Don’t get us wrong, we love the SEGA Dreamcast. It is rightly considered the most under-rated console of all time, and we spent hours of university coursework time playing classics like Power Stone and Crazy Taxi. But when we heard that Intrepid Izzy was made specifically for the SEGA Dreamcast and ported to the Xbox as a kind of afterthought – well, we were less interested. How could a SEGA Dreamcast game hold up on the Xbox? Surely the old tech would hold it back? 

Well, when you assume, you make an ass of you and me, as the old saying goes. Because Intrepid Izzy is neither anachronistic or limited. It feels like a love letter written to two people, rather than one: it’s a joyous paean to Dreamcast-era platformers, as well as being an unashamed homage to the Shantae series. You could have swapped the Izzy sprite for Shantae, and we would have happily accepted it as the latest in the long-running series. 

intrepid izzy review 1

We will admit to not being bowled over by Izzy at first. There’s something about the art style that doesn’t land with us. It’s the second time we’ve mentioned Flash in as many reviews, so call us lazy, but there is indeed a flat, soulless-ness to the art that reminded us of Flash platformers. It’s certainly colourful, and a few bosses are charismatic enough to have been invited over from a Nickelodeon series. But, in general, we were put off by the graphics rather than tempted in. 

We also hadn’t quite figured what kind of game Intrepid Izzy was aiming to be in those first moments. If we’d known, we would have backed off and let it do its thing. But everything starts very conventionally, with your bog standard jump, punch and flying kick, and a yawn-some set of platforms and enemies. The world and the controls within it hadn’t convinced us. 

It didn’t take Izzy long, though. Once we had explored Awesometown, the game’s first hub and realised, yep, that this was a Shantae-a-like, we were smitten. 

For those who haven’t played a Shantae game or other games that hew close to its formula (the recent Wonderboy games are another good example), know that these are 2D platformers that think in 3D. Imagine 2D levels set up in parallel, and you can skip between them by jumping through doors or taking paths in the middle of levels.

But that’s just one way in which they sprawl more than your average 2D Mario or Sonic game. Because the levels tend to be huge affairs, taking many minutes to cross (a Castlevania or Metroid dungeon is more like it). They’re so big, in fact, that – like the games we have just referenced – there are a series of mirror portals that fast-travel you from location to location, just so you don’t spend the whole game travelling. And, indeed, like those games again, there is a blocky map with greyed-out locations that need to be discovered if you ever hope to reach 100%. 

intrepid izzy review 2

Izzy has a couple of towns to explore and bring the pace down a bit. These towns house vendors who will sell you food and upgrade your hearts, should you find enough Zelda-like quarter-hearts on your travels. You can change between suits (spoiler! We’ll tell you more about them in a mo), and even tinker with three arcade machines: Plerg!, Ultra Bazoop and 3D Wheel. Clearly, the developers had some early prototypes that they wanted to show off.

But the meat of Intrepid Izzy is in the levels, and we had a whale of a time exploring them. In the first half of the game, the routine is reasonably simple: you push out into a direction, killing enemies and populating your blocky map, hoping that your platforming skill will be such that you can reach a save point, infinity mirror or checkpoint before dying. Because any of those three will mean that you can return to the area with ease in the future. 

It’s in this half of the game that you are at the whims of the designers. It’s never quite clear if the direction you’re going in is the right one: is this where they want me to go? But there’s no reason to be concerned. The flow of the levels is exquisitely wrought so that you can be sure that, yes, you are indeed going the right way. Just stop questioning it. Soon, you’re finding stuff: items that a blocking NPC needed in a previous map, new areas and bosses.

The bosses, by the way, are an imaginative bunch who are pitched with perfection. In almost every instance, we died three or four times before truly learning their weaknesses and rotations. By then, through memory and skill, we were able to defeat them with only a health pip or two left, and in our book, that’s spot on. 

intrepid izzy review 3

Suddenly, you will run out of runway. There aren’t anymore bosses or levels to complete, yet there’s a big-ass door in the centre of the game and you will likely only have one, maybe two, of the four keys that are needed to open it. And this is the second half of the game: the mopping up. And while it’s still good, it’s not the better of the two halves. 

