One of the classic Indie Games, heck, perhaps even THE Classic Indie Game is Cave Story. Coming out in 2004 around the time when the internet finally got widespread and processing speeds had just made a quantum leap forward, it was the model of what Indie Games would be. It was from a small studio (one person, “Pixel” in this case) with charming retro graphics and great gameplay. It was probably the most influential games in the genre (if “indie” can even be called a genre) and Sacred Stones from NoxBiX is the latest of it’s progeny. And it is a game that is worthy of its influence.
Sacred Stones is a 2D pixelated Metroidvania style platformer. Your adorable scientist travels around floating islands looking to avert some sort of crisis. You gather weapons upgrades and keys and other fun MacGuffins to unlock new areas and new challenges. An evil* mind flayer shows up and threatens you from time to time. Sacred Stones differs from a “pure” Metroidvania** in a couple of ways. First, rather than a giant interconnected map each island is self contained with a series of exploration, combat, and puzzle challenges. Second, the only combat challenges you face are boss battles.
But what boss battles they are. GIANT. ADORABLE. ANIMALS.
The heart of Sacred Stones’ gameplay are protracted battles versus these huge boss animals. Each boss has a pattern that you need to learn with three or four different modes of attack. The weapons you can find exploring the islands can help exploit various boss weaknesses, but no weapon really trivializes a boss Mega Man style. You’re still gonna have to work for it. These fights are difficult, is what I’m saying. Many relying on some serious memorization and some pixel perfect execution.
For what it’s worth, I’m generally not a huge fan of involved boss battles. With all the multiple forms and the complex pattern memorization. They are hard for me. And Sacred Stone contains some particularily tricky bosses.***** I’m more into the exploration and problem solving of these types of games, but Sacred Stones is at its heart a Boss Battler. Just a word of warning if big bosses aren’t your jam. They are, however, fairly well designed boss battles, and the promise of more cute animals to explode in the next level is pretty good incentive to continue.
Sacred Stones is a bit of a sleeper. Not a game that I think a lot of people will have come across, but if 2D pixel platforming is your thing, I really encourage you to give it a try.
*Are there other kinds of mind flayers? Last time I checked they were totes Lawful Evil.
**Whatever that is?***
***Super Metroid, duh.
****Also Lawful Evil.