitely one of those indies you shouldn't miss when it arrives on February 23, 2024 on PC, PlayStation, Xbox and Switch.

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07 Gamereactor UK
7 / 10
+
Great level and art design. The environmental puzzles are entertaining.
-
There is a lack of precision in the controls. There are moments when you will get lost and not know where to go.
overall score
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Promenade

REVIEW. Written by Alberto Garrido

Holy Cap and Red Art deliver one of the most beautiful and challenging platformers of recent times.



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