REVIEW: Inexistence Rebirth

Was Inexistence worth rebirthing in the first place?

Released: Steam
Type: Singleplayer
Genre: Platformer, Action
Developer: Jonathan Brassaud
Publisher: Jonathan Brassaud
Release date: 22 May, 2020

Inexistence was a metroidvania released back in 2016, which was met with mixed reviews at launch. It got praise for its quality pixel art, but was criticized for its lack of polish, and short length. This new version attempts to address most of these issues, and give the game a chance to shine.

If you’ve ever played Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, or the 2D Castlevania games following it, this game will likely seem familiar to you, it’s not shy about where it got its inspiration from. But a developer taking inspiration from the best games the genre has to offer is not a bad thing, as long as they can deliver a good game themselves.

Don’t get used to seeing much dialogue

Story & Setting

Hald and his sister were tasked with maintaining balance in the land, but an evil man named Claos decides has decided that he should rule. He imprisons Hald’s sister in a crystal, and now it’s up to Hald to save her, and make sure that balance can be maintained.

The story in Inexistence is barebones, limited to a few short dialogue moments. The games writing follows suit, and is equally barebones. And the games setting is generic. You’ll move through a few genre mainstays, like a cave region, a water region, an icy region, a castle and so on, with little thought to how it all fits together. These are all common issues of the genre, but there has been Metroidvania titles that have shown that it is possible to tell a compelling story, and have a coherent and fleshed out setting.

Ominous

Presentation

Pixel art can be a bit divisive, some people love it and some hate it, but few will deny that the background art in Inexistence Rebirth is outstanding. Particularly regions like the castle look stunning, with highly detailed art, and parallax scrolling that would make the greatest pixel art games from the PS1 era proud. The spritework for most creatures is also good, although the animations can at times look a bit wonky when the enemies move at the same time, and a few enemies look like they are made up of several smaller pieces that move independently. These few inconsistencies drag down the game a bit, but it’s still, for the most part, very good looking.

The game has a soundtrack that’s remarkably solid. The Castlevania influences shine through, as many of the tracks have a similar vibes to what you would expect to find in a Castlevania game, but they’re by no means identical. As for the sound effects, they’re a bit more of a mixed bag. While there’s nothing really bad here, there are some that go a bit overboard, particularly your basic sword swing, which makes a sound more akin to heavy attacks in other games.

That goofy-looking enemy with the wizard’s hat might well be the most dangerous normal enemy in the game

Gameplay

Inexistence is a metroidvania, that takes heavy inspiration from the Castlevania series, and it shows. Like in other games of its type, you explore a connected world, and find new tools that will help you unlock more areas as you progress through the game. The ability to do an extra jump in the air does, for an example, allow you to reach higher places. You’ve also got an EXP system, which will make your character stronger after having killed a few enemies.

The game world in Inexistence is not very large, particularly not by Metroidvania standards, and the first half of the game feels somewhat linear. Abilities you get later in the game do give you a reason to return to previous areas, but this game leans towards the more linear end of the Metroidvania spectrum, with few alternative paths, or chances to do things out of order. But there are still some secrets hidden around the map, so exploration is encouraged.

Yet another area where Inexistence ‘s inspirations show is with the controls. It has controls that feel a bit stiff, with a weighty protagonist, which is how they were in the Castlevania series. You’ve not got the heavy knockback at least, so the game is a bit more forgiving in that regard.

The game world is not huge. This is about half the map

There’s a good amount of different enemies in the game, with different attack patterns, which gives the game some much needed variety. Because the enemies are so different each region also end up playing differently. While you’ve still got larger heavy hitting enemies, and smaller more agile enemies, exactly how you fight them is noticeably different.

Where the enemies are mostly good, the bosses leave a bit to be desired. They basically come in two flavours, a big boss that covers a considerable amount of the screen, or a small and agile boss, with only one in-between. These bosses also don’t have very inspired attack patterns, and not even the final boss felt particularly memorable.

In terms of difficulty, Inexistence falls into the somewhat rare category of being moderately easy, yet punishing. Enemies deal a good amount of damage, and if you die, you’ll respawn at the last save-point. At least the save points are frequent, but you can still have to traverse a gauntlet of enemies to get to the next one. But if you’re careful, and are willing to use healing items, the game is relatively easy, compared to other Metroidvania titles. Sadly the game is also quite short, and this does undermine the exploration a bit. Once you’ve beat the game you do at least unlock a new game mode, where you get to play as the sister, who has a different weapon, and come with a lot of abilities already unlocked, but who can’t use items or experience points.

Did anyone say Castlevania?

Closing Thoughts

Inexistence Rebirth is a solid Metroidvania game, that should have been longer. The pixel art is stunning, and the gameplay is for the most part pretty good, but I was able to beat the game in less than 3 hours. There is the mode that unlocks after you’ve beaten the main game, and that adds some replay value, but there should still have been a bit more to the game. At least the game is quite cheap, which makes the short length less of an issue, but it would still have been nice if it was a bit longer.

Written by
Fnord
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