BANG YOUR HEAD!! METAL HEALTH WILL DRIVE YOU MAD!!
What happens when you mix Iron Maiden, David Bowe, and Contra together? I honestly have no clue, but it might come out a little like Valfaris.
Valfaris is a heavy metal space saga that recently released on the Nintendo Switch by the 2-person dev team at Steel Mantis under the Big Sugar publishing umbrella. If the Steel Mantis name sounds familiar, it’s because this is the 2-person team that brought us the action-platformer, Slain: Back from Hell.
Valfaris takes place in an absolutely over-the-top setting. I’ll try to get the story right the best I can. So, the Fortress of Valfaris was a self-contained paradise that had mysteriously vanished from the galactic charts. All of the sudden, it reappears in the orbit of a dying sun. Unfortunately, now it is in ruins and overrun by aliens. Therion (you) thinks that his father is the one that caused all this and wants to seek his revenge.
Valfaris is all about blood, gore, and METAL! The game damn near looks like a pixel art version of an Iron Maiden cover. The armor and weapons all look like they could have been on one of my heavy metal t-shirts that I wore in middle school. Hell, Therion’s spaceship is a giant wolf head! The game pulls no punches when your blasting aliens in half with blood spraying everywhere. The soundtrack is just as cool as the visuals with it’s heavy guitar and double bass drums.
You start off with just your plasma pistol and “Therion’s Own” plasma sword. Eventually you’ll be able to find and upgrade different blades, guns, and heavy weapons. Upgrading is tough due to you needing to find “blood metal”. Blood metal is rare and more you upgrade a weapon, the more you need. So, you definitely have to choose wisely on which weapon you want to upgrade. I really wish you could have pulled blood metal from older weapons to use towards newer ones. It gets frustrating sometimes when you upgrade something and then shortly after, find something that works better for you, but isn’t as powerful.
I will throw it out there that Valfaris is tough. It’s really tough. I wanted to throw my Switch across the room several times while playing. Luckily, there’s quite a few checkpoints in the game. Checkpoints are where the game saves itself and you have the ability to upgrade or change weapons. There’s enough of them out there that WHEN you die, you usually don’t have much backtracking to do. That’s my biggest gripe about the game though. It’s just so damn tough at times, that you feel like you’re just trying to make it from checkpoint to checkpoint. You kind of lose the “flow” of the game. You get stuck in one spot, play it over and over until you beat it. Then you turn around and get stuck a checkpoint or two later. I guess that’s all a personal preference thing though.
Regardless of the game being tough, I still had a lot of fun with it. Even though I was stuck a lot, there wasn’t anything that a handful of tries didn’t fix. Steel Mantis did an excellent mixing a few different genres to keep things fresh. Valfaris is a side-scroller at heart, but has a bit of platforming and hack & slash mixed in. The visuals are grungy, yet beautiful and the over-the-top gore is a plus. If you like a good challenge or are a fan of old school side scrollers, Valfaris is definitely worth checking out.