Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?

WellPlayedWellPlayed

Review

Airoheart Review

Another day, Another Zelda clone

Even though I’ve ashamedly never actually finished The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (blasphemous I know), I’ve always found myself drawn to indie experiences heavily inspired by the pinnacle of 2D Zelda. Whether it be Blossom Tales, Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion, Ittle Dew or even The Binding of Isaac, there are countless quality examples, however not every Zelda-inspired adventure gets it right. 

This is unfortunately the case with Airoheart, a 16-bit action adventure developed by Australian indie team Pixel Heart Studio. Despite being fun in moments, the game finds itself let down by its trope-laden narrative, disorienting dungeons and frustrating item management.

You can pet the Dog

The game places you in the shoes of the titular hero Airoheart, a boy that is quickly whisked away on a journey through Engard, a world that despite already being in the midst of war, is facing an even more dangerous threat. Airoheart’s brother Xanatos is seeking to collect pendants that have been scattered throughout Engard, in order to restore the Draoidh Stone, which was used to seal an evil figure known as Carthicus. In order to stop his brother from unleashing such evil, Airoheart sets out to retrieve some of the pendants, all the while uncovering more about his brother and the world at large. 

The story does provide adequate reasoning for Airoheart to venture out of his seemingly peaceful village of Llanfair, but it’s painfully predictable and formulaic, to the point where it just comes off as lame and uninteresting. Characters also fail in being memorable, with the only character I had an interest in being Mina, who serves as Airoheart’s childhood friend and love interest. I think one of the reasons the narrative fails to make an impact is because of the open nature of the world. You can go hours mindlessly meandering through the overworld and its various dungeons without taking in much story content, which in turn makes an already average story that much harder to get invested into. 

All this isn’t to say the storytelling is actually bad, I respected its attempts to provide lore regarding the ongoing conflict between the two warring factions, as well as Airoheart’s connection to them both, but it’s ultimately painfully average to the point where I wouldn’t be surprised if you don’t remember much of it by the time you roll credits. Speaking of rolling credits, don’t expect to be doing that in a hurry. Airoheart is a surprisingly chunky adventure, with a sizeable overworld and decent amount of side content resulting in a journey that could easily take 25 to 30+ hours to finish.

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.



The story is fine but fails to engage

The 16-bit pixel art isn’t the most detailed or visually appealing, but it’s mostly well executed and does feel reminiscent of the SNES era. The soundtrack has some enjoyable tracks, but their repetitive nature and constant reliance on a small selection of tracks (the dungeons all use the same track for instance) makes them quickly tiresome. 

Although not without its fair share of problems, the gameplay of Airoheart is actually quite entertaining. Much like the Zelda game that it’s so clearly inspired by, your job is to lead Airoheart through the world of Engard, clearing puzzle-filled dungeons and using an array of items to take out the various creatures that get in your way, all in a nostalgic top-down 2D perspective. The dungeons in Airoheart are where the journey shines the brightest, with expansive areas providing puzzles that range from creative to obtuse. Puzzles require you to not just use your brain, but also the items in your possession such as your bow, bombs, or your Rune Staff, which uses runes collected throughout the adventure to do things such as heal you or make you move a bit faster. These runes require mana to function, which can be found in reliable quantities throughout Engard.

While dungeons are mostly a fun affair when you’re on the beaten path and making progress, they can also quickly turn into a frustrating debacle if you get lost or can’t quite determine what is needed next to proceed. The reason for this confusion largely hinges on the complete lack of in-dungeon maps, a decision that is absolutely baffling, especially considering the game’s clear reverence for A Link to the Past, which had in-dungeon maps over 30 years ago in 1992. This lack of a sense of direction makes traversing a dungeon far more difficult and annoying than it needs to be, which in turn quickly makes the experience unenjoyable. I think I cumulatively wasted 3-4 hours chasing my tail throughout various dungeons, a dreaded fate that was only made worse by other annoyances such as dungeons that are far too dark to easily see in, and the occasional confusing puzzle.

The pixel art does resemble SNES visuals

Unlike most of the items present through the game, which can be easily cycled through without ever having to pause, the runes that are equipped for use via the Rune Staff require a slow and tedious process of pausing the game, jumping into the journal and selecting a particular rune in order to be used. Its pain is only really felt when shuffling between runes in a dungeon, but it is a hindrance to the point where it almost discourages trying different runes. 

Combat largely feels awkward, and hitboxes for some enemies are questionable, but much like the rest of the game, it’s fine without being good. The aforementioned bombs and arrows are handy weapons to use when desperate, but for the most part you’ll likely just be flailing your sword around until you clear the area of enemies. Movement doesn’t particularly feel too great either, however things improve a smidge when the dodge roll ability is unlocked.

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.



Combat doesn’t exactly set the world on fire

When not in dungeons, you’ll be traversing Engard’s surprisingly large overworld, which contains optional runes to find, alongside various side quests and activities. There are also some shops to visit that will accept beads (the currency of Engard) in exchange for things such as bombs, arrows, and even items such as armour. A blacksmith can also craft items such as armour and shields if provided with a decent chunk of beads, and the components required to craft said item. Airoheart succeeds in packing worthwhile and enjoyable side content into its overworld (which thankfully does have a visible map), with a multitude of hidden caves and items to find if you desire to get more out of the adventure. 

Final Thoughts

Although I really wanted to see Airoheart join the upper echelon of indie ‘Zelda Clone’ experiences, its numerous issues see it fail to reach anywhere near as high. Its overworld is fun to traverse, and its several dungeons can be entertaining if you don’t fall victim to their lack of in-dungeon maps, but the story is generic and predictable and its combat and movement is mediocre at best.

Reviewed on PS5  // Review code supplied by publisher

Click here for more information on WellPlayed’s review policy and ethics

Airoheart Review
Attack of the Zelda Clones
Airoheart attempts to recreate the magic of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past in its own image, only to see itself let down by its painfully average storytelling and lack of direction in its dungeons.
The Good
Overworld is decently crafted
Dungeons can be fun
Enjoyable side quests
The Bad
Story is bland
Mediocre combat
No in-dungeon maps
5
GLASS HALF FULL
  • Pixel Heart Studio
  • Soedesco
  • PS5 / PS4 / Xbox Series X|S / Xbox One / Switch / PC
  • September 29, 2022

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.
Airoheart Review
Attack of the Zelda Clones
Airoheart attempts to recreate the magic of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past in its own image, only to see itself let down by its painfully average storytelling and lack of direction in its dungeons.
The Good
Overworld is decently crafted
Dungeons can be fun
Enjoyable side quests
The Bad
Story is bland
Mediocre combat
No in-dungeon maps
5
GLASS HALF FULL
Written By Dylan Blereau

Dylan is an avid gamer on all systems and believes that console wars are dumb. He owns over 60 amiibo however, which is a bit of an issue. You can find him on PSN @PlushyPants49 and Twitter @GrumpyGoron

Comments

Latest

Review

In the giant's footprint

News

A shattered world awaits

News

Who had their money on Jason Voorhees making the cut?

News

Nintendo is likely rousing the legal team as we speak

News

The blood-soaked sequel will also hit IMAX

News

All things Warhammer and video games, in one convenient showcase

Feature

There is a lot more to WoW: Cataclysm than you might remember

Latest Podcast Episode

You May Also Like

News

Due to a “reprioritization of titles and resources”

Review

I’ve never been so scared of multiple exposed openings

Advertisement