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Video Game / Anodyne

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"Hello? ... Young? HEY! Listen, you are about to wake up…"
Unidentified Voice

Anodyne is a 2D, Top Down Action-Adventure indie game developed by Marina Kittaka and Sean Hogan during their last years in college.

Players take the role of a white haired human named Young who awakens in a strange world simply called The Land. Young is approached by a cloaked man named Sage, the village elder and is told he needs to save the Legendary Briar from the Evil Darkness. But all is not what it seems and you don't know who you can really trust..

Anodyne takes clear inspiration from The Legend of Zelda series. Players will explore a huge, nonlinear world filled with very strange locations and people. There are various Plot Coupons you need to obtain by exploring the world and completing dungeons. You'll collect keys, complete puzzles and other Action-Adventure hallmarks.

What sets this game apart is the visuals, tone and atmosphere. The game's tone ranges from tense and frightening, to strange and surreal, to melancholic and sometimes very beautiful.

Anodyne can be purchased directly from the official website for $9, and it also available on Steam for $9.99. Interestingly, Kittaka and Hogan themselves have uploaded the game onto Pirate Bay, making it available for free, so one may essentially pick one's price.

The same duo, under the name Analgelsic Productions have gone on to create two more games, Even the Ocean, and a sequel, Anodyne 2: Return to Dust.

Compare to Link's Awakening and Yume Nikki, which the game creators have cited as inspiration.

The game provides examples of:

