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Game Info:

Effie
Developed By: Inverge Studios
Published By: Inverge Studios
Release Date: January 28, 2020 (Windows); June 4, 2019 (PS4)
Available On: PS4, Windows
Genre: Action Adventure
Number of Players: 1
ESRB Rating: T for Violence
MSRP: $19.99
(Humble Store Link)

Thank you Inverge Studios for sending us this game to review!

Occasionally, a game comes across my path that I just have to check out; when I saw the art and gameplay on offer here, I was like 'third-person 3D action adventure with fighting and platforming? And you get to surf on your shield? Sold.' Thus began my time with Effie, a game that is perhaps a bit too short, but otherwise quite enjoyable.

At the start of the adventure, you find an older man talking to what I presume is his daughter/granddaughter (it never actually states their relationship), named Effie. She is clearly young, and has the cutest voice. He proceeds to tell her the story of a man named Galand, a young man who is too lazy to help out a woman in need. It turns out that this woman is a witch, and she curses him to become an old man without much time left before he 'ages out'. He then seeks the help of the Elder Protectors, who appear to be some form of guardian spirits of the land. They promise to help him, if he first rids the land of the evil plaguing it, which includes gems of evil, and potentially the witch herself. They grant him a magic shield, which becomes both his primary weapon, and means of defending himself.

The game is relatively short, but looks quite nice and has a great atmosphere. You start in the temple where the Elder Protectors choose to help you out; after this, you are introduced to the very nice outer world, where you can slide around at very high speeds on your quite awesome shield. There are also boost spots all over the world map, which gives traveling around the overworld an almost F-Zero feel, as those boosters really boost.

Effie
Highlights:

Strong Points: Enjoyable, action-platformer gameplay; Effie's voice is adorable (all of the voice acting is great); interesting story; nice graphics and animations
Weak Points: A bit short with little replay value; once you enter an area, you can't leave; overall depth to the game is a bit simple; a few bugs
Moral Warnings: Action violence (but no blood or gore) where you beat up enemies with your shield; main antagonist is a witch, and she uses powerful magic, and even has power over age; other magical items and symbols include magical runes, and a dragon pillar is on top of what appears to be a pentagram; mention of gods and demons; most enemies are some form of demon or spirits, like ghouls, ghosts, liches and imps; enemy imps are found on a conveyor belt headed to a saw blade in one section; reference to 'grape juice' that seems to affect imps similarly to alcohol, as they are sometimes found dead with a bottle in their hand; elder protectors are like guardian spirits; on a positive note, Christian-style crosses are on some pillars, and there are some positive morals in the ending

Scattered throughout the world are enemies, runestones to pick up, and various secrets and treasures. Interestingly, all treasure chests either include a relic, which is Effie's form of secrets to discover, or experience. That's one major complaint I have with this game - it's really, really, simple on mechanics and complexity. When you kill enemies, you get experience. When you pick up runestones, you get experience. When you open treasure chests... I think you get the idea. That's pretty much the only reward you get, outside of some keys you need to complete whatever area you are in. Thankfully, when you reach a new area, at least you learn a new skill with your magic shield.

The skills you start with (once you get the shield) are block, light attack, and heavy attack. Bashing enemies with your shield looks funny at first, but you quickly get used to it. You can hold up your shield above your head, which is something the game teaches you to do, that is used exactly one time. You quickly get double jump, which is quite handy. As you play, you also learn a dash attack, as well as light and heavy attacks that target a larger area and do a ton of damage. Each skill definitely contributes to your power, and you do get a bit more powerful as you gain levels, mostly in the form of more health. Honestly, overall, combat isn't all that difficult; there are seven different kinds of creatures, and what you fight is just some combination of them acting as a threat. While I found double jump and dash pretty indispensable, the other attacks just make the game easier; they are not really required to beat the game. By not using them it may add a nice challenge for those who find it too easy.

While the combat isn't too difficult, I found the platforming enjoyable, though also not very difficult, either. I speak as someone who has beaten most 3D Mario games, so I have a lot of experience with platformers like this, so take that into consideration when thinking about how difficult it may or may not be. Nevertheless, if you have decent 3D platforming skills, you'll do fine. Many relics are found through various acrobatics that really benefits from good platforming skills.

