Welcome back to Click To Play , the new-old regular series that takes a look at a new browser-based curio each week to further the fine art of procrastination. We accept absolutely no responsibility if you get caught at work/school/uni gloriously wasting time on the games listed here when you should be working.
This week: Phoenotopia
This one's a little bit special, and it's about as good as free adventure/RPGs get.
Phoenotopia sees players step into the role of Gale, a pink-haired farm girl eking out an existence on a post-Earth colony. Life's is pretty good until a bunch of alien spaceships come and spirit away all of your neighbours, leaving just you and a rabble of pesky kids behind to fend for yourselves. As Gale, it's up to you to leave behind your home village, and to venture out into the world and discover what the hell happened to your friends and family.
As a game, Phoenotopia plays out like the lovechild of Zelda and Metroidvania's heyday, except it's free. But the price tag, or lack thereof, is in no way an indication of the quality of the game. Slap it on Steam for a handful of pounds and I'm pretty sure it could have done some serious business there. It's aesthetics are glorious. The visuals will appeal massively to SNES lovers, and the soundtrack is fantastic -- fantastical whimsy blended expertly with a dash of the rousingly epic.
There are all sorts of weird and wonderful creatures and bosses for Gale to smack up while on her adventures. Her attacks aren't super-responsive, the animations taking a little bit of time to wind up and down (there's the Castlevania), but things don't feel sluggish at all. The controls are tight and very nicely balanced. Melee weapons can be triggered with [X], there's a range of ranged armaments from slingshots to bombs to be had by pressing [C], jumping is triggered with [Z], and you use the arrow keys to move, swapping items and weapons around by opening up your menu with [S]. The game eases you in nicely, but there are some fiendish boss battles to be had down the line, and multiple enemies can prove lethal if you're not careful.
There are a few difficulty spikes that feel at best frustrating and at worst howlingly unfair, and one or two occasions where I found myself wishing for a slightly expanded moveset, but by and large Phoenotopia is a sumptuous, browser-based triumph. It's fantastic stuff, one of the most compelling bowser-based titles I've ever played, and the writing behind it manages to tug the heartstrings in just the right way, aided further b y some colourful NPCs you encounter along the way.
What's even better is that Phoenotopia 2 is already underway, and you can keep up with the ongoing thoughts of the developer right here.