[Review] Ageless – Nintendo Switch

Written by Mel Curtis
  • Developer: One More Dream Studios
  • Publisher: Team17
  • Release date: 28/7/2020
  • Price: £10.99 / $14.99
  • Review code provided by Team17

Introducing: Ageless Switch Review

I’ve got to admit that I was kind of sold on Ageless pretty early on. However, it was not because of the game play or the look of the game. It was because of the main character, Kiara. Simply put, I wanted her to do well because there have been multiple points where I have been her. Heck, her struggle pretty strongly embodies how I spent most of my college years. I always count it to be a good thing when you can connect with a character so easily (though this might not be the case of everyone with her), so I had a lot of hope for this game and I think while it delivered in some areas, there are others where it just couldn’t keep up.

Where Am I Going?

Ageless is the story of Kiara, a young woman that just doesn’t really know what to do with herself. She doesn’t feel like she has any sort of a purpose, like she’s treading water through life. It’s something that those who empathize with that sort of a situation are going to really connect with her on and I was one of those people. I really appreciate that we’re getting more puzzle platforming games where the struggle of the character is not just physical but also mental. We’ve come a long way from the days where games like this were just about jumping on along through the world and bouncing on enemies to get by. I will say that the game is not at all subtle about the themes that it is trying to present, stating them outright pretty frequently in story segments. I think the story might have been served by reigning it in just a little and letting Kiara’s reactions to characters speak more than her words once we have an idea of where she is coming from.

Anyway, in order to combat her lack of purpose, Kiara seeks to get herself a “gift”, hoping that having some sort of a power will give her more direction in life and a higher purpose to strive for. Actually getting this gift is one of the first things that you do in the game and Kiara finds herself with the ability to use arrows to cause things in the world around her to age and de-age. It’s pretty nifty! However, it does not give her the purpose that she was looking for, so she carries on trying to just do what she can to help people with her new abilites.

Overall, I really like what we are being given here. The characters that Kiara encounters are all relatable in some way and even when they’re doing something that you don’t agree with, it’s still easy to understand why and where they are coming from. It helps that the writing here is really fun and clever at times. The people of the towns that you roll through aren’t all doom and gloom or anything like that. They joke around and can get a little quirky which keeps the whole thing feeling pretty lighthearted.

Put One Foot…

Unsurprisingly, Kiara’s new gift extends into the game play of Ageless. While you are moving through the areas of the world, you can age the different plants and animals forward and back. Each of the areas that you go through has different things to play around with so even though you are always using the same mechanics, the mechanics of the world are always changing around you. This is one of those games where you die in one hit, so the frequent checkpoints are a huge help and let you experiment without feeling like you are losing a lot of progress when you mess up. 

Beyond sliding things back and forth in age, Kiara also has the ability to become “ageless”. (Ah! The name of the game!) When doing this, she is allowed to dash off of any of the manipulable objects in the world. This action will not only fling her a decent distance, but also take the age of whatever she was touching down by one notch. There’s a lot that is interesting to do here in regards to puzzles and I never felt like the developers were wasting any potential that they had on their hands. 

Going ageless also has the benefit of revealing the hidden collectibles in the world. However, because you can only see these when you are in the ageless form, it can be very very easy to miss them when you are playing through segments where agelessness might not be required for the puzzle because you are so focused on just getting through. As a result, I ended up grabbing very few of them while playing, though I might go back to search for more later.

In Front of the Other

What drove me nuts about Ageless was just how it could be frustratingly difficult at times. I don’t have anything against hard games, really, but it can get frustrating to feel like you are just throwing yourself against something over and over and not getting anywhere with it. Because Ageless does feature instant death and the controls are a little on the looser side, there were a lot of cases where I could do the same thing ten times and die about half because of minute changes in positioning. The world is structured like the controls are very tight, but they’re not quite tight enough to match that. Firing your arrows can just be frustrating to do, plain and simple. Because you are aiming with the left stick, letting go of it to make sure that you don’t move the moment you let go of the arrow can mean that it goes off just enough to miss. After you miss a few times it can just get plain aggravating.

Timing is the name of the game here. When you go ageless there is a second or two before you can pop back into it again so there isn’t any room to pop out and allow yourself to fall just a tiny bit more before going back in because you’re just going to fall all the way down before you can. It can be a little rough to get a handle on, especially when something is a tight squeeze or you need to launch in just the right place to make a jump. Underwater segments hurt with this the most. Kiara must have lungs the size of grapes, because her breaths do not last very long at all and it’s easy to get stuck on walls while swimming. I died more on underwater segments than anything else. The forgiving checkpoints helped with this but there are a few places where having to play something over and over because I kept failing at the last second felt like a slog.

Boss encounters are the roughest part of the game, which is really unfortunate because I liked how varied they could be and how they tested your understanding of the mechanics, being more desperate runs than a combat encounter. However, when you’re playing these those frequent checkpoints that keep you from getting too frustrated in other areas are just gone. Boss stages are pretty lengthy and you won’t get many checkpoints at all during them. There’s not really any chance to catch your breath either because these often have some element of a force chasing you along meaning that you must be moving at all times.

Growing Up

When it comes to the art design, simplicity is really what is on display here. The pixel artwork is striking in the way that we have kind of come to expect of this type of art in the modern era of games, but that doesn’t mean that it is unimpressive. Despite animations often being fairly simple, they’re still full of life and a lot of the characters have a nice feeling of bounciness to them. The colors are bold and bright even in gloomier areas, meaning that I was always kept engaged visually. The only place where I would have hoped for any change was that Kiara doesn’t have any real animation when she is wall jumping, just an effect to indicate that you are in fact sliding on the wall. While this meant I was never unsure of that, it could make her feel stiff and like she was just body slamming walls over and over.

The music is understated, but in a game where you’re going to be dying repeatedly, that’s not a bad thing at all. I never felt the need to turn my sound off unless it was to avoid bothering someone else with the sound. It’s the other aspects of the sound design that make it notable, though. The sound effects are all pretty good but the fact that the sound changes when going underwater surprised me the first time in the best way. Those little flourishes don’t always make it into smaller scale projects but that attention to detail was really appreciated. What I also loved was how the game felt voice acted even though every character was just making little garble noises. When a character was angry their vocals were noticeably more aggressive sounding and Kiara had a decent amount of variation in the sounds that she would make as well. 

And Always Coming Home

Ageless is a game that is best played in short bursts unless you are really eager to get deep into it in just a sitting or two. I often found myself needing to just walk away when I couldn’t get through a puzzle, only to get it on my second try when I came back because the solution was suddenly more apparent than before. Despite the cute look, this is definitely one meant for the young adult crowd on up with the themes of the story and the sometimes incredibly difficult game play.

Pros

  • Wonderful visuals and sound
  • Interesting and varied mechanics
  • Relatable protagonist

Cons

  • Frustrating aiming at times
  • Steep difficulty curve at the first boss
  • Checkpoints go from plentiful to sparse the second a boss appears

Verdict

Ageless brings interesting mechanics to platforming in a way that slides between fun and frustrating.

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