Afterimage is a Metroidvania that takes you on an epic adventure through Engardin. Engardin is an utterly stunning hand-drawn 2D world with immensely-detailed lore at its heart. You take control of Renee, a young woman who has lost her memories due to amnesia. With her companion Ifree, Renee embarks on a journey of self-discovery, complete with mystery, magic and mayhem. Welcome to our Afterimage review!
The game begins with Renee being thrust into Engardin with no explanation. As you progress, you meet numerous characters who enlighten you in small doses and issue you quests to complete along the way. You begin to build up a picture of what happened and what Renee’s role in it all is as you work your way through the numerous beautiful worlds.
The enemies that Renee encounters are varied and wonderful. Each one is distinctive in both appearance and ability. They range from grape-based dinosaur-type enemies (yes, really) to blade-wolves (again, really) and everything in between! Each enemy encounter requires you to think specifically about how best to fight them. You can’t use the same approach for each encounter, and if there are groups of varied enemies, then you are often best just running out of harm’s way! However, battling is fun and revolves around pattern-learning. Once you understand how each enemy fights, you are then equipped with the knowledge of how to defeat them. At this point, battles become tactical encounters more than anything, forcing you to determine when is best to strike and when is best to evade.
Fight or flight
Wanderers are a particularly formidable foe. They exist whenever the essence of somebody who has passed away has been interrupted on its journey to the other side. As such, this causes Wanderers to appear as ghost-knights, who emerge from the ground as you approach them and are armed with either a sword or a bow and arrow. They are slow-moving but also tough and can cause a lot of damage. Until you acquire more powerful weapons and/or spells, it is advisable to dodge your way around them wherever possible in the early game. Something I especially like is that there is an in-game library that specifically explains what Wanderers are. It explains their history and other lore.
I always felt in total control of Renee based on how precise her movements are. How she moves and uses her weapons is extremely responsive and feels so damned good. Each button press is acknowledged with the swing of an axe, the slash of a scythe or the crack of a barbed whip. There are even abilities which allow Renee to use her weapons in even deadlier ways too. For example, one whip-based ability allows Renee to repeatedly swish her barbed whip all around her whilst in mid-air, utterly destroying anything that strays into its path, much like rotating helicopter blades. Another sees Renee swinging her greatsword in an immense arcing motion, slashing through anything in the immediate vicinity.
Preparation is key
In fact, there are so many options available that it is probably best to decide on which loadout works best for you and take it from there. You will also probably need to change your loadout depending on how you handle certain boss battles. All bosses are tough to defeat, some even more so than others, so the correct loadout for your particular playstyle is essential. Some bosses like to attack from afar, so long-reaching weapons are a must. Others like to run right up to you and punch or stab you repeatedly, requiring you to use close-range weapons, like a pair of knives instead.
Renee also has Afterimage abilities, which essentially grant Renee special powers. These include things such as being able to cast a powerful fireball, fire a large ring-blade, double-jump, move quicker and even automatically collect dew when dropped from a wider area than normal.
Vague skill trees
There is also a vast skill tree that requires you to spend Talent Points in order to progress through them, though it isn’t always clear what the skills are specifically. There is no guidance on this and even though there is a brief description at each step, it still seems quite vague regardless. However, said skills can only do you good so it’s a good idea to essentially work your way through them as and when you can, leveling up accordingly (even if you don’t know what they are).
One of the best aspects of Afterimage is figuring out ways to get to hard-to-reach areas. Typically, this is done by chaining certain movements together in order to traverse the air in creative and imaginative ways. This is, however, incredibly challenging but so rewarding when you get it right. For example, there was a reward chest that I saw which was on a platform at the top of the room and an entire screen’s-width away. Seemingly impossible at first, one would think, but they would be wrong. After several failed attempts, I eventually managed to get to it after chaining four separate moves together and timing each one perfectly. Despite the in-game reward being worthwhile, the mental reward was worth even more!
Spend your tonics wisely
Travelling across the vast worlds can be tedious. This is why the addition of teleportation points is welcome, especially because the game saves your progress each time you teleport. However, you should use teleportation only when necessary because in order to teleport, Renee must consume a travel tonic and these are sparse. As such, be sure to use them wisely and only teleport when you feel you absolutely must.
Afterimage has ten different endings, meaning that there is a very good reason to keep dipping back into it. At first, Afterimage was slow to start. After spending just over seven hours on it, however, it suddenly went from “good” to “incredible” as I unlocked certain abilities. These newfound abilities opened up vast portions of the game for me, which put a completely new spin on things. Previously unreachable areas were now accessible. Certain bosses now became much easier to manoeuvre around and subsequently defeat. The new abilities meant that I wanted to go back to earlier parts of the game because I could now access more areas!
The drip-feeding of abilities in this way makes for a wonderful way to experience the game for what it is. You are forced to slog your way through battles with superior enemies. You’re are forced to be clever about how you approach things. You are forced to navigate around obstacles a certain way. What this does is it makes you actually earn the abilities and not just happen upon them just because you reach a certain point of the game. Without being forced to think in a certain way about things, you will literally never progress. Afterimage literally trains you in the best way to play it. This is quite rare because it not only helps you learn better than if you just watched a “how-to” video, but it leaves a lasting impression too because you have already experienced it first-hand..
As you progress, you gradually pick up new abilities which you are then able to chain together. This means that you are able to return to areas and experience them in a whole new way which in turn adds a whole new perspective on things. There is always the fear that playing a level repeatedly will lead to tedium, but this is where the developers have been clever in how they developed this aspect of Afterimage. Their approach means that you still technically play the level again, but it becomes a whole new experience with new areas, enemies and rewards waiting to be discovered. As such, you gain a fresh experience in familiar territory.
Hand Drawn Beauty
The hand-drawn 2D world is rich and detailed, with specific, vibrant colour palettes used throughout each area. The effect is breathtaking as there is a clear definition from one area to the next. Every single aspect is truly stunning. Considering that this game is 2D, it is one of the most beautiful that I have ever played.
There is constant background music which effortlessly melts into different genres depending on the world and/or the scenario that Renee finds herself in. When you first discover a world, upbeat, almost curious music begins to play, but as you draw closer to enemies or engage in battle, the music turns to perfectly-intense, drum-heavy beats. This serves as a good indicator for when you need to prepare for an onslaught of foes!
Afterimage is a true masterpiece and manages to hold its own with stunning visuals, great audio and immense battles. It is most certainly a worthy addition to the crowded Metroidvania space. Responsive controls mean that you have full control over Renee and are able to plan your attacks and evasions very precisely. The story is vague, making the game slow to begin, but it soon picks up the pace and becomes a thrill ride. Despite there being very little in the way of guidance, it is simple enough to understand the more you play through and learn about the world. If you want an action-packed, beautiful Metroidvania to sink your teeth into, then Afterimage is by all means a very worthy contender.
- Absolutely beautiful art style.
- Great sound.
- Traversing the air in creative ways is so rewarding
- Using weapons in different ways feels so good
- Fantastic array of creatures
- “Wanderers” are simultaneously tough yet tragic
- Slow start
- Story and lore are complex and easy to lose track of
- Vague ability tree
- Boss battles are difficult at first until you level up
Afterimage is currently available through GeForce Now. This review was made by Mus from PapaBear Gaming. You can check out his channel right here. You can follow him on Twitter by going here. That was it for our Afterimage review.