Armortale

A game by RPG2 Heaven for PC, originally released in 2019.
Armortale is a platformer set in a colorful fantasy world that has recently become overrun with monsters. One night, many decades ago, a dark tower appeared in the distance, from which monsters spilled forth, the worst of which were pair of shadowy baby foxes that took great pleasure in causing mischief and wreaking torment across the land. Fortunately, a brave hero rose up to banish these foxes and save the land from evil.


But now this evil has returned, this time around, the foxes have kidnapped the princess. A wise witch informs the king that there is another warrior who can save the day. A young man possesses the power to equip the four sets of armor that were passed down from this legendary hero, who was his great great great great great great grandfather. You take on the role of this young man who begins the game wandering around his village in only his underwear, until he receives a message from the witch to come and meet her.


The new hero has a 2x variable jump and the ability to toss an infinite supply of stones in a long arc, which he uses to smash enemies at a medium range. When he heads out into the nearby forest, he encounters many dangers. Among these are killer crows, bridges that crumble under his feet, insta-death spike traps and rolling boulders, and a rotund miniboss.


He also encounters some helpful items, such as collectible witch portraits scattered across the landscape. These portraits work in the same way as the coins in Super Mario Bros., as collecting 100 of them grants an extra life. The hero discovers powerups in the form of larger projectiles and a leaf shield that spins around him. He also encounters hovering insects that can be used as trampolines to reach high platforms, bounce over spike pits, and seek out witch portraits or 1UPs.


Eventually, the hero arrives at the tomb of his legendary ancestor where he finds four sets of armor… but just as he arrives, the shadow foxes steal two pairs of armor and disappear. This leaves the Hunter Armor and Golem Armor for the hero to equip, which he is able to swap between, and he can even revert back to his former underwear-clad self.


It is at this point that the game reveals itself to be heavily inspired by Takeru’s cult classic NES game, Little Samson, which features four playable characters, each with different attacks and movement abilities. Swapping into the Hunter Armor alters the hero’s sprite into a veritable facsimile of Little Samson, with a rounded face, blocky eyes, spikey hair, and even a headband. (Although, just like Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon, the game "cheats" a bit by offering four colors plus a transparency instead of the true 2-bit color of the NES sprites.)

Armortale's hero               Little Samson

Their movesets are also very similar. Samson is able to jump higher and farther than most of his companions, performing a spinning animation as he does so, and he can grab onto ceilings and walk hand-over-hand across them. With the Hunter Armor equipped, Armortale's hero can jump higher and farther, he performs a spinning animation while jumping, and can he grab onto ceilings and walk hand-over-hand across them. The only major difference is that Samson can also climb walls and he tosses projectiles, while Armortale’s hero has a sword-based melee attack and can also deflect enemy projectiles by performing a spin slash.


When wearing the Golem Armor, Armortale’s hero is most like Little Samson’s companion, Gamm the Golem, who is big and heavy, moving slower and having a lower jump. On the other hand, he has stronger attacks, he can attack in four directions with a melee strike, and he is immune to damage from spikes. Similarly, wearing the Golem Armor slows down Armortale’s hero, giving him a lower jump, but with stronger attacks and the ability to attack in three directions with a melee strike (he cannot attack downward), and he is immune to damage from spikes.


The third set of armor that the hero receives is the Bomb Armor, which allows him to attack with bombs, damaging shielded enemies and destroying certain blocks. Little Samson’s companion, K.O. the Mouse, can also attack with bombs, although his other abilities are completely different, as he can also enter narrow passages and climb walls. Also, the mouse drops bombs that are suspended in the air, whereas the hero in Armortale tosses bombs in an arc.


Finally, the Winged Armor allows the Armortale’s hero to jump higher, glide slowly to the ground, and fire projectiles in a straight line. This is similar to Little Samson’s companion, Kikira the Dragon, who has limited flight and fires projectiles in an arc (and she can charge her flames for stronger attacks). While the hero of Armortale cannot fly, there is a sequence where he grabs onto a dragon and flies through a passage, continuously tapping the JUMP button to stay aloft and avoid obstacles.


There are other similarities as well, such as the same HUD layouts for player and boss health, enemies that occasionally drop hearts when killed, spike beds and falling spike traps, and even some similar enemy designs, such as crawling blue insects, pastel flying enemies, and skeleton warriors. For the most part, environment and boss designs in Armortale lean toward cutesy and colorful, where those of Little Samson offer more macabre and grotesque elements, along with significantly more detailed boss creatures.


Harkening back to these NES roots, Armortale offers a limited number of lives, which may be increased by collecting the aforementioned witch portraits an 1UPs, and the player may also purchase additional lives from the witch. If the player runs out of all his lives during a level, he is booted back to the world map to replay the level from scratch, and the player has infinite continues.


The player has an 8-unit life meter, and enemies occasionally drop hearts or coins when killed, but levels are quite challenging, with many being packed with insta-death traps. Checkpoints are few and far between, so getting killed often means replaying large chunks of the level. And sometimes, falling off the bottom of the screen returns the player to an earlier part of the level or forces him to play through a more challenging section in order to get back to where he was, doubly punishing him for his mistakes.


