Illusoria is a 2D platformer that’s heavily inspired by the classics from the 90s; both with its artistic style and its often sadistic difficulty. Unfortunately, whilst the game looks the part, it doesn’t have the same entertaining essence that came with the old 16-bit favourites. It ends up feeling clunky, bland, and lacking any real personality outside of its pretty visuals.
Illusoria’s story tells of a prophecy that states an evil Puppet Master will come to the world, corrupting all of its environments and inhabitants in the process. It ends up coming true, with the Puppet Master bringing the world close to ruin. However, the prophecy also tells of a hero who will save the world from this evil threat. Of course, you play that hero, and it’s up to you to vanquish the Puppet Master and bring peace to the world once more. It’s a bit of a run-of-the-mill tale that doesn’t really offer anything special, but it does act as a decent premise to all of the game’s platforming action.
Unfortunately, Illusoria just isn’t that fun to play. There’s no satisfaction to be found from traversing its levels, with the game’s clunky controls proving the biggest obstacle for the player to overcome outside of any hazard each area throws at you. And believe me, there are plenty of hazards to be found in each level – you’ve got the likes of the ridiculously tough jumps that demand absolute precision, the deadly spikes, the falling platforms, and even the overly tough enemies that will take you out with just the one hit with their haphazard attacks and movement patterns. There’s no room for error either; if you’re not meticulous with each and every action you perform you’re going to die. I actually enjoy a challenge in a platformer, but with Illusoria it all felt a little forced. Each challenge it throws your way simply feels frustrating as opposed to being satisfying to overcome.
You’re going to die a hell of a lot in Illusoria and replay sections of the game over and over again. Whilst the checkpoint system isn’t too unforgiving, the fact you need to be pixel perfect in almost everything you do means you’ll find yourself having to do the same things over and over again. Again, this wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t for the fact that the game is ridiculous to control. How are you expected to make a precise jump when your don’t know if your character is going to slightly slide after landing or even hit the momentum needed to reach each platform? It’s even worse when you have to jump over a moving target like an enemy. It’s difficult to explain it in words – you really have to play it to understand how imprecise it all feels, but why would you want to do that?
Whilst I didn’t get much satisfaction out of playing the game, it is pretty to look at. The bulky character sprites are endearing and feel original in design, whilst the environments themselves add a fair amount of character to the experience. It might have horribly bland level design, but at least Illusoria’s vivid visual style makes it a treat on the eyes.
I really wanted to like Illusoria, but instead I found it a frustrating experience that did very little to entertain. I can appreciate a challenge in a video game, but dying over and over again due to imprecise controls and the game’s sadistic difficulty made Illusoria a chore to play. It’s a shame too because it certainly looks the part – it just doesn’t manage to back up those pretty visuals with any degree of enjoyable gameplay.
To its credit you can get Illusoria for a low price, but it still makes it difficult to recommend over the so many better platformers available these days. If you really, really, REALLY insist on being punished in a video game though, just buy Dark Souls.
Developer: Under the Bridge
Publisher: Badland Games
Release Date: 30/05/2017