Stones of the Revenant is a blast from the past; a retro-style platformer with all the charm of the NES era, while also providing a decent challenge to boot. This game is what you get when you take the platforming of Super Mario Bros, and combine it with a bit of the unforgiving challenge of Dark Souls.
Stones of the Revenant is set in a fantasy land that has been enjoying a period of peace, that is until the Revenant is resurrected and begins to build his army of the undead. With doom facing the land it is up to you to stop him as one of our six heroes: Radcliffe the Knight, Halvar the Barbarian, Brielle the Sorceress, Galina the Ranger, Isaak the Thief, and Fritz the Tinkerer. All our heroes are more than ready to take up the mission of stopping the Revenant.
Stones of the Revenant brings retro platforming gameplay to modern controllers. I found the platforming capturing the essence of old-school Mario games. The camera moves as you progress through the stage in a way like older Mario levels, and this adds a bit of choice to how you proceed through the level. Do you decide to hang back and see what’s coming up in the next section, or do you get aggressive and move ahead before the camera settles? While not a game-changing decision, I appreciate that each character benefits from this differently.
Level progression in Stones of the Revenant is straight out of the past; no checkpoints and failure at any point during the stage results in you having to restart the stage all over again from the beginning. Stages are not long, so this adds a bit more of a challenge without feeling unfair or annoying. During my time with Stones of the Revenant, I found that this made gameplay feel more intense. Encountering multiple enemies required calculated jumps to dodge my foes, and when I did fail, going back through with the knowledge of the level allows the chance to adjust any approach. Stones of the Revenant wants you to learn from mistakes and use that knowledge to continue your push forward on your quest.
Keeping up its retro charm, Stones of the Revenant doesn’t have an options menu. This means no difficulty adjustment, and no control options. On the Xbox One movement is locked to the left thumbstick, but the issue with this is that I was experiencing issues when trying to attack right after changing direction. I would attempt to turn and fire my bow with Galina, only to shoot my arrow in the wrong direction and take a hit from an enemy. Aside from turning quickly to attack feeling wonky, the controls feel very good and responsive.
The presentation of Stones of the Revenant is as true to the retro era of gaming as it can be. Retro graphics, sounds and music make for a very nostalgic experience for those that were gaming back in the 8-bit era. One aspect of retro gaming that I could personally have done without is the inability to not speed up dialogue when characters speak. Though there isn’t a lot of dialogue in the game, what is there slows the experience down when you must wait for a boss to finish their text at the game’s speed, with no option to speed it up.
The game prides itself on its challenge and there is a decent test to be found here, but depending on the type of character that challenge can range from a stroll through a level to barely finishing a stage with any life left. The ranged characters in Brielle the Sorceress and Galina the Ranger fare better than the rest of the cast. Melee characters will find their journey through extremely more difficult as they always end up trading blows with enemies and, with healing items scarce, this makes melee characters not viable in my opinion. The one character that is in a weird spot is Fritz the Tinkerer: having a shotgun that even comes with a reload animation, he falls in the middle of the two. His shotgun has enough range to not have to be on top of an enemy, but it also can’t hit an enemy from across the stage.
Stones of the Revenant on Xbox One is a fun way to get a blast from the past and kill some time. It presents a challenge that can be enjoyed solo or with a friend in local co-op. I enjoyed my run through the game and trying out all the characters, and even with a few issues here and there Stones of the Revenant is still a good time for platforming fans.