Abyss Oddity, is the sort of terrible pun I’d be using to open this review I were a journalist lacking in any taste or decency, but I’m not so I won’t. Yet I were to summarise my feelings toward Abyss Odyssey in one word it certainly would be odd. Having completed multiple solo runs I still can’t quite decide what is I enjoy so much about Abyss Odyssey. Here’s my problem, alone certain elements of Abyss are rather poor and inexcusably so. Collectively however Abyss has an absurd charm that kept me returning despite the games many flaws.

Abyss Odyssey is a 2D side scrolling hack ‘n’ slash brawler with some RPG/metroidvania elements thrown into the mix. It’s a game of many genres and not always better off for it. Abyss is the latest offering from Chilean developer’s ACE team responsible for rather insane first person beat em’ up Zeno Clash. Zeno Clash certainly brought this independent Chilean development team too many people’s attention and has grown a strong fan base. Yet Abyss Odyssey just might not be the game we’d expect to come from the makers of Zeno Clash.

Abyss Odyssey is set in a world where a powerful Warlock who suffers from some rather vivid dreams which have started to effect reality and you take control of certain characters within his dream and must descend into the abyss, which I suppose could technically be the Warlocks own psyche, to defeat the Warlock and return normality to the world. No doubt if you read multiple reviews of the game you’ll see the tale told differently. In attempt to avoid spoilers it’s rather hard to nail the narrative down.

ACE Team often pride themselves on ensuring Chilean culture and folk lore are evident in their games and Abyss Odyssey is by no means an exception. The game has a very distinct personality that I’m struggling to pull parallels too. There is an excellent variety in enemy types. Within the first few minutes of the game I’d encountered Skeleton warriors, birdmen, deer/centaur hybrids, treefolk, witches, golden bulls and an undead monk. The characters in the game friend or foe are defiantly one of its stronger elements. Your allies are comprised Chilean soldiers with whom you can converse with and buy and sell weapons and items, much of the story in Abyss is told through your interactions with these soldiers and they’ll even aid you during your decent into the Abyss. When your first character bites the dust you are then given control of a soldier to either continue you’re decent or seek out a shrine which can be used to resurrect your main character. There are some stranger allies such as a guitar wielding skeleton/devil who at the cost of 100 gold will bash out a few notes and either re-fil your health or mana. Again it’s a nice too of character and elements such as this appear often throughout the game adding a nice spice of personality to world.

The world itself, despite being the inner workings of a crazed Warlock is certainly an enjoyable place to be. The art-style is quite simply fantastic and even on the aged hardware of the Xbox 360 certainly didn’t fail to impress. Again there’s a lot of variety to be found in world and despite the game being procedurally generated it defiantly didn’t feel like it as the vast amount of locations meant I rarely saw the same backdrop more than three times in a row. At times I’d often be simply taken aback by the stark contrast in art style. The stellar record ACE Games have established for creating interesting and beautiful worlds continues into Abyss Odyssey, which is rather fortunate because if anything Abyss is going to keep you playing it’s going to be the world rather than the gameplay.

Abyss Odysseys is a side scrolling brawler with a lot of depth and variety in its combat. There are many special moves which are all customisable and your can swap out your weapons for any you either find or purchase during your decent into the Abyss and if that wasn’t enough you can even purchase different character skins and play as one of the enemy types you encounter in the game, which not only gives you a different play style but also acts as an extra life. Abyss certainly does a lot with the combat mechanics of side scrolling brawler, it’s just unfortunate that it doesn’t do any of them well. I found the combat to be rather slow and clunky, for instance you can’t change the direction your attack mid-animation which was extremely frustrating as most of the enemies you encounter are extremely agile and will jump around the screen making it hard at times to land attacks, and it was also a problem when it came to the platforming sections. I felt the combat to be quite unfair and if it weren’t for the many opportunities the game offers you continue I properly would have given up long before I’d ever reached the problem. The replay ability of games like Abyss often depends upon the enjoyment of the game mechanics and Abyss has slightly missed the mark in this respect. There are also many different items that can aid you in combat and even give you the chance to create a checkpoint, yet Abyss makes no attempt to explain these items and how they work. This is another example of an area which with some more work and consideration behind it really could have paid off.

Abyss Odyssey also has a co-op mode and versus mode neither of which I had the chance to play yet I can’t see the experience being improved at all with another player jumping awkwardly about the screen. There’s also an interesting community mechanic in play where the more times the Warlock is defeated the more content will be unlocked in the game, so that could be interesting overtime

In conclusion Abyss odyssey is an oddly addictive game, I found myself returning to it no matter how many times I failed to make it all the way to the bottom of the Abyss due to frustratingly unfair combat because I wanted to explore and enjoy the world as much as possible. Abyss certainly won’t appease the side scrolling brawler hardcore and its rather unfair mechanics may even be off putting for new comers. Abyss may not have the replayabilty ACE Team had expected but I strongly recommend that everyone no matter what platform you play it on, play it through at least once, if only to experience the absurd beauty of its world.