A game by Storybird Games for PC, Mac, Wii U, and PS4, originally released in 2015.
Chronicles of Teddy: Harmony of Exidus, also known as Finding Teddy 2, is an action-adventure title, whereas the original Finding Teddy was a point and click adventure. In the original game, a little girl has her favorite teddy bear stolen by a giant spider while she sleeps, and the hapless plushie is whisked away to another dimension. The girl springs into action and gives chase, passing through her wardrobe to find herself in a (non-Narnian) land of magic and strange creatures. She must speak to NPC’s, remember their words encoded as musical notes, and help them with quests in order to eventually retrieve her furry companion. Along the way, she befriends a black cat that looks very much like a traditional black kit-cat clock, as well as a fly wearing a top hat.
The sequel starts out similarly to the first game, with a little girl watching television in the comfort of her home, although her teddy is tucked away safely in the basement… except that when she gets close to him, he floats out of an open door and is once again taken away to another world. This time, however, the girl quests along with her teddy in the new world as he floats along in the air behind her, at least until he is stolen once more. While the new game eschews the point-and-click interface in favor of direct character control, many of its former point-and-click encumbrances remain, leading to a slow and meandering adventure where the player is regularly lost.
Despite spending the first game doing little more than puzzle solving, the little girl is no slouch in the combat department, and she comes equipped with a sword and a shield. She can perform a short 1x variable jump while walking or standing still. Her default movement speed is quite slow, but she can also sprint, which not only increases her speed but also allows for a higher jump and a special sword slash that has a wider range and deals out twice the damage of a regular hit.
The girl can swing her sword for a basic attack, duck to perform a lower version of the same attack, or jump and swing the sword for a midair slash that has a wider area of effect. The girl can also attack upward by pressing UP while jumping, which aims her sword straight up. Unfortunately, this move also makes it difficult to jump and grab onto vines in midair, since the girl does a little midair hop when performing this attack near a vine, potentially causing the player to overshoot his target if he continues to move diagonally (which is the traditional control for midair grabs of climbable objects). The girl can also jump and aim her sword downward, striking enemies below, and bouncing on enemies’ heads DuckTales-style.
The range of her sword is quite short, requiring that she get up close to enemies. Unfortunately, her invincibility period is also short – lasting only the length of her knockback, during which time she is not controllable – which can lead to absorbing multiple hits in a short span. This is particularly problematic against bosses and enemies that can fire multiple projectiles in rapid succession.
Most enemies pay no attention to your movements and are assigned to basic patrol routes, and most of these enemies may be dispatched in a single hit. However, there are swordsmen which come in an assortment of styles, each requiring a different strategy to defeat. At first blush, these encounters seem to channel the tactical swordplay seen in Zelda II. In actuality, each of these enemies may be defeated by repeatedly using a specific attack…
Some of these enemies will never block low, so you may walk up to this type, duck, and attack to deal damage before they can strike you (all of these enemies strike slowly). A couple of these enemies will attempt to block low if you duck and jab, so you just need to duck, jab, and then immediately stand back up and smack them in the face with your sword. Once you have defeated one of these enemies, the same strategy will work each time you face another. Each of these enemies may be defeated with a few sword slashes.
Killing enemies and breaking pots typically reveals gems, with the occasional health restorative dropped as well. Weaker enemies may drop only a single gem, with stronger ones dropping more, but the big money is found by opening red treasure chests, many of which are tucked away in hard-to-reach areas. In addition, many of these chests are not accessible with your default abilities, meaning that you’ll need to try for them again when you revisit the area. Treasure chests may also be placed behind false walls, rewarding players who thoroughly explore the environment.
Money may be used in a shop in the hub world to purchase upgrades that increase the girl’s defense, attack power, and health. Typical of the action-adventure genre, the girl also receives an extra unit of health upon defeating bosses, and additional units may be earned by completing side quests or purchased outright from the shop. However, the shop offers no description of the wares available for sale, leaving the player to sort it out on his own, either by interpreting the pictogram in the background, or simply by making a purchase and trying it out (and reloading a save if it’s not what he wanted).
Most of the items available are prohibitively expensive in the early going, and money is doled out slowly, so players will need to be mindful of how they spend their hard-earned gems. In addition, players lose a large amount of money each time they are killed… However, there is no reason why a player would ever want to continue his game after being killed, as reloading a previous save is functionally identical, without the loss of said gems.
When killed, the player loses money and is returned to the start of the level or the mid-level checkpoint. (There are no other checkpoints in an area, so getting killed or reloading a save usually requires that the player retread a lot of ground.) However, if the player reloads a save, he is returned to the same place with all of his collected money and items intact, and all previously unlocked doors still open. The player is free to save his game anywhere, and the only downside to reloading a save is that the player’s health is recorded as well. However, players may simply break more pots or kill some easy enemies to restore the health meter – and then save again – which is much preferred to losing a huge cache of gems that is much more difficult to recover.
The adventure gets underway simply enough, with the player starting in an area that allows him to make use of his various moves as he traverses a graveyard along a linear path. Following this, the player enters a grand library filled with doorways that lead to inaccessible paths, apparent dead ends, and locked doors, and he is free to explore this area as he likes.
What’s not clear at this point is that the library actually acts as the game’s hub, and the player is meant to be transported to a number of other worlds in order to complete quests and gain new abilities. These abilities, per metroidvania standards, allow the player to backtrack through previously explored areas to access new side paths and treasure. The player must also return to the hub area to use these new abilities and find books that open up more worlds.
All of this makes sense after the player has spent a few hours playing the game, but almost nothing in the game is directly explained to the player. In fact, outside of a few townsfolk that speak a language that borders on gibberish, there is no written text in the game. Where many modern action adventure games go overboard with overt tutorialization and an abundance of story elements, this game goes in the opposite direction… to the point where it’s difficult for the player to understand what he is supposed to be doing much of the time.
