After playing my fair share of quick gamerscore boosting games I’ve become rather familiar with the publisher Ratalaika Games. Their games fall into two categories: the quick, easy, and oftentimes throwaway games that gamerscore chasers gobble up, and then the less common regular-ish indie games, some of which are actually rather good (Anodyne 2 for example). One of the recent games they published, The Prince of Landis, developed by Lorestrome, is a top-down adventure game with a hard-hitting character-driven story and a unique high res pixel art style. It attempts to straddle the line between a gamerscore booster and a regular indie game. Some of what it does deserves praise, but it falls short in other areas.
The game takes place in a small Oregon town called Landis, during the winter. It is set in the arguably overused 1980s setting and definitely takes inspiration from the TV show Stranger Things. Despite its overuse I always appreciate seeing the 1980s setting – I was born in that decade so there might be some nostalgia involved. You play as Evan, a teenager, who is small in stature, lacks self-confidence, and faces constant bullying both at school and at home. He seems to lead a rather bleak life. As soon as you start the game you are presented with an explanation warning players of the harsh, un-PC language used in the game, and they give you the option to turn it off. I will admit that the unchanged dialogue has an authentic feel, making use of a lot of homophobic slurs and the word “retard”, there are a few other more creative insults as well which I appreciated much more. Giving the player the choice to turn off the derogatory language is a great option since it definitely gets offensive; however, I think the original dialogue truly drives home the fact that Evan’s life is horrible.
A few minutes into the game you are prompted to explore the backyard area behind your house. A strange spacecraft has landed and there is a mysterious alien creature skulking around outside the craft. The alien has a devilish look to him. Evan is terrified, but this discovery is just the thing to make his life more interesting and get his mind off of his daily misery. The alien spares Evan’s life and enlists him to help him with various tasks, such as gathering supplies and “sustenance”.
The game environment is rather small and most of the gameplay consists of fetching things for the alien and other characters. The game doesn’t give you much in the way of guidance besides a basic reminder of your current task/objective in the pause screen. There are a lot of things you can interact with in and around Landis, and it can be difficult finding the specific items you need because of the detailed art style and the zoomed-out perspective. Overall the gameplay is somewhat shallow and I couldn’t help but wish there was a little more to it.
Getting around town is both a blessing and a curse. The developers gave Evan the ability to run lightning-fast by pressing the X button; however you can only move in four directions (up/down, left/right) so the movement feels very clunky.
The art style of The Prince of Landis is the element of the game that stands out the most. At first glance, it looks like it’s a detailed hand-drawn style, but at closer inspection, you’ll notice that the assets have a slight pixelated look to them. Overall though it is very appealing. The only downside as I mentioned before is that it can be hard to discern what you need to interact with because the game features a zoomed-out perspective and there are a lot of details.
The game doesn’t use a lot of music, although one exception is during the interactions with the alien, which feature synthesizer tracks that sound as if they would fit right into Stranger Things. The sound effects are also somewhat sparse. There is a bit of ambient noise, like the sound of a kid cleaning a window. The game also uses a somewhat annoying sound effect for the dialogue boxes, which is unfortunate since there is quite a bit of dialogue.
Completing the game will take you a couple of hours if you play without using a guide, and you will get most of the achievements while playing. There were still a few instances where after running all over the town I had to resort to a guide to figure out what exactly I needed to do. Some of the objectives were definitely obtuse. Quite a few of the achievements require you to interact with specific items in the environment, but there are also a lot that unlock naturally as part of the story. If you follow a guide you can complete the game and unlock all achievements in 30 minutes to an hour, but to do it that quickly you’ll have to skip all the dialogue. The story is somewhat interesting and you’d be doing yourself a disservice by skipping through it like that. I think it touches on a lot of subjects that don’t often appear in video games, so I think the developers should be given some credit for that.
The Prince of Landis has some redeeming qualities, most notably the art style and the story/setting, and adventure game fans might find something they like here, but ultimately it falls short, mostly due to the shallow gameplay. The short length of the game is beneficial to the overall experience (as well as for all the achievement hunters playing the game), but I would recommend waiting for a sale to pick it up.Become a Patron!
This game was reviewed based on Xbox One review code, using an Xbox One console. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.