Effie — Old Fashioned Tales

Telling a story to your kid, or grandkid, sounds like a lovely bonding activity. It’s one that I’m quite excited to do in an optimistic future, and it’s a pet favourite narrative device of mine. So, when you go for that framing, the competition can be fierce. Especially in games; where Effie finds itself sitting on the shoulders of giants such as Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, and Bastion. Does it rest comfortably? Not exactly.

Effie is the kid in the tale, and you more or less play as the author insertion grandpa, aiming to recapture a misspent youth — yearning for a time when you could shield surf for hours and whack weird goblin creatures who make the same, obnoxious droning noise. Over, and over. And over. And hey! Sometimes you get a puzzle. But then it’s over and you wonder where the challenge was. Effie is a platformer with shades of Zelda, and an artistic lean into Rime so much that it comes off as very close to a fan project. Mechanically it’s simple. Run, jump, slap. Jump higher or further, slap harder. Amusingly, you hit things with a shield and summon a force field around you for protection as opposed to… using the shield, I guess.

Effie’s grandpa wants to create a tale of epic, fantastical architecture. Of sweeping vistas, rolling hills, and of feeling small yet important. Unfortunately, Effie the game wants you to trudge along those gigantic areas, slowly and surely. It is frequently pretty, yes, but it’s a very familiar pretty. This isn’t the expanse of Hyrule Field in Ocarina of Time, it’s the “Oh, have I played this before?”

effie 2
Shield boarding is the absolute highlight.

It’s too familiar, too easy. It comes across as a scrappy cover band — eager for greatness, and genuinely trying so very hard. It is applaudable, but you’ve probably played the hits before and better. What Effie is left with is a peculiar jank, where combat becomes a headache care of a freeze-frame effect and a scatterbrained camera, which delights in snapping around to whichever creature it wants to die. It works, just about. Effie, ultimately is a game just like that. It’s pretty. It controls okay. It’s a breezy bit of entertainment for an afternoon, if you are a seasoned 3D Platformer fanatic.

Gameplay in Effie
The ghosts are cute, but you whack a lot of them about.

However, my colleague Dann raised the point to me that sometimes, every game can be a player’s first. And that’s very easy to see here: Effie is very enticing aesthetically, and it’s not a stretch to imagine a kid spotting it on the store and wanting to give it a shot, devoid of all the expectations and tangential links an experienced player would have. For that first foray into this genre I love, you could do so much worse than Effie. 

Effie is available now on PlayStation 4, and coming to Windows on January 28th 2020.

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