Sometimes a game will have such beautiful music or impressive art styles that players will ignore the faults of the gameplay. Indeed, when other variants can smoothly allow a player to gloss over something like massive difficulty spikes or terrible controls, people are more than willing to follow through to the end. It isn't something that can allow players to notice the complete absence of a game, however, despite the desperate insistence that Animal Gods is an RPG. When this was brought up to the developers Still Games, they reclassified it as an action/adventure, but somehow I don't think I can classify it as such either.
Immediately starting out with Animal Gods, many will be entranced by the art style and minimalist storyline. The player character, Thistle, is mysterious and knowledgeable. The mystery that surrounds this unnamed land, the only thing on his mind, he sets out to do ... something ... with the missing animal gods. Nothing is really quite explained, in fact. The Overworld exudes a sense of adventuring and wanderlust as the player has multiple paths to take. Each path, however, is extremely linear and only changes which dungeon you delve into first. At first, the sudden change from being high above the character to being right on top of Thistle and noticing he has oddly-drawn feet was jarring, but when I discovered what the game contained—or rather didn't contain—I quickly forgot about the out-of-place character model.
Each dungeon is linked to a specific animal god. Animal Gods, despite the name, has only three gods to choose from: the Lion, Spider, and Snake. This makes a total of three normal dungeons before the final stretch, which makes Animal Gods only about an hour or two long at the most. The first dungeon I cleared was the Lion, which uses an item that allows Thistle to teleport a short distance forward. Quickly adapting to dodging the lasers present and the added challenge of holding the button to make Thistle teleport slightly further was exhilarating. The boss of the first dungeon was reminiscent of games like Super Meat Boy, where the player would die over and over again in order to get that pixel perfect teleportation just right and quickly got me excited to see what else Animal Gods could throw at me with this mechanic.
This only made my disappointment much more bitter when Animal Gods swiftly snatched back my newfound ability. It appeared that each dungeon would only allow their items to be used in that very specific dungeons. My prediction proved to be true as I cleared the next two levels; the Snake had the sword and the Spider used the bow. Neither of those items were usable outside the dungeons. Nor were they used outside anything besides the generic "clear the room of enemies to continue."
Which brings me to the very next point of bitter disappointment: the only enemies were blue blocks that were either stationary and completely harmless or followed a very strict L shaped pattern that allowed players to simply stand there and kill them with ease. There was no challenge in Animal Gods aside from the Lion's stage. The only time these abilities were used again outside their respective dungeons was the final stage, and even then you could only use them in very specific areas. You can't use the bow then teleport to swing your sword at the next foe. This brings me to consider these enemies as just "obstacles" and not something I really cared about. When I could move past them without needing to waste time clearing out the room, I did so. There was no point to it.
My interest quickly died out past the Lion's dungeon. When I completed the game at the second hour mark and unlocked a 9 lives mode, which I suspect is to replay the game without dying more than 9 times, I reflected on how interested I was in this game. The art, aside from the character model, and the music were absolutely superb. I noticed that the soundtrack was bundled with the game on Steam, so I put that soundtrack on my iTunes and listened to it. The music was absolutely the best feature of Animal Gods. The best way I can think to sum up this game is: "Someone put a video game in this music CD."
What do you think of Animal Gods? Is it worth the purchase for the music and art? Is the lack of a game something you think would hinder Animal Gods? Tell us in the comments below!
This reviewer was given a copy of Animal Gods free of charge on Steam.