Dark Light

9 Years of Shadows is a colorful adventure set in a dark world.  The game follows Europa, a brave warrior who enters a mechanical giant called Talos to stop the corruption that has robbed the land of all color. Along with her ghostly companion Apino, a floating bear who can restore color and heal her wounds, she must explore the depths of Talos and find the source of the darkness. The game combines action, exploration, puzzle-solving, and platforming in a retro pixel art style that pays homage to classic games of the genre.

9 Years of Shadows is a side-scrolling Metroidvania by Halberd Studios that was released on March 27th, 2023.

Nothing To Lose

9 Years of Shadows features Europa, a brave warrior determined to enter the mechanical giant Talos and stop the corruption within before it swallows the world in darkness. With her, you will be taking on tainted creatures and will meet charismatic musicians, uncovering the truth behind the curse that robbed the land of all color.

Many have tried to venture inside the twisted depths of Talos, a dormant fortress where several civilizations have settled over centuries. And, after losing everything she held dear, Europa has nothing holding her back from attempting what others could not achieve. As a noble fighter who refuses to be bound by the curse, she must enter the castle, find the source of corruption, and return the color once and for all.

Overall, The plot is decent, with a few twists and turns that may keep you engaged throughout the game. Still, if the narrative does not please you, the gameplay certainly will as its plot is a just mere distraction for its challenging campaign. The game requires players to master the game’s mechanics and develop strategic approaches to battle waves of enemies and bosses. The game’s difficulty curve is well-balanced, with progressively harder enemies and levels that keep the game challenging throughout.

Prepare For Combat

As a hack-and-slash 2D game, “9 Years of Shadows” features fast-paced combat, where players need to battle through waves of enemies and bosses to progress through the game’s levels. The game offers a variety of moves and abilities that players can use to take down enemies, including combos, dodges, and special attacks. The controls are tight and responsive, making it easy to jump, dodge, and attack. Overall, its gameplay mechanics are highly responsive and satisfying, but there are slight hitches of irregular hitboxes that may ruin your run for good.

Aside from the usual Metroidvania mechanics, the game also features the “Light and Dark” system. This unique system allows players to switch between light and dark modes, which not only changes the game’s visuals but also affects the gameplay. For example, some enemies can only be damaged in light or dark mode, and players will need to switch modes strategically to progress through the game.

All of this is packaged in a well-designed progression system that rewards players for their efforts. Players earn experience points (XP) and gold by defeating enemies and completing levels, which they can use to upgrade their character’s abilities and weapons. The game features a skill tree system, where players can choose which abilities they want to unlock and upgrade as they progress through the game. 

Vibrant looks of Frustration

 While the game gets most of the things right as a Metroidvania, there are things that can make the experience more frustrating. First up, is the elemental system, which feels a bit lacking in most fights. Most of the boss fights never really leverage the elemental damage aspects in combat and barely do any damage to the boss’ health during the fight.

On top of that, there are these elevators with unskippable pointless dialogues. Adding to that is the Unskippable boss cutscenes. Considering the countless tries that you need to take a boss, this unskippable ordeal is very frustrating which adds to the tediousness of the game. Unlike other titles in the genre, the game doesn’t let you save your progress after boss fights which is just plain absurd. Even the game’s vibrant looks and eerie soundtracks can’t do much in such moments.

Even so, it cannot be denied that the game’s visuals are a standout feature, with beautifully crafted 2D graphics that immerse the player in a world filled with shadows and danger. The art style is reminiscent of classic arcade games but with a modern twist, and it is a real treat for fans of the genre.

Real Talk

If you enjoy fast-paced action games and 2D hack-and-slash titles, “9 Years of Shadows” is definitely worth buying. The game’s engaging storyline, unique “Light and Dark” system, and tight controls make it a challenging yet rewarding experience. The game offers a decent amount of replayability as well, as players can unlock new abilities and weapons by replaying levels and defeating enemies. However, the game is also bogged down by unskippable cutscenes and an unfriendly save system that may make this experience quite frustrating, especially for the ones who are new to Metroidvania titles.


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