Momodora 1-3

Games by Bombservice for PC, originally released in 2010, 2011, and 2014, respectively.
The Momodora series was created and developed by Guilherme 'rdein' Martins and finds its influences in classic video games as well as many of the core designs of Cave Story. Momodora was released as freeware in 2010, offering a fairly linear action platformer experience with some optional side paths. Momodora II was released as freeware in 2011 and falls firmly into the metroidvania category with an open world and backtracking to reach new areas. Momodora III was released as a paid download in 2014 and returns to the series’ roots as a more linear action platformer.

The original Momodora stars a young girl named Isadora Doralina, whose mother was sacrificed in the land of KoHo in a ritual meant to recreate the world. Unwilling to accept her mother’s death, the orphaned Isadora ventures into a forbidden land to seek an item that is rumored to bring the dead back to life. To do so, she must explore dangerous enemy-filled caves and eventually face off against Lamia, the queen of the underworld.

At the start of the game, Isadora has a 2.5x variable jump and a fast short-range slashing weapon in the form of a magic leaf, allowing her to attack to the left or right. Early enemies are easily overcome with this weapon and most die in one or two hits. The weapon can also be used to destroy certain blocks in order to push forward.

Isadora has a 5-heart meter which is drained by each enemy hit, but she is killed instantly when touching spikes. Save points are uncommon, so players may need to repeat a sizeable chunk of gameplay upon death. While death is an infrequent occurrence in the early going, some later areas – particularly the final stretch leading to the boss – can be quite difficult. Isadora’s health is restored at save points, and upon touching green crystals, which are rare.

Unfortunately, getting killed returns the player to the title screen rather than simply allowing him to reload the most recent save, thus requiring him to skip the introductory sequence and navigate through the menu to manually reload. The player’s weapon and item selections (more on these in a bit) are also lost upon death, so the player will need to cycle through them once more upon reloading.

While the overall experience is linear, there are a number of side paths that lead to optional pickups, as well as some weapons. The player is able to collect a number of inventory items, each with a brief description, although none of these are required and none serve any gameplay function. Additionally, at several points during the game, the player must pass through gates or drop down into lower areas which do not allow him to return, thus preventing much backtracking. However, it’s not always clear to the player when his previous path is about to be blocked.

Along the way, the player may collect a variety of weapons in order to supplement his short range melee-based leaf. These include a gun that can fire all the way across the screen and fires as quickly as the player can press the button, as well as a rapid-fire weapon with weaker bullets, a strong slow-firing weapon, and eventually weak but incredibly useful homing missiles. The homing missiles can actually crawl up the sides of walls and around corners to hit distant enemies, allowing the player to hit almost any target indirectly.

The player also gains access to some secondary items, such as a boomerang that can be tossed through walls to hit enemies – including enemies above and below with its wide sweep – and it can be used to activate distant switches. Another item is a shield which sends four objects spinning around Isadora, protecting her from incoming projectiles and negating them. Enemies can also be damaged with the spinning shield, although one section is destroyed with each enemy contact, and the player can only reinitialize the shield after all four sections have been destroyed.

Early enemies simply patrol back and forth or lob slow projectiles to the left or right, but later enemies can fire wall-penetrating projectiles straight at you, and some small enemies can swarm your position. Additionally, a number of environmental challenges get worked into the mix during later levels, including disappearing platforms, exploding time bombs, and a higher concentration of falling spike traps and spike pits, although bombs and falling spike traps can be destroyed.

The game ends in a tough boss encounter, and there is no save point preceding the battle (there is a health-restoring green crystal, fortunately), meaning that death requires the player to retread a difficult level in order to return to the boss once again. Additionally, it may take the player several attempts to even learn how to cause damage to the boss, making for a potentially frustrating final encounter.

In Momodora II, you take on the role of Momo, a shrine maiden from KoHo village. She has been sent on a mission to destroy the Underworld Queen who, as it turns out, is actually Isadora, the protagonist from the original game. Isadora was cursed for attempting to steal the forbidden magic and has herself become the new Underworld Queen, and she has been causing trouble for the villages nearby.

Along the way, Momo encounters a number of other young women on quests of their own, including one who has also come looking for the source of evil, another who is searching for her kingdom’s lost princess, and the princess herself who is hunting through the temple for a powerful magic that will help to restore peace to her country. These NPC’s offer much more context for the player’s actions than was found in the original game.

