A game by Colorgrave for PC, originally released in 2020.
Prodigal is a top-down action adventure starring a young man named Oran. In his younger days, Oran was a feckless ne’er-do-well who stole money from his parents and eventually left his childhood home, a frontier town in the north known as Vann’s Point. Ten years later, he receives a note from his grandfather telling him that his parents have passed away, and so he returns home.
Oran isn’t exactly welcomed back by the townsfolk, who recall his misspent youth and think of him as a southerner and a thief… but a few people remember him fondly and missed him while he was away. As for the others, he’ll need to earn their trust. This is done by helping people with their troubles, overcoming challenging dungeons, and even offering gifts as he potentially courts one of the women from his old hometown.
The game is heavy on narrative, with numerous characters to interact with, lengthy dialogue sequences, and frequent cutscenes, with an optional dating simulation running alongside the main storyline. This puts the pace in line with a role playing game rather than a typical action adventure, and your enjoyment is likely to depend on how much you choose to engage with the many villagers, since you spend as much time interacting with NPC’s as you do solving puzzles and fighting monsters in the dungeons.
The game features a surprisingly robust day-night cycle, with the passage of time indicated by a gauge in the corner of the screen, which correlates to the gradual dimming and brightening of outdoor environments. There are even different weather systems that pass over the town, with some sunny days, some rainy, and some snowy… and if you go out after a snowstorm, you’ll see the ground and trees covered in snow.
Characters appear in different locations and have different things to say if you encounter them in the morning, afternoon, evening, or night. You’re likely to find townsfolk out and about during the daytime and in their bedrooms at night, and many will comment on the time of day, or suggest that you get some sleep if you’re out late. In one example, you can find the owner of a mansion in his bedroom in the early morning while his servants are in the kitchen making breakfast, but later the owner is downstairs while the maid is cleaning his bedroom.
This creates an atmosphere of a living breathing place, which is further aided by the fact that townsfolk alter their interactions with you over the course of the game (especially if you’re bringing gifts and doing favors to court the young ladies), rather than repeating the same lines of dialogue over and over as is typical in many RPG’s. This is important as the game world is quite small, consisting of only the village and a small surrounding area. When you pull up a map at the beginning of the game, you may wonder why it doesn’t show you your position or let you cycle through the other locations… but that’s because it represents the entirety of the explorable area.
Most of the game is spent uncovering the entrances to self-contained dungeons (some of which are optional), but there’s also a lengthy series of fetch quests at the start. The protagonist points out the absurdity of the string of favors, but it’s hard to satirize things in video games when you make the player actually do the thing you’re poking fun at. In this case, one character asks for a page from a book, but the librarian won’t help until you track down an overdue book, but the person who has the book won’t return it until you pick up her father’s boots, et cetera, et cetera
You get eight favors deep before you finally encounter someone who fulfills your request, and then you have to retrace your steps to return everything. This is one way to get the player to learn the layout of the town and its various citizens, but it’s not terribly compelling. Fortunately, the overall narrative is much more engaging. Also, the reward for completing this string of favors is a pair of boots that allows you to sprint, so your patience is rewarded with an item that allows you to be less patient.
Your primary weapon is a pickaxe, which you use to fight enemies and crush small rocks, often leading to the discovery of hidden coins. You can attack in four directions or hold the button to charge a more powerful spinning attack. Within the first few dungeons you pick up a dread hand, a lariat, and a rust knuckle. The dread hand is a shadowy hand that rises up from the ground and pulls you under, only to return you to the place where you entered the room. This tool is most often used to solve puzzles where you need to activate switches or move objects and then reset your position.
The lariat allows you to lasso distant points and pull yourself toward them, even if those points are above or below you. In addition, the lariat can be used to pull barrels to you, which is important as you are often tasked with rolling barrels into the water to create walking paths. The rust knuckle is a powerful fist that lets you break larger objects, move heavy objects out of your way, knock enemies back a great distance, and damage some foes that are immune to your pickaxe strikes.
