We see a lot of remasters and remakes these days. Often times, you can spot these a mile off; the shiny visuals can’t hide that old ‘feel’ of playing these games. Sometimes, however, we find a modern game that feels like it was originally released a decade ago. Aritana and the Twin Masks falls solidly into this category, making for an experience that – while not terrible – doesn’t exactly stand up to modern competition.
From the off, things feel decidedly budget. The way the cut scenes are framed and presented, as well as a lack of any impactful audio (with zero voice work) screams 2004 at you. Character models and animation wouldn’t look out of place on the OG Xbox, with load times to match. I could live with this, of course. I’m a huge retro fan, and still regularly go back to to my old collection of consoles, so lower quality visuals and audio are nothing I’m not used to. But…As soon as we are granted control, the biggest issue presents itself.
The frame rate is atrocious. I’m hardly a Digital Foundry level frame counter; but the jerky, uneven movement of the camera while doing any action at all genuinely made me feel unwell. The only time I’ve ever felt that bad was when using VR for the first time, before I’d gotten used to it . Not what I’d expect from a 3rd person action game. Things weren’t helped by the default camera speed – it moves as though there’s a 10 ton weight dragging along behind it. Upping the speed helped, but this had another side effect; aiming your bow is governed by the same setting. At a comfortable camera speed, aiming accurately – even with the help of the slight auto aim – became a hair-pulling nightmare.
Even once I managed to find a bearable medium between the two, combat and traversal were still problematic. Much like the aesthetics, the games controls are ripped straight from 2002 as well. Aritana feels disconnected from the game world, her floaty jump hit and miss as to whether you’ll land on the platform you’re aiming for, or slip off the edge. Trying to climb up jumping from platform to platform can be difficult to judge (the camera is far too close to her, to add to things).
Combat is needlessly difficult too; not only will you be fighting the aforementioned issues, but enemies are overly quick and powerful. There are only a couple of varieties – all revolve around hitting some glowing weak points to break their armour, before exposing their fragile core. But the need to manoeuvre around them, while still keeping a good aim and hitting fairly small targets meant I was soon just ignoring them for the most part. Additionally, some will fire projectiles at you too that you’ll need to shoot down. Mix these elements with random explosive crystals dotted about and, as you can imagine, things can get a bit frustrating.
Things do improve, however, in other aspects of exploration. While the previously mentioned issues pervade throughout, when you’re given a bit more space it can be quite fun to explore. Your bow can be used to shoot glowing green orbs that teleport you across spaces. Successfully linking a few of these together, as well as using them to glide across bodies of water before leaping up to the ledge, is quite satisfying. The areas are all fairly large, with it always pretty clear where you need to be heading. Indeed, often times, you can see you’re target way up above you; figuring out how to get there can be a challenge (in a good way).
You can also find and craft recipes along the way. While there’s a few to discover. The only one you’ll really need is the starting out one, which heals one chunk of your life bar. I like the idea here, though. In theory, this grants you extra help in fights, or making exploring easier. In order to craft these, you’ll need to collect various fruits and items dotted around the areas. There’s more than ample supply to keep you topped up, but; you’ll need to be pixel perfect for the collection to register. More than once I found myself running circles around an item, missing it by millimetres… and it gets even more annoying when you need to first shoot the fruit out of a tree. Yet again, another decent idea hamstrung by the dodgy execution.
The main crux of your adventure is to cleanse the 4 giant protectors of the YpY tree; a Sacred Tree that is being threatened by an evil force intent on taking it’s power for their own use. A magical Staff has been stolen, and once paired with the Twin Masks, will make the perpetrator unstoppable.
The aforementioned protectors have become cursed, and you must scale the environment in order to reach them and clear the curse. In my minds eye, I was picturing something akin to Shadow of the Colossus – climbing and fighting some enormous beasts to save the day. As you may be able to guess, that’s not quite the case. Solving the environmental puzzles and reaching the top is the main challenge. Once up there, it’s a simple case of reaching a small tree with 5 glowing orbs that need shooting off and… that’s it. While there are some of the same foes you fight along the way up there too, there’s no need to engage them here. Simply head for the tree, and once cleared, you’ll be safely popped back down to earth again to move on to the next.
Throughout its 5 hour run time, Aritana just throws hurdle after hurdle between you and any enjoyment you may get out of it. Somewhere in there is a fun, retro-style action platformer, and at points it comes through. But, the technical issues, and outdated controls and aesthetics are just too prevalent to look past.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.