Though the video game landscape is filled to the brim with violent escapades and riveting action, sometimes those of a more docile nature can establish substantial impact. Emuurom takes a specific niche of players and articulates it into an experience somewhat unique to the norm. With a demo on display during the current Steam Next Fest, there was no reason not to see what was on offer.
Quick structure disclaimer: Given this (and all the others) is only a demo, I won’t be too in-depth with my coverage, and will only reflect on the good and the bad. No overly long personal history or filibuster. No nonsense. That said, I will provide a synopsis for the game below.
“EMUUROM: the nonviolent creature-scanning metroidvania! Explore the ecosystem. Comprehend the creatures. Save the species.”
To start my own review, I am going to quote another:
“. . .it’s literally for the people who go into the journal feature of creatures in games and just spend hours there. . .”
That is a comment made by CheshireCreeper on a post for Emuurom‘s itch.io page. I use it because it is the most accurate assessment one can make for the spirit of the game. Even with the short length of the demo (took me roughly a half an hour), I felt deeply connected with the intuitive drive behind the design and mechanics.
To be sure, this is something made specifically for those who adore the idea of exploring an alien world full of creatures and flora and environments new to the common person. I find myself one of those people, which helped to entice me into playing the game (and I’m weak to the “metroidvania” moniker). It did not disappoint.
A large majority of the demo simply has you running around, trying to navigate new environments. Exploration, discovery, and experimentation all take precedence in this journey. When the protagonist, Maire, arrives to this new land, she is devoid of all knowledge or her surroundings, just as the player is. Immediately a connection takes place, and the player can follow in her footsteps as, together, the world slowly makes more sense to both player and character.
Although, the game doesn’t really open up to this extent until one collects the “skanner,” which acts as an all-encompassing tool for reaping information, establishing footholds, and identifying paths. The “key” to annunciating the Emuurom soul, so to say. Once acquired, the player can “wreak havoc” to their pleasure: scanning anything in sight as often as desired. Freezing things, coating them in pixelated gibberish, finding secret goodies. Scientist things.
The energy of the game is certainly different from other titles. Cozier and inquisitive, it appeals to a more academic mindset that adores the surprise that video games can deliver. It’s a medium that can be anything that you can possibly fathom. Emuurom embodies this at its core, making it a perfect specimen for dissection and a lovely addition to the medium (thus far).
Not to insinuate that there couldn’t be issues further down the line, but for as short as this was, there wasn’t a whole lot I had personal issue with. The aim of the game is so… narrow, I suppose, that it’s hard to really pick out what could be better about it. Like trying to establish what makes the color red better at being red. What can you say?
Looking at this more like a game of precision, the platforming can be a little cumbersome, especially in conjunction with the skanner. With the device, you can freeze enemies for a short time, which can then be used as platforms to boost Maire upwards or however else needed. In some cases, there are multiple moving platforms all going about at once, making it somewhat difficult to get a good flow for platforming. I fell from a high distance an embarrassing amount of times (as a platformer fanatic).
Environments, while perfectly suited for scanning, can oftentimes be hard to decipher between solids and transparent. It encourages you to scan every part of the particular area to plan out your route, though occasionally my speedy tendencies just want to launch myself recklessly. Again, I fell from high distances an embarrassing amount of times (occasionally believing solid surface mirages). From a “flow” perspective, it’s a bumpy path.
A final nitpick: While I acknowledge this is very early on and just the beginning of the game, the majority of creatures/material to discover include… birds, big snails, worms, and mushrooms. Maybe a tad anticlimactic for an alternate world… though I suppose it’s not out of the question to assume it’s still Earth to some degree. All the more reason to treat this game like an exercise in hypothesizing.
What is doesn’t have in action and excitement, it more than makes up for in establishing a niche for a specific kind of player. Emuurom makes use of the metroidvania title in a unique way, accentuating the odd-but-rad manner of its gameplay. Discovery is something I think a lot tend to forget about when it comes to exploring new worlds, emphasizing instead the theatrics of plot or gameplay. This developer gets it.
Emuurom has a demo you can play now on Steam. (Link under “Game Summary.”)
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Thank you for your time. Have a great timezone.