As before, you are equipped with a 2.5x variable jump and a fast short-range slashing weapon in the form of a maple leaf. However, the overall structure of the game is quite different. While the first game offered a fairly linear action experience with some optional side paths and a focus on projectile weapons, the second is a metroidvania that has the player gaining abilities and backtracking to access new areas, and most combat is melee-based.

There is a map, but the game world is quite small when compared to other entries in the genre, and the game can be completed in a single sitting. In addition, each interconnected region is distinctly themed, making the need to constantly refer to the map unnecessary… which also supports the game’s quick pace.

Momo begins encountering branching paths and earning new abilities within the first few minutes of the game, although there is generally a single clear path forward in the early going. In addition, she moves very quickly, and she is able to slash her way through most enemies in one or two hits.

Momo’s 2-heart life meter is depleted in quarter heart increments, and many enemies drop health restoratives. In addition, there are no longer any instant death traps, and Momo’s health is restored upon activating checkpoints, which appear regularly. This means that she can run through many areas, slashing her way quickly through enemies while taking a small amount of damage herself, which is often quickly restored.

Spread throughout the temple are red treasure chests – some of which are hidden – and each of these chests contains a love letter. The original game also featured a love letter, but it did not serve a gameplay purpose. Here, each love letter adds an additional heart to Momo’s life meter, eventually allowing for a maximum of eight. With the extension of her life meter, Momo becomes nigh unstoppable outside of boss encounters and a few challenging enemies toward the end of the game.

Many of the enemies from the original game make a return, although they are now more detailed. These include one-eyed block tossers (Bakman), hovering eye flies (lawalawa), wall-crawling eye blocks with spinning shields (Oko Jr), and hovering projectile-firing squids (Olho). A few new enemies are worked into the mix as well, but most do not have projectiles, supporting Momo’s melee-centric design.

The game features three boss encounters (two against the same foe), challenging the player to dodge projectiles and watch for openings to attack. Each of these is a pattern-based affair, with enemies cycling through attacks until they are destroyed, and the final battle is very reminiscent of the boss fight in the original game.

Momo earns four ability upgrades during the course of her adventure. The first allows her to fire projectiles, and another allows these projectiles to penetrate walls. However, these projectiles are not meant for regular combat – although they can be quite useful in boss encounters – as ammunition is in very limited supply and may only be found by killing enemies. Instead, these projectiles are used to break open certain types of blocks to allow the player to progress to new areas.

Additional powerups include a double jump and a dash. As expected, the double jump opens up several new exploration possibilities, but the dash maneuver is only necessary in a couple of instances to break a new kind of otherwise impenetrable block, as opposed to being used organically to reach new parts of the environment or as an aid in combat.

There are a number of statues spread throughout the game world, some of which have names that are shown when the player examines them, and these also have hovering white lights above them. While it is never explicitly stated (the only hint is that Momo sits when pressing DOWN), the player is required to pray in front of four of these statues in order to gain access to the final area, which is populated by some tough projectile-firing foes.

Aesthetically, the game is a step up from its predecessor, and the improvements make the comparison to Cave Story much more apparent. In fact, the game even offers a nod to its inspiration with the appearance of a couple of ghostly apparitions that seem to be silhouettes of Quote standing alongside Isadora.

Accompanying the new aesthetic is a new screen transition effect when moving around within a themed area. This transition causes the camera view to shift quickly rather than scrolling smoothly, which can be somewhat jarring, especially since the player needs to get very close to the edge of the screen in order to initiate a transition.

In the third game, the player is able to select either of the protagonists from the first two games, Momo or Dora, both of whom are priestesses from KoHo. While the developer originally intended to have each character represent a different difficulty level (Momo was Hard, and Dora was Easy), this was ultimately scrapped in the final version, which contains three selectable difficulty levels regardless of which character is chosen.

Casual Mode starts the player with 10 hearts and rapid health regeneration, making death all but impossible outside of insta-death traps and bottomless pits. Easy Mode, which is the default setting, starts the player with five hearts and no health regeneration, but the character comes equipped with an item called the Dream Ring which reduces damage taken from enemies and grants a very long temporary invincibility period upon taking damage. In Hard Mode, the player has three hearts and no ring.

