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The Perfect Pencil

We've tried The Perfect Pencil, a psychological platformer

An introspective metroidvania that could be much more promising than it seems.

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On the recent occasion of the Festival of Persistence (Going Rogue) these days on Steam, with important discounts in the roguelike, metroidvania and souls genre games, a demo of an under-development title that caught my attention. The Perfect Pencil is a traditional metroidvania and owes a lot to Hollow Knight (and to Earthbound or Mother, you may say), but its narrative and mechanics seems to give an extra twist to the genre making gameplay different.

The Perfect PencilThe Perfect PencilThe Perfect Pencil

"Sometimes the hardest battle is against yourself."

Because here the aim is to escape from the wicked and hostile world reflected in the personality and the environment surrounding the protagonist, John. He's a boy whose camera-shaped head makes him see the reality through a "barrier", allowing him to scan the environments to understand how to move forward. The camera is not only an aesthetic decision, but also is one of the main tools the player has for interacting with the world. In the same way as the Hollow Knight charms, here you have lens that give you a passive bonus when inserted into the slots. But you have to be careful because they can easily break, and you will need a certain character to fix them if you want to use them again.

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The other main tool is, of course, the pencil-sword, a weapon with different charge levels that you can initially use to knock enemies and use the healing ability when striking the next blow. Its movement and action range reminds me a lot of the Hollow Knight's needle. With its help, you have to face the enemies that populate this world, characters that seem like twisted adult humans and that are a reflection of the fears and obsessions that surround their lives. It seems that you're not going to face a lot of taboos, since the sloth, the agoraphobia, the screen addiction or TOC are recurring themes in all levels of the game, from its visual aspects to the enemies movements and the conversations with other characters.

In this demo we could only explore some of the first areas, although Studio Cima developers assure that the map will be much larger. The design of every area is very detailed, full of secrets and interesting places to explore. In some of them you could find collectable objects, but sometimes a certain aspect of the environment, or a character, will be the one who shed light on the history, or it'll have its own worries and will ask you for help.

The Perfect PencilThe Perfect PencilThe Perfect PencilThe Perfect Pencil

And here's where you find the element that make The Perfect Pencil distinguish itself from the rest of games of the genre, because in each convo with the NPC you will have to decide how to act, and depending on your reaction the gameplay could change between one or another run. The decisions you make with other characters or at certain moments could give you great bonuses or disadvantages that could be permanent if you don't find an object to restore them.

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Decisions are not so difficult (tip: always be kind), but there are original additions that provide an important replayability value. The areas' extension is also something to highlight, and you will take a significant time to explore them even if you have previously cleared the path from enemies. The saving points are also quite far from one another, and you will have to find abilities such as the double jump, the push or even the "ghost step" to get into new areas.

Side missions aren't generally too elaborate. You will have to find an object and give it back to its owner, who will give you in exchange a different object that will help you to unblock new routes or conversations with another NPC. It may seem that the world is a highly populated one, but the truth is that there aren't so many characters nor enemies. That being said, some of them have attack patterns quite difficult to dodge.

For now, there's no release date for The Perfect Pencil, but its design and original mechanics make it worth keeping an eye on it.

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