Thinking back on 2018, the Japanese indie game scene has been somewhat mute for me. In fact, the only noteworthy title I can remember would be the sandbox action-rpg Hakoniwa Explorer Plus by Suxa (suxamethonium). Looking forward to getting my hands on something just as charming and crazy, pixel puzzle platformer Agartha (and Agartha-S for the Nintendo Switch) seems to be as close to the description as I could get. Hopefully, I won’t be wrong in that assessment…?
Genre: Puzzle / Platformer
Developer: Shindenken (Localization by Fruitbat Factory)
System: PC, (Nintendo Switch version under Agartha-S)
Steam Storefront Page: https://store.steampowered.com/app/1002420/Agartha/
Fruitbat Factory Store Page: https://sites.fastspring.com/fruitbatfactory/product/buy
With no hard and fast narrative to hold onto, the player steps into the shoes of various adventurers trying explore Agartha, a subterranean paradise hidden by the elements of nature and various native creatures. In typical platformer fashion, in any given stage, your objective is to make it to the next exit/entrance using any means necessary and four tools with limited resource use. While those tools are used for self-defense, the primary task to is manipulate the environment. Whether it be freezing water to reach a ledge or burning oil to uncover an impassable area, most of the tools you can do the job. Of course, as stated, since the tools have limited use, making sure to prioritize use is important since the amount won’t refill until you get to the next area. Thankfully, the game does a have suicide button, so you can instantly waste yourself and try from the beginning in case you run into a situation where you can’t proceed because of the lack of resources or otherwise.
Even though you are only given access to one adventurer during the game, as you collect meat and gems, resources that can be gotten from killing monsters and found throughout the level respectively, it does open up awhole another dimension of progression. For example: each level has a secret exit and where you might have trouble with the default adventurer, possibly, the esper with their limited teleport ability or robot’s terrain manipulation might be the edge you need. All that being said, luck and timing (with a bit of skill) does factor in with many levels dependent on the player thinking quick and moving while taking advantage of the tools and terrain physics. When you get down to it, there is an enjoyable time to be had. Did I mention the boss battles? Those are definitely exciting in their own right.
Being also available on the Nintendo Switch (by another team), Agartha-S is virtually the same experience just for console play. Fitting in very well with the Nintendo Switch’s hybrid style of play and not being all that demanding, the game controls and runs just as smoothly as the PC version. As the game is limited in the use of text (aside from the tutorial), it is somewhat hard to compare the two as far as language goes. However, with the Nintendo Switch eshop page for the game being illegible in terms of syntax, if this was by the localization team, English might not be their first language.
Having nearly cleared half of the levels on the Nintendo Switch version and using that knowledge to slowly plod through the PC release, Agartha and Agartha-S are fantastic titles that provide some unexpected excitement to the puzzle platform genre. With over 60 levels, 8 different classes, and many colorful biomes to explore and conquer, the adventure to Agartha is perilous one, yet one that is well worth the time and energy. Whether you decide to go for the Nintendo Switch version or PC, both are a safe bet for a one of a kind journey to worlds unparalleled.
Pros: Environmental physics/manipulation is enjoyable, inclusion of 8 different characters offers a change in play styles, boss battles are engaging and fun, more than one way to clear levels lead to alternate paths/progression.
Cons: Environmental physics can be wonky, basic platforming can feel stiff, unlocking the characters can be somewhat tedious due to resource cost.
Disclaimer: In no way, shape, or form was I compensated for the composition or publication of this review. This is by my own volition. A review copy of the game was kindly provided by Fruitbat Factory.