I love myself a 2D action-adventure game, especially one that walks that good old metroidvania line. When Chasm crossed my path, I hadn’t even heard of it and with that in mind, had no predetermined expectations. Having spent a number hours with the game, I only wish that I could go back in time and kick my own ass for not knowing about this little gem any sooner. It’s far from perfect, but it does indeed achieve everything that it sets out to accomplish, and then some. Releasing in a particularly busy week, I only hope that Chasm doesn’t pass by unnoticed.
The story is quite simplistic and takes a very hands-off approach. Players take on the role of a new recruit within the Guildean Kingdom. Someone (you name him yourself) that’s ready to prove that he has what it takes to be a true knight. Your first and main assignment sends you to a nearby mining town, in which the townsfolk have disappeared; seemingly taken by creatures from within the mine’s depths. Undeterred and willing to see your task through, you descend into said depths with little more than a basic sword and some stats that need bulking up.
Although an entirely different game, I found some similarities to Hollow Knight. For instance, you dive down into the mine and you’re presented with a multi-tiered map that remains largely gated until you’ve sought out special abilities. Each area is distinctly themed, ensuring that visual repetition is kept at bay. Furthermore, the game’s seed system means that each area is procedurally generated, meaning that you’re unlikely to find the same layout twice. It also means that you can set your own seed and share it with a friend to walk the exact same world.
Nevertheless, it’s a decent system and one that’s not utilized nearly enough these days, in my humble opinion. As alluded to above, you start the game with laughable stats. To further enhance these stats, you’ll need to find or buy gear, and level up. It’s a straightforward progression system to say the least; kill enemies for XP, equip better gear, rinse and repeat. That’s not a negativity by any means. I think for game’s like this, simplicity and accessibility is key, leaving players to worry about nothing else but the adventure at hand. Here, it’s done well.
To begin with, the town is devoid of life. The townsfolk have been taken to the depths of the mine and have been locked up in varying locations. Once you start finding and rescuing them, they’ll return to town and will serve themselves as vendors. Using the gold and treasures that you find from within the mine, you can purchase wares off them to aid you on your quest. This tends to encompass food, weaponry, armor and so forth. You can even cash-in unwanted goods to bolster your overall currency. Once again, and to Chasm’s credit, this is all clear-cut and fluid.
The aim of the game is work through the mine, killing anything that stands in your way. There’s a few puzzle segments thrown in for good measure, most of which encourage you to explore and need to be fulfilled in order to access new areas. The same can be said about boss fights, in which once overcome, you’re typically granted access to a new ability that can be used to make further progress in another section of the game. Despite the odd barrier, you’re afforded the freedom to explore the game as you see fit and at your own leisure, should the game allow it.
Sometimes its necessary to explore as much as you can, being that you’re never really told where to go or what you need to do. For instance, in one section of the game in my seed, there was a room cloaked in darkness. I didn’t think much of it at first, but a few hours later I stumbled across a lantern tool that would light up darkened rooms. I took this back to the aforementioned section and found a hidden switch that enabled me to dive deeper into the map. This led me to another wide open area, with heaps of new things to seek out and achieve.
That’s the crux of Chasm in a nutshell. You’ll explore, you’ll fight, and as such, you’ll be rewarded with something or other for your troubles. Whether that’s a shiny new broadsword or the means to further the story, there’s usually always a payoff for your efforts. I quite enjoyed the puzzle elements of the game. They’re very subtle. I stumbled across a giant mechanism in my playthrough that required a specific combination. I searched high and low for the answer, but couldn’t for the life of me work out what to do to find the correct pattern. Until it hit me…
The answer to this combination was actually painted on a wall in another section of the game, a wall I had walked past several times prior. It’s a neat addition and a concept that Chasm tends to lean on throughout, providing no shortage of “ah-ha” moments from start to end. Generally speaking, everything you need is deviously hidden in plain sight. Rule of thumb, pay close attention to your surroundings. In regards to the game’s combat and its wide pool of enemies, I can only praise Chasm. Though, I do suspect some will take issue with its lack of depth here.
Combat takes little more than some quick movement and some button mashing. There’s barely anything to it outside of that. For me, for a game such as this, that’s fine. I like ’em simple in structure. There’s a wide variation of enemies to tackle, all of which are tracked in your bestiary. Many of them house their own unique attack and movement patterns, meaning that you’ll need to work out each foe’s capabilities before you get too carefree. That said, there’s a handful of enemies that feel unfair by design, simply due to the way that they move and attack.
Several times did I take damage with no feasible way of avoiding it. Which leads to my first problem with the game. The controls are a bit too floaty and are slightly unresponsive, ever so slightly. Whilst absolutely forgivable overall, I cant say that I was too happy to constantly miss jumps or incoming attacks due to a minor delay in feedback. The game’s second issue is a few visual blemishes. There appears to be some ugly effects when traversing dark areas with the lantern. The darkness doesn’t spread the entire screen, but rather cuts off just before it.
The same ugly effects are present when you’re in a dark room without the lantern. Instead of it being dark, there’s some texture issues that mar the screen whenever your character moves. Hopefully a patch can fix this up in no time at all. Moving back to the game’s enemies, I want to commend Chasm for its decent boss variation. The game’s bosses tend to be themed around the area that you’re in, and sport some serious damage output and hard-to-dodge attacks that will keep you on your toes, and yes, I played on the game’s easiest difficulty. It can be tough.
Backtracking in Chasm is alleviated via the use of a portal system. Each of the game’s distinct areas offer a cave system that will lead to a portal hub. Here, you can use this portal to get quick access to far out areas, or indeed, use the cave system to quickly travel to different sections of your immediate area. It’s a fine design choice, but I would thoroughly recommend traveling by foot when you can help it. I say this because there’s some hidden sections, chests and NPCs that you wont come across unless you put in the extra time.
I wont spoil what these are, but I will say that oftentimes, it’s just about worth the time put in. Most of these hidden elements can only be reached with your growing list of abilities; wall climbing, sliding and so forth. Mercifully, you’re able to put multiple markers on the map to keep track of areas of interest. When all is said and done, Chasm is a solid game that will provide several hours worth of play time, and several hours more on top of that if you’re brave enough (and skilled enough) to attempt the much harder difficulties.
In regards to its visual design overall, despite the technical issues outlined above, Chasm is a gorgeous looking game. There’s a lot of detail to soak up here, which is only heightened by its well designed and varied locations. The soundtrack and audio cues do become somewhat stale before too long, but in the face of everything that the game gets right, this is a minor compromise. Safe to say that if, like me, you have a soft spot for the 2D action-adventures, you’ll absolutely love Chasm for what it is. Perfect, no, but a shining example of its concept.
Chasm is a shining example of the concept that it adopts, and although it doesn’t really do anything out of the ordinary as far as its core design is concerned, it does indeed offer an exciting adventure that’s neatly paced and brilliantly structured. There’s a few technical issues to be mindful of, such as a some visual blemishes and its slightly floaty controls, but for the most part, Chasm represents its genre remarkably well.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.