Evil witches, goblin hordes and ancient magic, there is no doubt that Effie is an incredibly epic tale of heroism and fantasy. It’s a heartwarming tale between Grandfather and Granddaughter that sees you venturing across the land of Oblena on a quest to restore light and goodness to the kingdom. As I said, it’s quite an epic tale, but can the game itself live up to such high expectations? Well…yes and no.
The game opens in a rustic and warm looking living quarter. Our hero, Galand, sits with his granddaughter telling her stories of grandeur – he begins telling the tale of an ancient curse. Galand was a selfish man, who abused his youth and power to his gain. A young maiden approached him for assistance and Galand pushed her aside, ignoring her pleas – seeing this selfish act, Galand was cursed with old age, beginning his quest to find a cure. To restore his youth, Galand must free the land of Oblena from the evil clutches of the very witch who cursed him.
It’s a cheesy and generic story, but one that fits the theme of the game perfectly. In a world of myth and magic, of course, you’re going to have an ancient curse and a quest against evil. My only frustration with this is that the story begins with a quest to restore Galand’s youth and slowly turns into him being the hero of Oblena. It doesn’t feel justified; we’ve just heard this tale of Galand and his selfishness, but when we come to play as him he is this heroic and pure warrior on a quest to save the land – it’s not a huge bugbear, but something that definitely brought me out of the story. In Disney’s Beauty and the Beast the Prince is shown to be a pretty bad guy, who once turned into the beast takes years to become a heroic beacon of purity – Galand never really goes through this transformation. One moment he’s this narcissistic rogue, and the next he’s the hero of Oblena.
On a similar note, Galand itself doesn’t feel doesn’t live up to the spectacle of the narrator’s words. It looks impressive, but is largely vacant, aside from a few goblin strongholds and rivers. Galand serves as a hub world, of sorts, for it’s more traditional platforming areas. You ‘surf’ between levels in a way that is similar to Destiny 2’s Sparrows, but the world is so large and empty it becomes a race to get to the next level out of fear of boredom.
It’s not all bad though, once you get into the actual levels you see the true magnificence of the game. Each level is absolutely brimming in creativity and 90s nostalgia – there’s a town made entirely out of windmills, and one that takes place in grape juice barrels. In particular ‘The Vineyards’ are truly unique and creative – channelling Willy Wonka vibes to create an interesting to explore and fun experience. I just wish that this creativity had spilt out into the hub world.
Outside of level design, the game remains fairly mediocre. There is combat, but the AI is generally easy to avoid and so this becomes optional (aside from the ranged enemies who are brutally perfect with their aiming). The platforming is nothing particularly special and just serves to highlight the brilliant level design – which is where Effie definitely shines.
Effie is undeniably a beautiful and creative game – the story is overflowing with whimsical joy and the individual levels are clear throwbacks to 3D-platformers of yesteryears, which in an age of sub-par platformers is a breath of fresh air. Effie just lets itself down with its average gameplay and sparse hub world, which is a shame as this takes up a large majority of the game.
*Code kindly provided by the publisher for review*