Developed by Joakim “Konjak” Sandberg Published by Bifrost Entertainment Reviewed on PlayStation 4 (also available on Vita and PC)
Iconoclasts is proof that a one-man pixel art army can consistently produce great work. Just as with his previous release, Noitu Love Devolution, Konjak has made an effort to breathe life into the pixel art movement. Iconoclasts is a story driven side-scroller, with definite influences from Gameboy Advance era Metroid and Castlevania titles. As you play, you’ll use your intellect and Robin’s guns in equal measures to solve puzzles and defeat bosses, or in some cases use guns to solve puzzles and intellect to outsmart bosses.
Every side-scroller game lives or dies by movement control, and this is where Iconoclasts thrives. Rather than going for complexity, Iconoclasts aims for simple and tight controls that leave plenty of room for skill to improve. Weapons and tools find dual function in puzzles and fights, which both feel satisfying to resolve.
Without a doubt, Konjak’s pixel work in Iconoclasts is outstanding. Rivaling Cave Story, Metroid Fusion, and other pixel art side-scrollers that inspired it, Iconoclasts uses its style to awesome effect. Pixel art tapestries decorate churches and give credence to the civilization you find yourself exploring. Ever increasing complexity in surroundings doesn’t diminish the visuals, even down to individual touches for people’s living quarters or fish flitting between coral. Aside from little touches, the equally impressive details often reside in boss fights that you usually never have the chance to admire.
The story for Iconoclasts is a bit of a twisted knot, weaving a tale throughout the world. This includes a religion keeping civilians cowed and restrained to an incited race war between two regions. Threat of smiting and punishment keep the people distracted for the church to do anything unrestrained. In this vein, conspiracy and propaganda are both used in equal measure to manipulate the world. Tangled in the web of issues is the protagonist Robin, whose decision to be a helpful mechanic is unappreciated by the church. Your journeys result in aiding people of both sides of the conflict, or those entirely indifferent to the conflict altogether.
Iconoclasts at all times also strives to mimic the sound chips of handheld side-scrollers. Familiar crushed soundwaves and limited tone range are played as a strength and is not a weakness. The short attack sounds of bullets, bombs, and rockets hearken back to Metal Slug era sound effects, while boss weapons have the heavy thwap of Sega Genesis sound chips.
Overall, Iconoclasts is a sterling treasure waiting to be discovered. It’s filled with darling characters, intriguing plot, dastardly villains, and great controls. No surprise given its pedigree that includes games like Noitu Love 2, Iconoclasts is a fantastic and technical adventure.