This review is written by Robert Hudak for Big Shiny Robot. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on twitter @MrProboto
UnEpic - Developed by Francisco Téllez de Meneses - Published by EnjoyUp and Ninagamers Corp.- Available on PC, Wii U, Xbox One, PS4, and PS Vita - Reviewed on PS4
With so many games aiming to capitalize on my nostalgic love of NES-styled 2D platformers, it’s hard to find one worth my time. Some are time-travel machines fueled with bliss, and some are unimaginative cash-ins that should burn in a fiery pit. Fortunately, "UnEpic" is much closer to the former, though it comes with an asterisk stapled to its head.
“UnEpic” opens with Daniel, our “hero,” sitting at a table with his friends playing a tabletop RPG. As he wanders off to the bathroom for a quick pee-break, he somehow finds himself within some mystical castle straight out of traditional dark fantasy. Believing himself dreaming, Daniel proceeds with foolhardy courage and an overabundance of sardonic lucidity. the continual pop cultural references start off as charming, but after the third or fourth hour, this becomes fairly grating. There's also a particularly odd incongruity: Daniel remarks incessantly about conventional capabilities in video games, yet I noticed how my lighter never ran out of fuel. I'll grant that it's more of a gameplay concession in favor of fun and utility, but good-natured quips about the occasionally lacking video game logic (such as slaying ghosts with the average sword) feel lost when similarly shaky logic exists within a game pointing them out.
Gameplay and character progression in "UnEpic" feels like an RPG built from a pen-and-paper player handbook. There’s a surprising amount of variety and depth to character skills, but there’s something troubling in the castle of Harnakon. The combat is satisfying for much of the game, but around the last third, it’s clear that the mechanics heavily favor ranged combat—in fact, it’s necessary for one late-game boss as he hovers over a giant chasm of spikes, spewing death rays and adorable ghosts of pain. I don’t mind some playstyles complementing a game over others (Dark Souls’ pyromancy comes to mind), but it feels like an oversight when it’s impossible to proceed unless you build your character accordingly.
"UnEpic" never takes itself seriously, and I appreciate that about it: Late-game events examine video game tropes, storytelling cliches, and self-fulfilling prophecies. There are three different endings which depend upon opening chests, and I like how each of these endings play upon expectation. If you’re a fan of the “Metroidvania” puree, I’d say give "UnEpic" a shot. With an average completion of about 14 hours and a low cost of admission, you might be surprised at how fun it is—just remember to pump some points into a ranged ability.