When the word “2D platformer” comes to mind, many think instantly of the classics. Mario is the first that comes to mind, followed closely by the more recent Ori games, and in the Indie department, Celeste and maybe Super Meat Boy. Imp of the Sun is a game that doesn’t quite reach the peaks of these games, but it does deserve at least a mention in the best new platformers around.
Imp of the Sun is a delightful blend of platformer and puzzler, and it arrives in a crowded genre, but still manages to stand out. Slightly imprecise combat and frustrating boss battles hold it back from being at the top of the pile, but Imp’s platforming fun and puzzling intrigue utilise the game’s unique mechanics to make for a truly memorable experience. Imp of the Sun is short, but it’s all the sweeter for it.
My first impression of Imp was the cartoonish, but well done, art style. Think pastel colours, with standout oranges and greens, with the darker areas having bright, spooky blues and stoney greys. This art style does the game many favours, as it allows the world to feel pretty but slightly muted, and this makes the flaming orange of your character, Nin, feel all the more standout. The cartoonish art style also allows Imp of the Sun to run smoothly, with a rock solid 60 frames throughout, even during the more effect heavy sequences. Overall, the performance and appearance of this game is very successful, managing to stand out while staying more low key.
There’s not a story here that’s aimed to match games like Ori And The Blind Forest, but there is a basic plot being told as you move through the game. The basics of it are that there’s an eternal eclipse, as the fire of the sun has been stolen by four guardians. Your job as a creature of the sun, an Imp, is to retrieve these four fragments of fire by defeating four powerful beings, and stopping the eclipse. It’s enough window dressing to keep you interested and compliment the game’s puzzles, which really are excellent.
Puzzles in Imp of the Sun are simple, but fun. They’re generally a mix of platforming challenges and problem solving. The way the developers mix these things together, however, is where all the fun of Imp comes through. To successfully create a puzzle while keeping a fast paced game rhythm and platforming difficulty is no easy task. Imp of the Sun, however, manages to almost perfectly balance all of these things at once. Its puzzles are generally layered things, with the open world being used to disguise the fact that there are basically a small number of large levels, rather than one big interconnected world.
Each puzzle can be sections of, or in a few cases, the entire level, all interconnected by a theme or method of solving a particular problem. It’s incredibly satisfying to complete one part of the challenge, successfully unlocking the next piece of the puzzle and progressing to the next zone. A big part of these puzzles is combat, and the enemies that come with it, and these add even more to the challenge the game provides.
Enemies in Imp are nothing to laugh about. They all have unique ways of killing you, and all will many, many times before you work out how to kill them effectively. Banshee-like creatures are invisible until you use your blaze ability, statues in the wall will breathe fire to kill you, which explodes on impact, and skeletons will reanimate unless you aim for the head. These are just a few examples of the variety of enemies you’ll face in Imp of the Sun, and they all add a new form of challenge to the game.
But with all enemies there must be a bigger enemy, and that anime is the jankiness of Imp of the Sun’s combat. Combat in 2D platformers can be a mixed bag in a lot of cases, and that’s especially true here. It’s difficult to ignore the sense that the timing on attacks is a fraction off, and that the throwable spear ability is almost entirely pointless, with the amount of time it takes to wind up and the lack of accuracy it provides. This dodgy combat really shows off its difficulties when boss fights are brought into the equation, and if you thought that the combat was hit and miss, wait until you see the bosses.
Bosses in Imp of the Sun are difficult. Difficulty in boss fights can be a good thing, but not if the difficulty is less about learning the fighting style of the bosses, but more about luck than skill. Because of the jankiness of the combat, I would often find myself stuck in a boss battle for an hour or more, constantly wishing that the combat was more precise. One thing I will say, however, is that boss battles effectively take what you learned throughout the level and apply it to one arena where they seek to test your newly found skills. If only the battles themselves didn’t seem to take more luck than outright skill to conquer, because besides an extremely dodgy boss hitbox and a combat model that seems to suck the fun out of boss battling, this would have been a fantastic example of how games can apply learning from previous levels.
Overall however, Imp of the Sun holds up, and I recommend it for anyone looking for a nice, if challenging, platformer to play through. It’s a short one, only taking four to six hours to complete, but get stuck on a boss and this playtime can balloon. Slightly uneven combat and annoying boss encounters aside, this is a solid game, and one I’m happy to recommend to most.
Imp of the Sun’s puzzles will satisfy you, and by the end of the game it sticks in memory not because of its weak points, but because of the strong puzzling and platforming. Overall, this is a fun, difficult little game that’ll impress you more than it frustrates you, which makes it a worthwhile purchase.
Imp of the Sun is available from the Xbox Store