  • 100% Completion: Interestingly, 100% completion is considered to be getting all the main game cards, fairies, and broom upgrades; you're not actually required to fight the final boss to get the 100% achievements.
  • Acid-Trip Dimension: The Land. Some places are trippier than others.
  • All Just a Dream: Only you never wake up.
  • Amazing Technicolor Battlefield: Against the final boss.
  • Anachronism Stew: The Land's technology ranges from medieval to modern, depending on where you happen to be.
  • Ascended Glitch: The intended way to get the secret post-game 49th card is to exploit a glitch where you rapidly shuffle back and forth between two horizontally connected screens while holding UP. A sign after the 49 card gate even praises the player for "trying new things".
  • Big Bad: The Evil Darkness is the mysterious entity that Young must save the Legendary Briar from. The endgame heavily implies that the Darkness is Briar, actually Young's Evil Former Friend.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Played with. Mitra shows up dramatically in the late game just in time to help you hold down a switch.
  • Big Labyrinthine Building: Two of them, the Apartment and the Hotel.
  • Brick Joke: The gates "sense your cards and decide to open." The final gate in the main game is altered by the Sage to require 92 cards, far more than the game actually contains. Despite his efforts the gate "decides" to open anyway.
  • Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp": Most animal enemies are named after what they are (Dog, Lion...), however bats are called Annoyers. (But still called "bats" on some other cards).
  • Chosen One: Young, apparently.
  • Circus of Fear: The Circus, though players may be forgiven for initially mistaking the place for a generic cavern.
  • Cliché Storm: In-Universe, several characters describe what Sage tells Young as this. Most of them are statues.
  • Cruelty Is the Only Option: One of the dungeons requires you killing an innocent bystander to enter. Most players will accidentally do this by walking up to them and using the attack / action key to attempt to talk to them.
  • Deadpan Snarker: The tree-like statue that always accompanies (and ridicules) the Sage.
  • Deliberately Monochrome:
    • Young Town. The entire town looks like you're looking through a staticky television. It sounds like it too.
    • A few of the post-game hidden areas use the effect as well. Specifically the archives, as well as a section of BLANK.
  • Development Gag: The post-game ARCHIVES and Debug Room contains beta sprites and, well, the debug room. The last card you get in the Debug Room also makes a pun off of the very early title, Intrast.
  • Dungeon Crawling: Par for the course from a Zelda inspired Action-Adventure game.
  • Eldritch Location: The Nexus, Space, the Red Sea, and the postgame areas.
  • Enemy Roll Call: During the credits roll, after the Special Thanks section, the game lists its entire Cast of enemies and NPCs alongside their sprites.
  • Evil Former Friend: It's implied that Briar and Young were friends until something happened between them (hence the snowmen who rant about friendship), turning Briar into the Evil Darkness. They go back to being friends in the ending.
  • Exploiting the Fourth Wall: In an odd example where Young actually crosses the fourth wall, in the post-game location The Archive, Young can reach a house which is implied to be his own, particularly because his card can be found within. If the player exits the house properly, the game abruptly quits to title without saving — with Young effectively exiting the game.
    • This is particularly amusing because if the player decides to quit the game at any time, this is where Young 'wakes up', and the player in turn heads south to close the program. In that short vignette, you can see the chest, but without the Swap tool, you can't get there.
  • Faceless Eye: The Manager, the (literal?) boss of the Hotel. A giant floating eye that appears in various areas of the hotel and gains a spider-like body in the second phase of the fight against him.
  • Gainax Ending:
    • After receiving 36 cards, Sage tries to stop you from going to The Briar, saying you aren't ready. He even fights you, but you overpower him. Then you have to do two relatively easy levels, one in which there are snowmen that tell you how friendship is an illusion and die, and another that lights on fire suddenly. Then, Briar is revealed to be a person. It fights you, then it teaches you how to swim, then you go off to get a sandwich. CREDITS ROLL.
    • In addition, the secret "ending" for collecting all 49 cards and passing the 49 card gate. Instead of an ending, you're greeted with a 50 card gate (which can not be opened, even if you cheat in 50 cards), and a computer featuring a mostly unreadable email questioning something unknown and asking Young to wake up.
  • Goggles Do Nothing: Young, though it isn't clear if they're goggles or unusual looking glasses.
  • Guide Dang It!: Some of the secrets, like the white square, the blue square, and the green square, are ridiculously difficult to find on your own.
  • Hell Hotel: The Hotel, naturally. Collapsed floors, flooding, demonic maids, monsters and traps everywhere, and the less said about the Manager the better.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Near the end of the game, Young pulls one to save ... Wares, Mitra's bicycle.
  • Hurricane of Puns: The Slime card is a good example.
    Jello there, Young! So goo to flanly meet you! Why don't you set for a minute? I was just pudding on some tea!
  • Improbable Weapon User: Young is armed with a broom, which is even lampshaded by the Sage when you show him your prize.
  • Inn Between the Worlds: What the Hotel is supposed to be.
  • Interface Screw: The green gases of the Gasguys (the yellow exterminator-type enemies in the Hotel) reverse the player's controls for a few seconds. Especially annoying when you're near ledges.
    • If the player glitches or uses the swap tool to get out of map bounds, random graphical elements rapidly flash all over the place, overlaying the entire game (including the menus) until the player gets back in bounds. This is deliberately programmed in to spoof similar occurrences in 8-bit era games resulting from overflows, but it's completely harmless in Anodyne.
  • Living Shadow: The Shadow People in Young Town. Just run.
  • Mind Screw: Several locations, such as Young Town and Space, the dialogue you receive from the bosses, and the main character's name Young (pronounced like Jung), hint at a deeper underlying meaning.
  • Orcus on His Throne: Played with. According to the Sage, it's very important that Young obtain the Briar because the forces of The Darkness will be coming any second now. There is no evidence of this ever happening, and all of the various evils that you fight seem to have independent causes. There is, in fact, no evidence in the game that The Darkness even exists.
  • The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: The Cube King lampshades that he rules over nothing.
  • Punny Name / Stealth Pun: The orange fishman says on his card something to the effect of "Leave me alone! My second name is not Sachs!" the end credits cast roll reveals that he's named Goldman. Get it?
  • Reality Warper: The last broom power-up Young finds is named Swap, and is used only to swap colored tiles to complete a puzzle before the two final areas. However, after defeating the final boss, Young can use it to swap almost every graphic tile in the game, essentially warping the fabric of his own world, for example by putting terrain in place of water, void, walls and so on. This ability is used to find secrets in the normal and post-game areas.
  • Retraux: Most of the game is in 16-bit, except for the appropriately-named 8-Bit Dungeon.
  • Secret Level: Plenty.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Sinister Scythe: The weapon of choice of the Slashers.
  • Super Drowning Skills: Young slowly sinks in water and drowns if he's there for too long. Most of the time, riding on dust clouds is how he gets around it. The ending shows that this is an actual character trait and the Briar has to teach him how to swim.
  • Take That!: Combined with a Shout-Out. The Link expy is seen perpetually hacking a bush to provide money for his family. While it is a funny reference to the Zelda games, where Link usually found rupees by destroying vases and bushes, the references to "bush cutting" and poverty can be construed as a reference to the economy cuts made by the Bush administration.
  • Underground Monkey: The Slimes in the later dungeons look identical to ones found earlier but possess an annoyingly accurate projectile.
  • Video Game Caring Potential: You need 36 cards to complete the game, but there is a 37th card available if you track down a fishman after you've scared him and clean up his house as an apology.
  • Waiting Puzzle: One of the secrets requires you to stand still while a rabbit inches from one side of the screen to the other. It moves absurdly slowly, so you have to wait for about almost two whole hours.
  • Warp Zone: All the areas of the Land except the very first are linked together relatively mundanely, but the Nexus provides a much faster way to get around (and indicators to tell you whether you've finished looting a given area).
  • Wham Level: Young Town. It hints at some pretty dark secrets about Young. It's also one of the most overtly frightening areas in the game.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Cute?: Discussed by the fishman, who directly accuses Young of siding with the cats because they're cute and fuzzy.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Crickson calls you out for (of all things) scaring the other rabbits in the forest.
  • When All You Have Is a Hammer…: Young's weapon is an ordinary broom. There are various broom and dust related puzzles throughout the game.
  • The World Is Just Awesome: In-Universe, the NPC in the first section of the city waxes poetic about the cityscape and the lights, comparing the lights and the people to stars in the sky.
  • You Are Not Ready: The Sage. Repeatedly.