Iconoclasts — Fight the Power

A young mechanic travels the world learning the truth about the holy doctrine her people live in fear of in Metroidvania platformer adventure — Iconoclasts.

Robin, the aforementioned mechanic, lives in a world presided over by the One Concern; a religious sect who impose the will of their holy deity — Him — through a well-armed force supplemented by specially chosen agents who are imbued with a fraction of his holy power. The populace generally lives in fear of retribution to any deviation to his will or teachings with the “penance” resulting is mass destruction or death for the culprit, their family and property.

After Robin tries to help a member of her village with her mechanic skills, she is witnessed committing a “sin” by local agents Black and White. The following chase sets Robin off on a worldwide tour learning the truth behind the One Concern, the Agents, the Mother and Him.

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Following the well-established Metroidvania system of gated progression through tool, weapon or item acquisition, Iconoclasts presents a surprisingly complex map with a high number of secret or unattainable items early on. Robin also meets other persecuted individuals in her travels, some of which will join her on her quest for certain sections offering additional skills or in some instances the potential to swap characters and control them for a limited time.

The map screen itself can be difficult to read at times but seasoned players to the genre will immediately gravitate to it to gain the best advantage as they progress. Unusually the map isn’t presented on the main HUD, even in a minimized or localized capacity and is only accessible via the pause menu.

Rather than simply supplement Robin with a high number of additional weapons and tools, Iconoclasts opts for supplementing most of them with upgrades increasing their effectiveness or adding to their initial use case. All weapons have a standard fire mode as well as a charged variant which causes a small time delay before the weapon can be fired again. Charged options result in a different effect or bullet type, many of which form the basis of the puzzle-solving within Iconoclasts. 

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Robin, using her mechanical engineering skills, can also utilise workshop benches spread throughout the world to create Tweaks these upgrades can be created from the various treasures Robin acquires during gameplay and supplement her skills in a number of ways such as increasing wrench damage, increased time underwater or invulnerability for a single hit. Any damage deactivates the Tweaks in the order you equip them and you can only equip a set number of Tweaks at any time to restrict any game-breaking stacking potential. 

Thrown in pretty early on in the story is Iconoclasts’ first example of its creative boss mechanics. These encounters are spread across the main story fairly regularly and contain not only an interesting and welcome challenge but some of the best examples of the fluidity of Iconoclasts’ gameplay in deploying and utilising its various weaponry and mechanics to come out triumphant. As you progress, many of the bosses require you to use recently gained abilities or weaponry to gain an advantage and by the endgame, multiple mechanics must be used to defeat them. The boss count is pretty high, over twenty at last count

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Extremely colourful, Iconoclasts stands out in a field of dark, gritty competitors. It’s a pleasure to look at and the design of the levels and detail within each stage is exemplary given the overall size of the game data. It’s the little things that make the game flow without too much effort — the auto-aim on weapons within a specific arc of your aim direction, it keeps you moving and helps players concentrate on the experience rather than the specific control. 

The narrative is surprisingly complex and many of the characters and situations interweave beautifully if you take the time and effort to speak to all of the villagers, settlers, scientists and other characters you come across during your adventure. There’s also some emotional depth to its script. The story of the daughter who is trying to find her place whilst protecting her mother but who only sees her daughter as selfish and useless is particularly strong, as is the story of the brother who is trying to protect his sister after the death of their father. These threads help to create a world which many of us can relate to in addition to some emotional tether to the lead characters that unravels throughout the course of the main campaign.       

A testament to the time and effort spent over it by sole designer and programmer Swedish developer Joakim Sandberg, Iconoclasts is extremely well made. It’s fluid, with extremely tight controls and has some complex interlinking systems which make for an excellent puzzle platformer and a must-play for fans of the genre.

It’s out now on Xbox One, PS4, PC and Nintendo Switch.

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