Ahoy mateys, avast ye’selves for the plunder o goodness that be Levantera! If that sentence didn’t send you running, then this early access demo of Levantera will keep you busy for quite a while thanks to its bountiful plunder of NES style pirate-themed exploration, gemstone mining and er, sheepskin collecting action.
Shipwrecked, washed ashore, crew missing. That’s not a fine way to start out as a captain, but it’s a fine way to start out a retro platforming adventure game. Levantera is a work-in-progress platformer from Lasso Games, which takes pretty unsutble cues from the NES era of gaming both graphically and in gameplay terms.
As usual, that old school sense of self-driven exploration is evident in Levantera. While there is pretty much only one ultimate ‘path’ through the demo, you aren’t overtly pushed through it. No quest icons, annoying owl telling or giant flashing exclaimation marks to tell you where to go, instead it’s up to you to listen to the NPCs and explore on your own, determining the course of action yourself. This sense of freedom is fun, and hopefully spells good tidings for the final product. Once your swarty sea swab makes his or her progress past the first batch of murderous giant crabs and Australian pirates, you’ll rendevous with your first surviving crew member. He’ll kick the story forward, leading you back to the ship to show you the list of parts that need to be prepared. Considering at this point in the game you have probably amassed a paltry 20 or so coins, the 500 or so you’ll need to complete repairs seems like a tidal wave. It will take some time to explore, upgrade and acquire everything you need to restore your salty sea dog lifestyle, but it’s a fun raut doing so and sets the stage for the demo nicely.
As with most ‘new retro’ games, Levntera wears its retro heart on its pixelated sleeves, embracing typically low res visuals, relatively basic gameplay (straight up attacking and magic, but no combos or extensive character development as yet, and not much exposition to worry about), but dials back on some of the harsher elements of our retro forebearers. The platforming (so far) is pretty forgiving, and doesn’t demand nanosecond reflexes or trial and error learning. Death is a setback to the beginning of a level and costs half of your gold, but it’s not a game over. The precense of crabs of unusual size should indicate that the game does indeed take place in a more fantasy-inclined realm (unless you think giant crustaceans are normal, in which case I want to avoid whatever beaches you live near). Luckily, you’ll get your own taste of fantasy thanks to your first magic ability arriving after dispatching the first boss – providing you with the much needed ability to dash forward and backwards (which also makes tranversing the maps a lot faster).
While you don’t level up per se, there are plenty of things to develop. The ship itself notwithstanding, there are also weapons and armor to upgrade, tools to invest in (an axe and pickax), food supplies and ammo for your future seafaring affairs, and commodities that can presumably be traded in the various ports of the full game for fun and profit. There’s a kind of crafting-lite element to the game as well: the woods provide much needed logs and sheepskins for upgrading your equipment or repairing your ship, and then once you enter the mines, you’ll spot a few glinting ore veins and giant crystals waiting to be chopped up with you trusty axe for a hearty return. This could of course, help you fund your investment in the pickaxe which will chop down both the crystals and ore veins for iron ore blocks, allowing further upgrading, or perhaps you can just sink in into that longsword. Choices like these are pretty simple so far, and it won’t be long before you’ve upgraded everything, but already manages to feel satisfying. Hopefully there will be plenty more decisions to make and things to upgrade.
That all said, being an early demo, there is some issues that mean a bit of rough sailing ahead. I made my way to the end of the mines but haven’t been able to beat the mine boss yet due to the fact that I can’t even hurt him at all despite having the best equipment available, which leads me to suspect this is a bug. The gold drops in the mine are a huge jump economically, netting a few thousand quite easily, which, as nice as it was, is a bit too fast. I was able to max everything out after only a few minutes of mine digging action. Finally while I eventually got a castle where a rival captain was waiting for a showdown – in what I suspect is the final encounter of the demo – the battle always froze, so I am unable to finish the demo.
Quips aside, Levantera looks set to be a rollicking adventure across the high seas. We’re looking forward to see how it develops. Grab the demo and give ‘er a whirl!