The first few hours of experience are as follows: The player starts out in a house and wanders through an enemy-free environment until he teleports to a new world. From there, the player follows a linear path and encounters a few nonthreatening enemies until he reaches the library. At this point, the path is no longer linear, as the player is free to explore the entire library within the confines of his abilities, eventually encountering a yellow treasure chest containing a book. Attempting to leave the library via the far side of the building results in the player encountering a body of water that is impassible (with his current abilities).
At this point, the player has explored all of the world that is available to him with no new obvious route. Returning to one of the previously-explored rooms in the library causes the book to float out of his hands and rise to the top of the room. Climbing to the top of the room allows the player to open the book, which then teleports him to a new location. So, at this point, the player has left his home world to be teleported into another, which he explored to find a book that teleported him to yet another world. So, straight away, the game’s geography is a bit disconnected and difficult to digest, and that’s before things start to get really complex…
In this new world – and in all the worlds that follow – everything is completely open. The player may travel in any direction and open any unlocked door, and all of these levels fold back in on themselves, allowing the player to traverse their length on foot as well as open doorways that sometimes lead to other parts of the same map, and sometimes lead to confined areas. With this sort of level design, it can be difficult for the player to gain a solid understanding of the world’s geography… which might not be terribly problematic if the game offered the player some sort of a map.
That’s right, this game has no map. The player is meant to explore multiple sprawling environments with doorways that unexpectedly warp the player to other points on the map, and where the player will regularly encounter areas that must be revisited… with no way of displaying or recording this information. While it is possible to commit the areas to memory – a requirement, in fact – making your way around any given environment is a slow and meandering process, often requiring that you simply stumble around until you happen across the thing that you are looking for.
This design is endemic to the entire experience, as key gameplay elements often go unexplained, leaving players to figure things out on their own, or perhaps idly wonder if they haven’t missed something terribly important. And, while this sort of design was quite common in the 8- and 16-bit games that this title emulates, older era titles at least relegated this information to the instruction manual. Here, the (digital) manual only outlines a list of moves, including ones that the player doesn’t learn until the back half of the game. Additionally, at no point is the player given an explanation of the game’s most important device: the Musicom.
The Musicom is a returning mechanic from the original Finding Teddy game, where NPC’s would speak to the player in musical notes which would then need to be replayed elsewhere in order to solve puzzles. However, the system has also grown somewhat more complex, as the player must now collect rune stones that correspond to these spoken/sung words… and the player must remember certain words for use elsewhere.
This sort of instrument has been used in a number of different games, notably appearing in the form of an ocarina and the Wind Waker from The Legend of Zelda series. However, the execution of this mechanic is handled very differently. First off, the Zelda series ensures that the player is aware of not only how the instrument functions, but which songs will result in which actions. These important songs are recorded so that the player will understand when the instrument can be used to do things like open certain passages or move through time.
In this game, none of the required songs are recorded, or even highlighted, outside of the aforementioned bordering-on-gibberish words that come from NPC’s. In addition, the Musicom itself is more complex, with a total of 12 runes that must be collected throughout the adventure, and a library of 80 words that can be played by touching the right combination of runes on the device. Early on, some of the music-based puzzles are very straightforward, with one NPC actually saying “Tell open to door”, which an adept player may interpret as walking over to the door, pulling out the Musicom, and playing the notes that correspond to the word “open”.
Later, with more runes and more words, interpreting what needs to be done with the Musicom becomes more difficult. It’s not always clear which NPC’s are telling you things that you might need to use elsewhere in the game, because notable words are not highlighted or recorded in any way. Words are added to your lexicon as you hear them from NPC’s, but when ten different NPC’s say things like “You find jewel” and “Me name Zan”, important words do not stand out.
The player is occasionally given a direct hint with symbols next to locked doors, or a sequence of runes hidden elsewhere in the environment that correspond to a symbol near a locked door. But sometimes an apparent hint leads the player astray… For instance, one large guardian creature blocks your path and asks you what you want. When you say “pass” and he asks for the magic word, you say “please”, and all is well. However, when another guardian asks you for a fish and you say “fish”, nothing happens. This is because he wants an actual fish, which you need to obtain by completing a side quest… a side quest that you probably weren’t aware of because it’s hard to tell what the NPC’s are saying.
Since useful songs are not saved, there are numerous instances where the player must memorize (or at least write down) sequences of runes in order to open doors, remove obstacles from the path, or communicate with NPC’s that need something specific from him. And for some reason, several of the runes look very similar to one another, which does not help to make this process any less cumbersome.
Per metroidvania standards, players earn new abilities that allow them to reach previously inaccessible areas, although there are only a handful of new abilities to be gained, and these are doled out rather slowly. The player eventually gains the ability to move across the water, double jump, wall slide and wall jump, and smash down through certain blocks, and there are a number of color-coded blocks in the environment that may be activated to allow the player to reach new areas, as was done in Super Mario World and You Have to Win the Game.
The game features boss encounters at the end of each of its four worlds, each of which requires a different strategy to defeat. The first boss may be defeated with swift movement and sword skills alone, while others mix in swordplay with use of the Musicom in order to affect enemies in different ways. Bosses are large and detailed, as are the worlds around them, which are packed with colorful pixel art and a great deal of visual variety.
Chronicles of Teddy: Harmony of Exidus / Finding Teddy 2 was developed by Storybird Games, a French studio founded by Sylvain Nowé and Julien Rocca. The studio primarily develops for mobile and tablet devices, and has been active since 2008, releasing mostly brick-breaking games prior to the original Finding Teddy. The game was published by LookAtMyGame and Plug In Digital.