One thing I really wish the game did differently was to allow you to backtrack to older areas. Once you enter an area, the previous one is sealed off for good. Same with completing it. This means that you better hunt for secrets at all times if you are going for the achievements. You do get to return to the overworld at least, which is great because surfing on your shield is so much fun, and you can only surf there.

As I already mentioned, the voice acting is very well done. While playing, the voice of the dad/grandpa/Galand? is your narrator, and is extremely well done. When you mess up and he says 'That's not what happened! What really happened was...' I couldn't help but laugh. The music is also fantastic, and is of very, very high quality. Graphically, the game is wholly 3D rendered, with an art style that is a bit lower in polygon count, while still looking pretty nice. It reminds me a bit of 'The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild', or 'My Time at Portia'. The red grass is also an interesting stylistic choice. Overall, the graphics and art style looks great.

Morally, it's a mix. It has animated violence, which is quite common in all games. While you do bash creatures with a blunt object (shield), it's not bloody or gory at all. Interestingly, you never actually fight a human directly - fighting the witch is through an indirect method, like activating a switch after beating up some normal enemies. The rest are some form of magical or perhaps demonic creature. At first glance, this title looks like it should be E10+, as the ESRB doesn't judge magic, and that's not wholly wrong. However, there are a few things that probably push it over the edge into Teen territory.

Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 88%
Gameplay - 16/20
Graphics - 9/10
Sound - 10/10
Stability - 4/5
Controls - 5/5

Morality Score - 94%
Violence - 7/10
Language - 10/10
Sexual Content - 10/10
Occult/Supernatural - 4/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10
Bonus points: +6 for showing the consequences of evil, and for delivering a good moral lesson

The enemy types tend to be dark, with things like ghosts, demons, and so on being the main types. Each takes a certain number of hits to go down. What I found most surprising was the imp creatures; they are tiny demons that are sometimes featured in the level designs. One area has imps passed out from a glass bottle they are holding, despite the in-game universe calling vineyards the source for 'grape juice'. Another area has imps on a conveyor belt knocked out riding towards spinning saw blades. While not gory, a more perceptive child might pick up on what's happening.

Magic plays a major part in the plot, and the evil witch used it against you to make you appear older. Her power is quite impressive, as she can even grow to be massively larger than you if she wants to. The lore (found via relics) points out that powerful wizards of the past would try to find immortality through their magic. In one puzzle, there is a dragon statue with the points of what appears to be a pentagram underneath it. There are also references to older tribal cultures.

Despite these moral issues, there are also some positives. The Christian ideas of using evil circumstances for good is present, and to see that humbling of a character was really nice. There is also a strong thread of forgiveness and redemption, which I really appreciated. Also, laziness is portrayed as a sin, and has major consequences in the story.

On the technical front, the game plays great on almost anything - Unreal Engine 4 scales up and down quite well. It looks great on my 4k screen on my powerful gaming PC (3900X, 2080Ti) and also plays well in dungeons on my tiny GPD Win 2 (Intel Core m7Y30, 720p screen). The GPD Win 2 struggles quite a bit in the overworld, especially with a lot of enemies on the screen, but it's still playable even if the frame rate dips dramatically. I did see one area that dropped frames on my desktop, and I alerted the developers and they are working on it. My desktop PC also oddly launches SteamVR, which is strange since the game doesn't support VR. I also noticed some grass poking through objects occasionally. Nothing really worth worrying about.

Effie is honestly really simple, short, and lots of fun. I really like how it allows you to explore pretty much anything - if you see a ledge, you can probably stand on it, which grants you the freedom to explore all kinds of places, perhaps even areas you aren't supposed to - but they give you the freedom to do that. The moral lesson is also great, and honestly, short but sweet is right up my alley these days. It took me nine hours to beat everything and get all achievements, though if I would have referred to a walkthrough sooner I probably would have gotten it done in 6-8 hours. I'm sure the average player could beat it even more quickly (I scour every nook and cranny when I play games like this). There are some moral issues to consider, so always weigh those, but for me, I find the good outweighs that bad, and it gets my solid recommendation.

About the Author

Jason Gress

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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