Sometimes it's refreshing to approach a game without any anticipations or pre-established thoughts about it. This is the case with Iconoclasts. Truth be told, the game passed right under our radar until December of last year, and it's only been the last month where we've come to get to know the game better.
The work on Iconoclasts is worth a paragraph of its own. The game is developed by a single Swede, Joakim "Konjak" Sandberg, a process which has taken him more than seven years to complete. In comparison, Eric "ConcernedApe" Barone spent four years completing Stardew Valley on his own, while the Norwegian D-Pad Studio (which consists of a handful of individuals) spent almost ten years developing the gem Owlboy. The game joins the rank of games stuck in a long development process, which is why it's even more interesting to see whether it holds up all the way through, or if the long development time has taken a toll on the game's perspective and course.
Comparing Iconoclasts with games such as Stardew Valley and Owlboy is not a coincidence. Not only have they been developed almost single-handedly, but all three games use a graphical style known as pixel art, a style also used in games as Shovel Knight, Terraria and Fez, to name a few. Beyond the art style, Iconoclasts has more in common with Owlboy than Stardew Valley, considering we are talking about a 2D action platformer here. But whereas Owlboy caters to the adventurer in you, Iconoclasts turns up the tempo a notch to deliver a more action-packed experience. You will find some similarities with old classics such as Mega Man, Metroid, and Castlevania, but it's best not to take the similarities too far. The more you play Iconoclasts, the more it feels like its own thing, which of course is commendable.
The game takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where the religious organisation, One Concern, governs with an iron fist. All jobs are designated by the organisation, and anybody who tries to do undesignated or illegal work can expect penance to be made (which in this case is a euphemism for death and destruction striking the poor individual). These rules apply to an even stricter degree to all mechanics, as mechanics are essential to proper handling of an important resource called ivory, and thus no mechanics can work outside of the One Concern. Too bad then tha otur heroine Robin is a 17-year-old girl with a knack for using wrenches and an exaggerated desire to help those in need. Thus begins a journey where Robin's fate is tied up in a story starring pirates, crazy generals, and the imminent end of the world, not to mention a proper hour of reckoning for the One Concern and its leaders Mother and Him.
The premise for the narrative is promising, but it doesn't take long before the story starts playing second fiddle. Several of the characters remain interesting from start to finish, but the game has a consistent problem when it comes to timing, dialogue and the narrative technique in general. Many of the conversations strike us as clumsy and unnatural, and the grand plot loses some of its spark after a while. The transitions in the story feel hasty at times, and at the end, you've lost most of your reason to even care. It's a shame, because like we said the story has promise at first.