Sometimes a game comes your way as a complete unknown, which manages to be a very pleasant surprise. For me, this was Anamoly Agent. The first game from the newly formed Turkish developer Phew Phew Games. Let’s explore their first project and the high octane and zany adventure it entails!
One of those days…
And zany is the word alright! You’ll be playing as Agent 70, who’s working for an organization called T-DAY in a cyberpunk world. It’s their task to protect the world against different kinds of anomalies that pop up, which seems to take the form of supervillain like entities with all kinds of crazy powers. Our hero is about two hours off from promotion, so you know what that means, all hell’s going to break lose!
The story is told through interactions with many fun and charming characters and takes a rather comedic approach. Honestly, it has a vibe of Saturday morning cartoons. High action, wacky characters and some ridiculous situations you’ll find yourself in.
This final day in the field turns out to be quite the long one, seeing how we get yourself stuck in a time loop and we’ll need to find a way to break out. In video games something like that is hard to pull off, as doing the same events over and over again, can get annoying fast. This game avoids that by offering a completely linear story. This does however really undersell the whole time loop idea. It’s explained that we’re in one, but it rarely actually feels like it.
Fun combat with excellent game feel
Where the game really shines, is in its game feel. The game’s combat feels a little stiffer than you might expect on first sight, but it feels weighty and very impactful. All actions are more deliberate as say a typical beat ‘m up and it should not be seen as such. Button mashing will get you iced pretty fast! I should know, as I’m very prone to button mashing!
Often times it’s just pure panic. You get a nice variety of moves and combo’s to use at a steady pace throughout the game. You start with a basic attack combo, but soon this will expand with dodges, parries, special items and some anomaly powers of your own. Dispatched enemies might also leave a gun which can do some damage. It’s a lot to keep track of and eventually my brain just loses track of what button does what, even on a controller! Luckily, keybindings are fully customizable here! There’s also a nice variety in challenges, both from combat as well as platforming, with some fun set pieces and engaging boss fights.
Keeping things fresh in retro packaging
Now there are some recycled environments on your journey; in a time loop, I know, who would have guessed, right? But most sections will offer a new type of challenge or fun gimmick to engage with. One moment you’re kicking along a farting enemy hostage and the next you’ll be mingling with the clones in your disguise to infiltrate their prison.
Something else that helps you keep engaged, is the great presentation. The game as a nice pixel art aesthetic. Nothing you haven’t seen before, but very well executed here with fitting, expressive, animations. Especially when stuff is moving in the different layers and with some environmental lighting effects it looks really nice. And when it comes to the music, I can only give the highest praise. It’s a synthwave soundtrack that both helps to pump you up for action and kicking some ass, as well as fit well with the retro aesthetic as a whole.
Suffice it to say, it really helps you attain that illustrious flow state, and once you hit that the game feels amazing. Again, it’s that game feel that is just so good, with small touches like small delays on hits, the right sound effects and just the smooth flow as things just chain into a lovely show of murder.
And if you break that focus… well you’ll be dead fast. Luckily, penalty upon death is minimal, with just a small deduction of your money and getting send back to the last checkpoint. These are plentiful throughout and the game is even lenient in refilling your life at each screen transition. So it never becomes frustrating and it’s always inviting to just have fun and experiment with new techniques.
Now that doesn’t mean it’ll be a cake walk! You’ll fight many of the same mooks along the way, it is a clone army after all. But they do come in different varieties and most of these, as well as other characters, are introduced via stylish character graphics. They also have the ability to merge into better versions of themselves, so you’d want to dispatch them as fast as possible.
It’s when the game mixes up different clones and throws a lot of them at you at once, that things will get real dicey fast! Luckily you can even the odds a little by investing the loose change they leave into some upgrades for your skills. A secondary currency in the form of emotions is obtained through conversations. You get good emotions for being nice, and these are exchanged for health upgrades, and you can be a jerk and get some extra coins by trading in those tears!
A lack of actual loops
So this all sounds awesome, but in the end the game did leave me somewhat disappointed. This comes down to replay value. The Steam page claims you can shape the story and the way the game sets itself up, it feels like this is the case. Unfortunately, this is rather misleading.
There are 2 endings and you can pick one right at the end. Apart from small, immediate dialogue changes, whatever you choose earlier in the game changes nothing. Being good or bad has no consequences, other than the upgrades you’ll get. You’ll find both via chests in the levels too, so you’ll never be starving for either health nor money.
For that second ending, you’ll need to play through the game again, there are no manual saves, and you can do that with the New Game+ mode, retaining all abilities. I was hoping for some more diversions in the story, but it’s exactly the same. Seeing how the time loop is the main theme of the game, I was very disappointed to see that this was not weaved into the gameplay in some way.
Another minor thing, is that I felt some environmental hazards could do with more clear clues. Especially the crushing ceilings I found a bit tricky to keep track of in combination with the dudes that were trying to whack me. The enemy attacks themselves have very clear indicators on the other hand. These can be turned off in the options for an extra challenge and the game has three difficulty modes in total.
For just a tenner the game offers a really cool experience for at least 3 to 4 hours on the first playthrough. The fact that I even went for the New Game+ mode just goes to show how much I wanted more of it. There is a Rogue Agent option listed as coming soon in the main menu. Not sure what that will entail or if it’ll be DLC, but if it brings more of this action, I’m all for it!
So I would recommend giving the game a go if you’d like a good feeling action platformer. If you’re used to the genre, perhaps start the game on hard, seeing how many checkpoints there are. I wish the story was a bit meatier and that the time loop theme was explored in a more meaningful way, but I absolutely loved the style and gameplay, and I’d say those are way more important in this case! With this first project, Phew Phew Games has left a great first impression in my book!
- Amazing game feel
- Challenging, but never frustrating
- Great retro aesthetic
- Unsatisfying story based on promises
- Rather short