A quirky title by Still Games, Animal Gods puts you in the shoes of a priestess and hunter named Thistle. The story is abstract, to say the least, but she has essentially come to a strange land, where giant living Gods reside, in order to ‘release’ them from a curse that plagues them.

In a simple way, the concept kind of sounds like Shadow of the Colossus. You travel to a strange land and take on a selection of large ‘enemies’. In execution, it couldn’t be more different. It’s more like an old Zelda title mixed with a puzzle game. Timing puzzles are the order of the day and combat is minimalistic.

The game starts with vague suggestions of where to find these gods – north, south, etc – and then it’s pretty much up to you to explore the 2D top-down world in hopes of progressing. In the main areas there are no enemies or challenges, just the unusual sights and sounds of your surroundings. But when you find the location of one of the three gods, the meat of the gameplay begins.

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Essentially, each god is presented as a sort of boss battle/challenge. You don’t directly fight the gods, but you complete obstacle courses and challenges based around three abilities (a new ability for each boss). For example, for the Lion god you acquire the dash ability, which enables you to dash through deadly obstacles and over gaps. Once you have made your way through an initial few areas of challenges you then take part in a final one, resulting in the defeat/release of said god.

Other abilities include a sword and a bow. They’re pretty self-explanatory, but the challenges based around them involve dodging enemies, timing attacks, etc. It’s all very simplistic, but there is a good deal of creativity to the gameplay. I was particularly impressed with the Lion god stage, where you complete an obstacle course – hitting checkpoints after various areas, but as the battle goes on the checkpoints become fewer, and thus the challenge more difficult.

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I suppose the main problem with the gameplay here, though, is that not only is it quite simplistic, but also very short. The three abilities I have mentioned are the only ones you get to use, and you can only use them with the specific god they belong to (until the end when you gradually get your abilities back for a final challenge). It makes the offering seem lacklustre and shallow. They had something creative and fairly unique, but didn’t take full advantage of it.

Additionally, there are the odd annoyances with these mechanics. Given the 2D, top-down style, it can be a bit difficult to judge spacing. You die instantly upon touching an enemy or deadly barrier which makes it very frustrating when you clip one which you appeared to be a safe distance from. This happened on multiple occasions, usually when trying to readjust my character so I could make a more accurate dash past an obstacle – move up slightly and die because apparently I touched something or fell off a platform (and I quite clearly didn’t in a few instances, leading me to believe that the design of this mechanic could have been more accurate). Similarly during ‘platforming’ – aka dashing across pitch black falls to moving square floors – there are some overlapping issues. By that I mean that the platforms sometimes literally overlap each other, meaning if you are positioned on the edge of one, the other platform can drag you off to your doom. It’s annoying to say the least.

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The same can’t be said for the story and aesthetic, however, which is striking and atmospheric. Mysterious distant views, waterfalls, caverns and just the general quirky mystical aesthetic prove engrossing. The fact that the gods aren’t physical threats or interactable, but features in the level and, in one case, the actual level itself (the snake god sees you traversing along its body), just seems really interesting and unique to me. The music is subtle yet powerful, proving the perfect backing for the aesthetic, and diaries left around the world add a bit more intrigue.

However, you have to ask yourself whether that’s enough. Sitting at an hour and a half with little replayability (aside from a 9 lives mode which challenges you with completing the game in under 9 deaths), it’s a struggle to recommend. I did enjoy the story, and the gameplay shows some creativity (despite being a tad simplistic and annoying in some instances), but it has an air of lacking content and unfinished design, and at £6.99 I’m not sure it’s worth it.



Author

John Little
John Little

I started gaming with the release of the PS1 - Crash Bandicoot and Ridge Racer Revolution being the first 'real' games I ever set eyes on - and have been enthralled with the medium ever since. I particularly love strategy and horror games, the sort offered by titles such as Total War and Silent Hill, though I also have a soft spot for a good RPG. I studied Journalism at university in the hopes of progressing into writing about games. You'll most likely find me covering indie games as I'm always on the look out for interesting little titles, and generally I stick to the PC and PS4 platforms. I'm not interested in MMOs or really any kind of online game, and I have an unusual and frankly worryingly expensive obsession with collecting gaming guide books, but aside from that I like to think I'm a well rounded average gamer. Find me on twitter @JohnLittle29