Frequently, falling off a ledge causes the player to lose progress, lose health by falling into caustic fluid, or lose a life outright by falling into spikes or lava. However, the player is given very little leeway to make mistakes, as the knockback effect from enemy attacks is substantial. There are numerous occasions where the player must navigate narrow platforms while dealing with enemies and their projectiles, and getting hit doubly punishes the player by taking away some health and often knocking him into a level hazard.


There is also a strange quirk where falling objects scroll along with the camera somewhat, making it difficult to predict where falling coins or falling objects will land, which can also make it difficult to avoid obstacles. Moving while getting hit increases the knockback distance, sometimes flinging the player halfway across the screen.


The end result is a frustrating platforming experience where a single mistake can put the player into an unwinnable situation, draining away his limited stock of lives, and requiring that he replay sections of the level – or the entire level – over and over until he gets it just right.


An example of this difficulty is a protracted sequence where the player must ride a boat across a caustic fluid while avoiding the attacks of an approaching octopus, as well as birds that fly down from above, occasionally appearing in rows of six at a time. It’s challenging to remain on the boat, given that the knockback effect can send the player overboard, causing continuous damage until he is able to walk back to the boat during his temporary invincibility period, assuming he can make it that far.


The player must also occasionally jump out of the boat, fight through enemies on land, and then jump back in before it gets away from him. There is only one checkpoint during this sequence, appearing at the halfway point, but there is also one full health restore and a 1UP, which offset the fact that the player is otherwise likely to spend a large stock of lives before he reaches the boss encounter.


There also seems to be a glitch during a section with spinning platforms where the player is stuck to the platform and cannot move, thus making it extremely difficult to build up speed and make it to the next platform, which is also spinning. The first jump in the level is the toughest, given how far apart the platforms are, whereas the others are closer together.


Players can even out the odds somewhat by making purchases at the witch’s shop between levels. Items include crow soup (one of the witch’s more endearing qualities is that she loves to eat crows), which increases the player’s health by two units at the start of the next level. Players can also purchase a potion that allows for five units of health restoration on command, a 1UP, more powerful attacks, a leaf shield, or a crow that flies around and attacks enemies.


Each of these effects only last until the player is killed. When the player uses a continue, he also loses a portion of his money, so the more a player is struggling, the less likely it is that he will be able to afford these supplemental items.


Levels each contain three golden stars, with one awarded for defeating the end level boss, and the others acting as optional challenges for skilled players. These stars are found off the beaten path and require a bit of exploration to reach, and many of them also offer a full health restoration to make up for damage taken along the way, although the limited lives and insta-death traps make this a risky proposition.


Progress is made by swapping between armor sets to take advantage of their properties. Some situations require a specific set of armor, such as sequences where the player must use the Golem Armor to walk across spikes or the Bomb Armor to blast away obstructions. Otherwise, the player is free to use whichever armor set suits his playstyle, and there are sometimes multiple ways to tackle an area based on the type of armor he is wearing.


The action pauses when the player swaps between armor sets, and there are several sequences where the player must make multiple swaps in succession. As such, players may make use of the Golem Armor to walk across spikes, then swap to the Hunter Armor to bounce up and stick to the ceiling, and then use the Bomb armor to destroy obstructions blocking his path. That said, there are situations where the player won’t know which armor is required until he reaches that section and fails, thus requiring a bit of memorization to overcome some challenges.


A late-game area features an extended sequence where the player must make use of the Winged Armor to reach distant platforms and ride on air currents, which quickly push him through the level. Players must be careful not to fall off the narrow platforms lest they lose progress, and there are spiked plants that must be destroyed to give players a safe spot to land.


There’s even a boss encounter where the player tosses projectiles at a dragon-like creature (there is a similar fight against a dragon in Little Samson), but eventually the dragon flies away and wind pushes dozens of baby dragons across the screen, forcing the player to fight the wind to remain on a platform while also destroying baby dragons coming from either direction as the wind direction shifts.


In general, boss and miniboss encounters are quite simple. Bosses tend to move slowly and have a small number of attacks available to them, so the best strategy for most of them is to get in close and deal repeated strikes as quickly as possible. Getting killed at a boss returns the player to the start of the boss encounter (unless he loses all his lives), and mashing the ATTACK button while absorbing projectiles allows the player to win most of these encounters by attrition.


Enemy designs are cute and colorful, and their designs make it easy to parse the environment and prioritize attacks. Some enemies fly toward you, some shoot projectiles, and some are temporarily shielded against your attacks (unless you use your bombs).


The game is presented in a chunky retro style with low-rez sprites, cute enemies, and bulbous bosses, all set in a colorful landscape, and accompanied by an upbeat and adventuresome soundtrack. There are 10 themed areas, which may be selected from a world map, and the player is occasionally offered a choice between two or more new areas at a time. The game has an oddball sense of humor, particularly in the player’s interactions with the wise witch and her obsession with cooking crow soup. The player also meets another witch in the game who unlocks speedrun versions of any levels he has already completed.



2D CRED
Armortale was developed by RPG2 Heaven, a studio headed by Milan Svaty and based in the Czech Republic. The game was developed using Clickteam Fusion 2.5, and was inspired by Little Samson.


0 comments: