One of the more resurgent gaming genres in recent times is that of the old-school Metroidvania; combining delightful pixel art with purposeful combat and intriguing exploration is always a good way to get noticed. At Gamescom 2022, we got a healthy fix of all that and more with Halberd Studios and Freedom Games‘ 9 Years of Shadows.
Inviting players to a hand-crafted world of darkness, players take on the role of young warrior Europa, who embarks on a fateful quest to restore colour to a once vibrant world. Our demo did not touch much on the narrative elements, but if the story can match up with what was on display, fans of the genre are in for a good time.
As is expected of a Metroidvania, 9 Years of Shadows has tight controls, where attacks and movement feel great in motion as you move from screen to screen. Enemies both in the air and on the ground offer stiff resistance, but Europa’s pretty handy with her halberd when it comes to defending herself.
However, she is not alone on this adventure, with the cuddly magical bear known as Apino joining her on the ride. Not only does this companion provide a projectile attack, but it can also help unlock doors. Moreover, its energy functions as a shield for Europa, who will be in grave danger if the resource is ever depleted during your time in 9 Years of Shadows.
Thankfully, a quick hug of Apino restores a modicum of energy, enough to get you through locked doors or survive the encounters ahead. Of course, this hug will leave Europa vulnerable, so be wary of where you do it.
That’s not all there is to 9 Years of Shadows, with elements set to play an important role both in puzzle solving and combat. Finding various Relics in the world might bestow the powers of various elements onto our heroine, adding new traversal abilities or offensive and defensive advantages that could surprise enemies. Exploit their weaknesses, defend yourself against elemental attacks, and Europa is one step closer to achieving her goals.
Another important pillar in the game is that of music, not just for the soundtrack, but also in the form of NPCs that can bring great rewards for completing their quests. As the description of 9 Years of Shadows reads, “music is all but the soul of the game.” Having enjoyed the demo with headphones, it is quite hard to argue with that sentiment.
It remains to be seen just what else 9 Years of Shadows has up its sleeves to surprise us, but for what it’s worth, everything we have seen is pointing in the right direction. Even in a genre that has become increasingly saturated, there is still room for a pleasant surprise or two, and hopefully, this is one such title when it launches sometime later in 2022.