Intrepid Izzy gives you a lot of the tools you need to finish the rest of the game. You will have accumulated plenty of new abilities and – best of all – some new suits to wear. We don’t want to reveal too much, but they are often disguises that give you extra moves, and these will carry you, Metroidvania-like, over some obstacles that were insurmountable before. Maps can also be found, which reveal the treasure chests (containing quarter-hearts) and shaded rooms that you want to access. And the infinity mirrors theoretically take you places in a jiffy.

But for all the tools that we were given, they still didn’t seem like enough. Intrepid Izzy makes the painful decision to only allow you to switch suits back in Awesometown, rather than let you switch them on the fly. It’s certainly not the choice we would have made. Hit up against an obstacle and you have to fast-travel back home, put on your gladrags, and then be back to overcome it. It’s desperately clunky.

Fast-travel, too, is rare enough to make it more like jog-travel. There are, at most, two infinity mirrors in each region, and regions can be massive. Enemies respawn reasonably regularly, so simple things like changing a suit or traveling to another map can be a surprising ballache. Suddenly, you are wading through enemies that you have killed multiple times before, and who are adept at killing you if you don’t pay attention. On more than one occasion, we uncovered a secret area, only to find that it deposited us at the fringes of the map, far from an infinity mirror, and we wished we hadn’t bothered. 

intrepid izzy review 4

But it’s testament to Intrepid Izzy that we so desperately wanted to 100% it. While mopping up the last keys and quarter-hearts was an occasional test of patience, we were motivated by everything that came before. Because there is a rock-solid platformer here. If you like your platforming to be explorative and sprawling, inviting you to fill in the hundreds of blocks on its world map, then Intrepid Izzy is far, far better than it had any right to be. 

Ignore the simplistic art, forget that Intrepid Izzy was originally developed for the SEGA Dreamcast, and you’ll be treated to the best Shantae game without Shantae in the title. 

You can buy Intrepid Izzy from the Xbox Store

Don’t get us wrong, we love the SEGA Dreamcast. It is rightly considered the most under-rated console of all time, and we spent hours of university coursework time playing classics like Power Stone and Crazy Taxi. But when we heard that Intrepid Izzy was made specifically for the SEGA Dreamcast and ported to the Xbox as a kind of afterthought - well, we were less interested. How could a SEGA Dreamcast game hold up on the Xbox? Surely the old tech would hold it back?  Well, when you assume, you make an ass of you and me, as the old…

Pros:

  • Beautifully designed and paced
  • Tempts you to explore its vast map
  • Hundreds of secrets to find
  • Neatly designed bosses

Cons:

  • Something about the art feels cheap
  • Suit-swapping is a pain

Info:

  • Massive thanks for the free copy of the game go to - Ratalaika Games
  • Formats - Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PS4, PS5, Switch
  • Version reviewed - Xbox Series X
  • Release date - 2 December 2022
  • Launch price from - £9.99
TXH Score

4/5

Pros:

  • Beautifully designed and paced
  • Tempts you to explore its vast map
  • Hundreds of secrets to find
  • Neatly designed bosses

Cons:

  • Something about the art feels cheap
  • Suit-swapping is a pain

Info:

  • Massive thanks for the free copy of the game go to - Ratalaika Games
  • Formats - Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PS4, PS5, Switch
  • Version reviewed - Xbox Series X
  • Release date - 2 December 2022
  • Launch price from - £9.99

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Nerd E1
Nerd E1
8 days ago

Comparing games to other games generally isn’t a good idea. What if no one played Shantae? What good would that comparison be? What if they did play it and didn’t like it? They would then assume this game is bad.

Also, superficial similarities exist in many games but that doesn’t mean they have the same feel. It’s like comparing two singers who are falsetto: they have the same range but a difference in their tonality makes them completely different.

Otherwise, this review gave me a good idea what to expect from the gameplay, both positive and negative, and helped me decide to whether to buy this game or not.

Last edited 8 days ago by Nerd E1