I have a love-hate relationship with platformers: I really love playing them, but I get very frustrated if they are too difficult, even more so if I am completely immersed in the game. Simona’s Requiem proved to be not only a fun, entertaining and overall a wonderful metroidvania, but in terms of difficulty it also managed to find a balance between being overly challenging and ‘I can do this in my sleep’ – you know, it just constantly hits the spot which forces you to push your limits without making you want to pull your hair out.
Unlike other platformers, the difficulty doesn’t come from having to dodge all sorts of traps, spikes or arrows; compared to other games, Simona’s Requiem has rather few of these. Instead, the difficulty is given by the platforming aspect: the jumps are often quite tight and on top of that, the level design is not very forgiving when the player fails a jump. The levels are oriented more vertically than horizontally and even if falling doesn’t result in dying, you’ll usually need to start your climb from the bottom again because of the lack of platforms that would otherwise support your fall. In many ways I prefer this approach to a convoluted mess of traps that would make me aimlessly press keys in a desperate attempt to avoid them. The game teaches you controlled jumps and as a consequence its a rather slow paced platformer.
The slow pace is also given by the fact that you have to battle lots of enemies. Even if they have pretty low health and die after 3-5 hits, they respawn every time the screen changes, which means that a failed jump will most likely take you to another screen (or even a few screens back) and you’ll have to kill all enemies once again. It’s not really a bad thing, since they drop experience and health points, thus Simona can replenish the lost HP anytime by just switching back and forth between screens. On the downside, if you’re not an experienced player and miss your jumps a lot, you’re going to need some patience to battle them all again, especially in the second half of the game where there can be multiple enemies attacking you at the same time. They also push you off platforms if they hit you, making things a bit more complicated particularly when the platforms are narrow.
Simona is a quick-witted grim reaper with a good sense of humor and a tongue as sharp as her scythe. The story is told through dialogues with the various NPCs that she encounters, and her comebacks are delightfully amusing. The game starts as she is assigned the task of recovering the soul of a king, but in order to do so, she first needs to find 3 artifacts that will then open a portal to the realm where the king is secretly hiding. Each of these 3 items is guarded by a boss, and while two of these fights are moderately difficult, for the third one you’ll really need to step up your jumping game. The latter fight is solely based on perfectly timed jumps combined with attack combos, while also dodging laser rays at the same time and even there’s no actual timer for the fight you’ll ultimately run out of platforms to jump on if you’re not fast enough (they get narrower and become more and more rare). The fourth boss fight and ultimately the goal of the game is a very long sequence that repeats multiple times – it’s a fight that lasts several minutes, and it will really test your focus, patience and survivability.
Simona carries a scythe whose basic attack has a pretty long and satisfying range and as you progress through the game, she receives a few other abilities. The double jump and the dash will make the platforming bits easier, and her attack will also be upgraded towards the end of the game to a more powerful one. A nice mechanic is that these abilities can be combined / chained together, for example you can dash mid-air after a jump and you can double attack (or even triple attack) with a jump in-between, as long as you manage to time all segments perfectly. It requires a bit of practice, but the boss fights will push you into learning this the hard way.
The map is reasonably large, split into multiple areas that have various environments. Later in the game, it will also be used as a fast travel between areas, although only some of them have teleporters. Each area has a few checkpoints that will replenish the health bar when Simona passes through them, and they also serve as spawning points although only after several consecutive deaths. When Simona dies, she respawns on the spot (or on a platform nearby) but with a health penalty. Sequential deaths will make her respawn with less and less health until this reaches 0 and she is teleported to the closest checkpoint.
Apart from the artifacts and abilities that you can pick up, there are also a few collectibles – 6 epitaphs, each containing a small text – these are hidden in secret areas behind breakable walls or out of your normal way, but are fairly easy to find. Additionally the game has Steam achievements, which are awarded for collecting all the epitaphs, defeating all the bosses and talking to all NPCs.
The game can be played with a keyboard as well as with a controller. The keybindings for attacks and movement are fully configurable but I wish this would be possible for the controller too, considering that the movement is done with the D-pad instead of the analog stick. Because of that, I found that controlling Simona with the keyboard was much more intuitive.
Overall, Simona’s Requiem is an absolutely great metroidvania that will charm you not only through the flawless gameplay, but also through the astonishing pixel art graphics and the warm lighting that creates a cozy ambiance from the beginning to the end. Topped by an exquisite soundtrack and a little bit of humor, this game is an absolute must have for fans of platformers / metroidvania games. It can be completed in 3h if you’re rather an experienced player, but as someone with average skills at this genre, I took double the hours.