Every month there is a large amount of video games released into the marketplace. These games are coming from giant AAA companies and single person indie developers. With this influx, it’s safe to say that, the market is, indeed, saturated.

Now, that isn’t a bad thing, it just means that for a game to really stand out, the developers need to somehow tap into something that really sets their game apart. Whether it be a drastic mechanic that no one has seen before or a story that stays with fans even after the game ends. Bookbound Brigade had that feeling for me. From developer Digital Tales and publisher Intragames, comes a metroidvania style game. Be mindful going forward, there are more spoilers here than you will find in Sparknotes.

Not Your Kids Fairy Tales

Bookbound Brigade begins after a brief introduction to the Literary World and the tome titled, the Book of Books (or B.O.B. for short). All is well as long as this book remains safe within their walls. And of course, that doesn’t happen. Someone sneaks in and steals it, breaking its binding (who does that!) and separating all of the pages. This is where the player comes in. Taking control of a group of literary characters, it is the player’s responsibility to make their way through different worlds to collect the pages and bring an end to this madness.

Players begin their game with five literary heroes: King Arthur, Dorothy Gale, Count Dracula, Robin Hood, and Sun Wukong. As you make your way through the world you meet fellow literary heroes who either join your group or make their way back to the library. Those who do not join your party will offer quests that you can complete by finding lost items within the world. The first hero you come across is Joan of Arc. It is here that I learned that the humor in Bookbound Brigade was on point. The characters take jabs at each other, most notably Joan’s fear of fire.

As you progress further into the game, you will come across worlds and characters that bring back memories of the classics we all love. The team at Digital Tales also did a terrific job building the playable characters abilities to not only work within the world but to also make sense within their own backstories. This is where the game sets itself apart from the rest of the metroidvania genre, within the story and world itself.

bookbound brigade screenshot

Hard Hitting Mechanics That Sometimes Hit Too Hard

When it comes to play metroidvoid genre games, I always look to see what kinds of mechanics they chose to include. Due to the nature of play style with Bookbound Brigade, the player is left with a multitude of mechanics they need to learn and master. The mechanics themselves play heavily into not only the combat, but into navigating through the world as well. Each of the playable characters have their own mechanics that will help the overall party.

The catch here, is that unlike games where you can swap through characters, everyone is playable at the same time. The group moves in a two row stacked formation unless swapped into one of the others. This makes everything from jumping, to fighting, to swinging that much harder. Early on in the game, you add Queen Victoria to your ranks and she brings the ability to swap formations to a totem pole style. This helps a lot when making your way through fire stacks or really tight spaces.

Now, I really enjoyed these mechanics but they were definitely tricky and really hard to master. I felt at times that the game needed you to be perfect in order to complete a puzzle or even the slightest miss step was the different between surviving and losing. This led to some pretty frustrating game play, however once I was able to pass a point, I did love the sense of accomplishment. However, I feel like a bit of quality control could be done to clean up the mechanics and make it less frustrating to play. It made me feel like the game was hard just for the sake of being hard.

screenshot of bookbound brigade

Chibi Art Style to Tie Everything Together

When the announcement for this game was released, it was the art style choices that really caught my eye. Each of the worlds are themed after different worlds found in literature. The idea of this allows multiple expansions of downloadable content for future ideas along with extending the story. The colorful backgrounds and foregrounds also help to bring the 2D world to life while you play. The way the world moves around you as you are exploring makes it feel even more alive.

I was also in love with not only the literary hero character designs, but with the design of the enemies and major villains as well. Each of the bigger enemies have their own style of fighting that is both fun and engaging and appealing in design. The art team gets extra kudos from me. Now if we can get some merchandise, maybe some key chains or even plushies, that would be great. Also, if you are a fan of coloring, there are digital downloads for each of the playable characters on their site!

Overall

I really enjoyed Bookbound Brigade however I have to point out that if you are not a fan of metroidvania style games, this might not be your jam. However, I do highly recommend picking up this game to experience the world they have built. I also feel like Bookbound Brigade has the ability to expand further, grow into more worlds and introduce more characters and brigade members and mechanics. The possibilities look endless and I want to see where it will go.

Bookbound Brigade is available now on PC through Steam, PS4 and the Nintendo Switch.

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Julia Roth
Catch Me