Digital Tales gives life to an original metroidvania, but which often stumbles on its own ideas.
There is an entire literary vein dedicated to nonsense poetry. From Bucchiello in the 1400s to the compositions of Tommaso Landolfi in the last century, these works are characterized by their harmonious and catchy style, with syllables and morphemes apparently connected to form a complete text, but which in a more complete observation are combined in sonnets and phrases without any logic. It is the triumph of form over substance, almost as if the author had wanted to make fun of his reader, captivating him with a play on words as beautiful as it is meaningless.
In its own way, Bookbound Brigade also belongs to this genre and the initial literary metaphor is far from out of place. The protagonists of this metroidvania signed by Digital Tales are in fact eight known faces borrowed from the pages of some of the most famous books. So we find Count Dracula in the company of King Arthur or Nikola Tesla to act as a shoulder to Robin Hood, but what holds these unlikely extras together? In the fictional world of Bookbound Brigade these names are united by an invisible thread that, starting from the Tome of the Tomes, unravels in the individual stories. Here, however, that the lowest common denominator disappears into thin air, overturning all the certainties that have always characterized the historical and fantasy figures that populate this world. Hence the search for lost pages.
The strange premises have their natural continuation in the unfolding of the adventure, a bizarre soup among the various characters who find themselves in spite of situations in the limit of the absurd, between gags, jokes bordering on terrible colds and scenarios that seem out of the pen of an author with too much inspiration. Without particular pretensions, in its form, Bookbound Brigad works very well and gives a few smiles , as when King Arthur jokes about Joan of Arc’s “focus”. The ironic intent is also achieved thanks to an aesthetic style that is more apt and full of personality , capable of increasing that sensation of pleasant estrangement that you try to travel in this book that came to life.
Unfortunately, as already said, for the substance the judgment changes diametrically. Even the same artistic direction, however well done, negatively affects the clarity of the scenarios, which are difficult to read and contribute to raising a bar of difficulty already calibrated upwards. Yes, Bookbound Brigade it is a really difficult game and often borders on peaks of frustration due to both very complex platform sections and to innovative but poorly applied game mechanics. Pad in hand does not guide a single character, but the whole cheerful brigade that, with the passing of the levels, acquires different powers – each hero has two, plus the usual perk for life points or attacks – and above all he can exploit new formations to overcome the most difficult passages.
With a combination of keys, the group of heroes goes from a row to a column arrangement, and then runs at breakneck speed along a descent when it turns into a human wheel. In itself the idea would be excellent, if only there were an infinite number of obstacles scattered everywhere, with traps to be faced with millimeter precision that often collide with these unstable formations. In addition, mistakes are paid dearly, given that at the slightest false step you are brought back to the beginning of the screen and you are forced to overcome the same ravines, tongues of fire, spikes and a whole long series of devilries.
As with any self-respecting metroidvenia , in Bookbound Brigade the game world is an intricate maze to be explored little by little , with the previously inaccessible areas that unlock thanks to new skills. Despite a certain linearity, navigation is not adequately supported by a confused mini map and which, even when consulted at every step, leads to getting lost frequently and thus increasing backtracking.
Bookbound Brigade is a rather long-lived title , but the duration is inflated by quite forgettable secondary quests and above all by sections with a strong aftertaste of filler, with connections between areas that could very well be limited.
Exploration, powers and obviously fights: Bookbound Brigade shows some shortcomings also in this situation . Attacks and combos in fact lead to a button mashing with very little strategy and, even when you line up in particular formations to take advantage of certain types of attacks, it soon turns out that this new tactic can be safely shelved behind the continuous pressure of the same button. A separate discussion must be made, however, for the boss fights, moments in which we let ourselves go with frenzy to avoid the umpteenth blow brought for example by Medusa or by some other bad guy coming out of a dusty tome.
In short, Bookbound Brigade has many good ideas, sometimes confused and which do not complement each other, but it also manages to capture for its easygoing verve, for the personality that exudes from each character encountered and for certainly original game mechanics.