Both characters play identically, and the only in-game change is the appearance of a shopkeeper in the first area when playing as Dora. The characters have a 2x variable jump and once again have a fast short-range slashing weapon in the form of a maple leaf. In addition, the player may hold the ATTACK button to charge a projectile attack, sending a single magic seal forward at a moderate range, or sending a narrow blast of three seals if the button is held longer.

Additional items may be equipped to modify this projectile, adding explosive or poison effects, or replacing the projectile altogether with a longer-range weapon. Combat is primarily melee-based, although the player may stand back and pick off enemies at a distance, which greatly reduces the game’s pace.

New to the series is the ability to equip items via an inventory interface – with three available slots – adding secondary effects and passive buffs, such as the aforementioned Dream Ring and projectile enhancements. Some of these items are found during the course of the adventure but most are purchased from shopkeepers using stars that are dropped upon defeating enemies.

One such item is the recurring love letter, which restores some of the player’s health when an enemy is killed, and this is a valuable item since enemies no longer drop health restoratives. Another item causes dropped stars to be pulled toward the player, and yet another is a fairy bottle that restores the player’s health upon death, just like the similar item from The Legend of Zelda.

Most interesting among these is the Summon Stone, which causes a ghost to appear, mirroring the appearance of the player’s chosen character. This ghost will seek out and attack nearby enemies with melee attacks, and it is essentially invincible, although it can be stunned for a while if it takes too much damage. The ghost isn’t terribly great at pathfinding as it will constantly fling itself off cliffs and get left behind during complex jumping sequences – and will warp quickly back to your position – but it can make short work of weaker enemies and can help you to more quickly wear down the life meters of bosses.

Many of the enemies that carried over into Momodora II make a return appearance here - once again with a visual upgrade - and there are several new creatures worked into the mix, such as ghostly Boo-like angler fish that light up and move toward you when your back is turned. However, unlike the previous entries in the series, there is a greater emphasis on boss encounters, and much more variety between them.

Boss battles can be tough, especially since many bosses have attacks that can reduce the player’s health by one full heart, rather than in half or quarter heart increments like regular enemies, so players must pay attention to boss patterns, dodging attacks and moving in to strike at opportune times. One boss whacks at the player with a bunny-eared staff, and another magic-wielding boss can actually turn the player into a harmless bunny for a while (and the shopkeeper is wearing a bunny outfit, so the game has high bunny content).

Each of the six themed areas ends in a boss encounter, although there are some hidden areas with tough boss-class foes as well. Among these is a scythe-wielding bellkeeper, a pair of magic sisters who attack you in turns – and start using more powerful spells if the other is killed – and a demon with a colossal hammer who is actually responsible for the death of one of the NPC’s, unless you manage to get to her in time.

The game has a somewhat darker tone overall, with the final areas consisting of a tomb which acts as a gateway into Hell, where players contend with red-eyed horned demons before facing off against a much more powerful – and tougher – final boss known as Rell, the Goddess of Death. Completing the game reveals the player’s completion time and percentage, and unlocks a New Game+, allowing the player to start the adventure again with all of his equipment and currency, and four inventory slots instead of three.

The overall structure of the game is a return to form for the series, with a linear action experience as opposed to the open world metroidvania of the sequel. That said, it is possible to return to previous areas, although this is only necessary to locate some of the game’s optional secrets. Bells are used as save points and allow warping to previous levels, but this time around the character prays at the bells instead of ringing them.

Bells are also the only places where the player’s health may be restored, since there are no heath drops from enemies, and the player cannot extend his life meter. Additionally, there are numerous insta-death traps along the way, including spikes, bottomless pits, and explosives. This changes the pace significantly compared to the previous game as players need to take much more care lest they find themselves getting sent back to the last checkpoint to replay a section of the level.

The Momodora series was created by Guilherme “rdein” Martins under his Bombservice label. Music for the first game was composed by J.W. “Javet” Hendricks, while music for the second and third installments was composed by Elektrobear. All of the games were created using GameMaker Studio, and the developer also created a sword-based action game entitled Bunny Swordmaster Story, which was created over the course of five days and contains two stages. The developer continued the Momodora series with Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight, a prequel to the original game, which returns to the open world design and contains light metroidvania elements.