Lots of puzzle solutions revolve around balancing the weaker pickaxe with the stronger rust knuckle, as certain blocks are pushed away by one tile when hit with the pickaxe but move across several tiles when hit with the fist, and some objects are only movable with a punch. The knuckle can destroy large boulders and small ones, while the pickaxe only destroys small ones, but it has a shorter recovery period. Metal barrels can be rolled with the pickaxe or a punch, and you can also lasso yourself over to them.
There are some explosive orbs that are triggered by multiple pickaxe strikes, but only a couple of punches, so you need to figure out how many times you can hit them to push them into the objects you want to destroy without setting them off early. The rust knuckle can also destroy certain objects, which may be helpful or harmful depending on its application. For instance, a pickaxe strike will cause a wooden barrel to roll, but a punch will destroy it.
Dungeon puzzle designs are clever and slowly build on the lessons you learned in earlier rooms, with nearly every variation on a given theme explored during your adventure, and plenty of advanced techniques required to overcome optional side paths. You must flip switches, create bridges, destroy walls, bounce projectiles off angled mirrors, and knock lots of objects around to clear the path forward. There are also statues to activate that let you warp between the entrance and the tougher areas of the dungeon, and there’s always one just outside the boss room.
Dungeon designs are layered, so it’s possible to return to a previous dungeon with a new ability to explore another path, but unfortunately there is no map to help you locate these areas. Exploration is generally rewarded with money or a piece of heart ore, and collecting four pieces of this ore extends your life meter by one unit, just as in The Legend of Zelda. In fact, dungeon sequences are very reminiscent of The Legend of Zelda series as a whole – ableit more puzzle-focused – with many similar tropes on offer. That said, this familiarity is sometimes used to subvert player expectations, as is the case with boss doors…
When you walk up to the first boss door, it starts talking to you, and it tells you how upset it is that someone stole its key. You may laugh this off as a strange way of communicating to the player that a special key is needed to open it, but in actuality, every door is like this. In fact, the doors are all quite friendly, and they’ll happily open up if you help them out, without the need for a key… and all of them have door-related names.
Bosses start out pretty easy and grow more complicated with each encounter. Early bosses have simple patterns that you must watch and avoid, with plenty of opportunities to deliver multiple strikes when they stop moving. Later you’ll need to actively dodge projectiles and then move in for damage, or punch a fast-moving boss into dangerous objects in the room. If you need a little extra help, you can purchase items in town that increase your strength, give you more health, or allow you to move more quickly.
Getting killed in a dungeon is a bit of a bummer because you aren’t simply warped back to the entrance. Instead, you are sent all the way back to the church in town where one of the characters tends to your wounds, but she has a lengthy dialogue sequence that you must sit through every time you die. It’s a somewhat steep price, especially considering there aren’t any health drops in the dungeons, so if you take a bunch of damage partway in, you have to weigh whether you want run all the way back to town for healing, or just tough it out and hope you make enough progress to warrant the risk. Fortunately, unlocked doors and shortcuts remain open upon your return.
Part of the challenge is locating the entrance to each dungeon (there are more than a dozen in all), but the librarian will always give you a tip if you get stuck. The game world is small and densely packed, and your movement is very restricted early on, but it slowly opens as you gain new items and abilities. You’ll often encounter locations that are inaccessible on your first visit, and Oran will comment on these areas if you examine them. For instance, the gate to the nearby castle has been locked by the sheriff, a mountainous area has handholds that you can’t climb, and a creepy old shack on the edge of town is sealed… but Oran thinks he might be able to find another way inside.
Visually the game falls very much into the NES/GBC aesthetic with chunky 4-color sprites, a laid back chippy soundtrack, and simple but striking character designs. There are 10 potential romance options, secret dungeons to uncover, a “totally fair” casino with minigames, and lots of post-game content for those wishing to further explore this charming little world. There are even some actions you can take – like destroying altars – to make the game more difficult if you want a more challenging second run.

Prodigal was developed by Colorgrave, a studio based in Texas with developers across the US. The studio is headed by Joseph Hughes, with music by John Sinclair, art by Brendan Steppig, and character design by Deborah Yang. The studio went on to develop Curse Crackers: For Whom the Belle Toils.