[Review] Ikenfell – Nintendo Switch

  • Developer: Happy Ray games
  • Publisher: Humble Games
  • Release Date: 08/10/2020
  • Price: £17.99 / $16.19
  • Review code provided by Humble Games

Video Review

Introducing: Ikenfell Switch Review

If you were looking for a lovingly written, heartstring pulling, well-paced story about a magical school, the bonds that tie us all together, and the friends we make along the way, then you’ve found it!  Ikenfell, named after the magical school in which most of the story takes place, is a blend of story and battle mechanics rarely seen in the wild and what it delivers is pretty unique.  Ikenfell is a game that wants to make you feel included in the story, represented in the world, and like all those years of opening the microwave as soon as it ticked to zero were worth it!

Magic Is Strong, But Family Is Stronger

Thank you, scary ghost creature!

Ikenfell begins with a red haired girl traveling through the forest looking for the magical school her sister attends.  Turns out, her sister was meant to return home for the summer, as she’s known to do, but this summer she didn’t return.  Knowing this, the parents must have done the Pokemon thing and let their child set out into the world with nothing but a direction to walk and a few rocks in their hands.  That seems to be the case until our hero Maritte comes in contact with her first enemies.

During the fight, Maritte almost fails to prove herself to these 3 dark figures until something…strange happens.  After losing all her HP, the figures attempt to remove Maritte from the scene but as they do a burning fire erupts from her, causing her true magical nature to ignite!  Having never been able to use magic before, Maritte is understandably confused and scared of her newfound Fiery abilities.  Fortunately, the figures see her potential and decide to give her a chance to get up and fight them all again.

After you defeat the ghostly characters, you set off once again, now clad in newfound Magical abilities, to find Ikenfell, and in time, your sister Safina.  You will encounter many enemies, many trials, and many characters on your journey but one thing is for sure: you’re not ordinary anymore.  Fill your party with the diverse cast of characters, learn all of their different spells, and solve the mysteries hiding within Ikenfells walls.

Timing.  Is.  Everything.

That’s okay, I wanted to fight this boss at a disadvantage…

Ikenfell wastes no time in presenting all it has to offer the player within the first 10 minutes of gameplay.  Already you have a grasp on how to move throughout the world, secrets to find, and most importantly:

The Battle System

The battle system focuses on the timing of each attack to be able to do the most damage to your enemies and take the least from their attacks.  All you need to do is Press A at the absolute perfect time to execute the greatest version of your attack.  If you do it right, a “great” will pop up on screen indicating you did…well, great.  Doing it not as well will show you a “nice” and doing it poorly affords you an “oops.” 

Due to the exact timing you need to learn for every spell, and how easy it is to get an “oops” instead of a “great,” the battle system eventually begins to feel more annoying than fun.  Perhaps if you could switch your party on the fly, allowing you to switch up the spells seen on screen every battle, it would become less of a chore?  As of now, however, you can only switch your party at Saving Cats [which also replenish all of your HP]. 

The battles don’t become any less rewarding as you continue, but they feel more tedious than entertaining as you try to nail the timing of each spell and eventually settle on 3 characters that complement each other and have the easiest spells to time.  For me it was Maritte, Pertisia, and Ima.  I just eventually grew to like the short buildup, somewhat easy timing, and the healing/status increasing spells each of ‘em had.  It becomes a feeling of ‘settling for battling to level up’ rather than actively wanting to charge into more battles.

Final Thoughts

FRIENDSHIP!

Ikenfell is a heartfelt, diverse, inclusive story about siblings and their bonds through anything, discovery of the self and the strength of a person’s convictions, and that no matter where you go you’ll always have a friend.  I found myself feeling some of the emotions the characters felt, getting invested in the story, and wanting to see more.

The only roadblock I found in wanting to experiencing the story was the battle system.

The battle system will be fresh and new in the beginning, but after a while, and after missing so many attack/defense opportunities, you realize that you want to avoid battling as much as you can for the most part.  It becomes a tedious and repetitive chore that you have to do to give your party a fighting chance against the next boss, and you need to pay attention to it.  If you blink, you’ll miss your chance, or take WAY more damage than you need to. 

It’s a fun game, with many secrets to find, many spells to learn, and many characters to meet.  As long as you don’t let the battle system get you down, you’ll get to explore the whole of Ikenfell and the grounds around the magical school. 

Pros:

  • Overworld has a lot of secrets to find
  • Compelling, inclusive, well written characters
  • Each character feels different
  • CATS!

Cons:

  • Battle System feels more like a chore after a while
  • Timing-based battle system is very tedious

Verdict

Ikenfell’s story is good but the battle system will make the game feel bogged down rather than elevated.

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