Iconoclasts Review

  • First Released Jan 23, 2018
  • PS4
  • VITA

Faith engineers kindness.

Iconoclasts' Metroidvania-inspired style and structure is deceptively simple at first. The vibrant 2D-pixelated world you inhabit is alluring and the action is quick and snappy. But if you've played games like this before, it'd be easy to dismiss Iconoclasts as trite and rudimentary considering the number of similar experiences available nowadays. Yet as you push through the game's myriad twists and turns, it matures before your very eyes, unfurling to reveal complex puzzles and a heart wrenching narrative.

Iconoclasts is a fantastic looking game with an impressive level of detail on display, a prime example being the unique animations and sounds each character exhibits. The presentation and catchy retro music elevates the personality of the world, making the game more captivating as a whole. However, judging Iconoclasts simply on the visuals undersells what's buried under the surface. There's much to love about this adventure: it's brimming with nuanced characters, riveting drama, sharp wit, and a host of well-crafted action set-pieces. Iconoclasts leverages its storytelling and presentation to pull you in. These elements distinguish the game from the old-school adventures it recalls, making the experience worth checking out even if you're not traditionally a fan of retro games.

The adventure begins with little fanfare, putting you in control of mute protagonist Robin, an unlicensed mechanic in a world where technology is considered sacred due to its link to a dwindling magical resource that powers all things. This effectively renders her chosen profession illegal in the eyes of One Concern, a corrupt theocracy that rules the world with an iron fist. When Robin's actions inevitably provoke One Concern to hunt down everyone she loves, she becomes embroiled in a conflict that threatens not only the safety of her family but the entire world.

The strength of Iconoclasts' narrative isn't in the broader story beats, but the smaller emotional arcs of its characters. While the people you meet in your journey are inherently charming and likable, they're also broken individuals, consumed by their own inadequacies and traumatized by the crimes One Concern has inflicted upon them. Iconoclasts' depiction of grief is realistic and powerful; it doesn't hesitate to explore the cast's emotional issues, often resulting in moments that fundamentally alter their identities in unexpected ways. There's a real sense of growth, with each character transcending their wit-laced dialogue and evolving into people with affecting, relatable plights.

Iconoclasts doesn't hesitate to explore the emotional issues of its cast, often resulting in moments that fundamentally alter their identities in unexpected ways.
Iconoclasts doesn't hesitate to explore the emotional issues of its cast, often resulting in moments that fundamentally alter their identities in unexpected ways.
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Unsettling events occur throughout, so it helps that Robin is such an uplifting presence. Her unspoken optimism and willingness to help those in need makes her an incredibly endearing hero. Robin's endless strength and kindness in the face of a world permeated with religious and political corruption--not to mention her own emotional issues--serve as rays of hope in an otherwise dark journey. In the multitude of disasters that befall your allies, you're always compelled to keep pushing further, if only to see how Robin may hope to fix the world's atrocities.

As Robin, it's a joy to move and engage in combat. With her trusty stun gun and wrench, you'll navigate various biomes and industrial complexes where all manner of foes await, from rampaging deer and purple slimes to One Concern guards and deformed mutants. Combat is primarily focused on running 'n gunning, but there's some added nuance thanks to an upgrade system driven by collecting materials to craft Tweaks, which are special items that alter Robin's abilities. The effect of Tweaks are subtle, mostly altering physical characteristics such as running speed, the strength of your wrench attack, or how long you can hold your breath underwater.

Areas are packed with puzzles where you're often pushed to think critically about how you can use your arsenal to clear a path.
Areas are packed with puzzles where you're often pushed to think critically about how you can use your arsenal to clear a path.

While tweaks are handy, they feel underutilized as there's rarely any urgency to rely on them to succeed. Their effects aren't all that noticeable, so they do little to change combat and exploration, which is disappointing. This can be somewhat remedied by crafting three of the same tweak to maximize their effects as opposed to diversifying the types you have equipped. Still, combat remains gratifying even with the less-than-impactful tweaks as the game relies on skill and precision over an excessively complicated upgrade system.

Rather than emulate Metroidvania games that favor open-ended exploration, Iconoclasts focuses on environmental puzzle solving. Areas are packed with brain-teaser-like trials where you're often pushed to think critically about how you can use your arsenal to clear a path towards the objective. For example, there are puzzles that involve moving platforms using a concussive bomb launcher. This sounds simple in theory, but it's far more involved when you have to consider how a bomb can only move a platform when the concussive force hits from a specific direction. This is further complicated by the fact that when you charge up the launcher, it fires a missile that can only push platforms after picking up enough speed. Iconoclasts' puzzle design encourages you to consider the smallest details, which can occasionally be overwhelming. But when you put in the time to work out a difficult solution, it's incredibly satisfying.

The emphasis on puzzle-solving even bleeds into boss fights, which are intense screen-filling battles that test your intellect as much as your reflexes. One boss has you switching between Robin and another playable character in order to work through a series of specific steps to reveal its weak point. While the game is quick to surprise you (and even make you laugh) with its bombastic boss fights, there's surprisingly more tactical complexity than simply shooting at them until they're dead. As a result, you're often challenged to completely revise your strategy at a moment's notice in case a boss becomes invulnerable to your attacks.

Iconoclasts is a sincere and compelling adventure that anyone with respect for fantastic storytelling and 2D-action can enjoy.

When Iconoclasts' end credits begin to roll, it's bittersweet to see the journey come to a close. After solving every puzzle and witnessing the finale of its poignant narrative, you can't help but reflect on the growth of its characters and your impact onto the world. The game will shock and surprise you with how gripping its story is, and it's likely to do so again in subsequent playthroughs of New Game+ with your expanded knowledge of character histories and events. Iconoclasts may be a callback to the style and mechanics of old-school games, but it's also a sincere and compelling adventure that anyone with respect for fantastic storytelling and 2D-action can enjoy.

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The Good
Beautiful pixel art with a wide range of detailed animations
Poignant storytelling that masterfully balances vibrant charm with emotional depth
Story is packed with unexpected twists and turns
Challenging puzzles that push you to master the myriad traits of your arsenal
Exciting boss fights that test your intellect as much as your reflexes
The Bad
Tweak system feels underutilized
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

Matt jumped into Iconoclasts completely unaware that it had been in development since 2010. He's a big fan of Metroidvania games and spent 13 hours playing through the adventure. Suffice to say, he enjoyed every second of it. GameSpot was provided with a complimentary copy for the purposes of this review.
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Avatar image for JustPlainLucas

Kinda hoping that this game will eventually come to the Switch. I have so much on the Switch right now, though, that by the time I'm ready for it, maybe it'll have arrived by now. Or... I could just get it on the Vita to give me another reason to turn it on.

Avatar image for Naylord

@JustPlainLucas: I say get it on the Vita. I have both but the vita is nice because it is actually pocket sized. When I want to take my switch on the go that means having a backpack while the Vita easily fits in a jacket pocket.

Avatar image for JustPlainLucas

@Naylord: True, but I have a case for the Switch, so I'm not that bothered by the portability. The upside to having this on the Switch would be a larger screen size to play on the go.

Avatar image for Dualmask

This sounds like my kind of game. I've been waiting on reviews to find out if I wanted to dive in. I didn't catch any clear mentions of the length of the game though; often these brilliantly-designed games suffer from being too short, and I'm hesitant to drop $20 on a game I'll blow through in less than a weekend.

I wish it were coming to Switch too. Perfect console for it.

Avatar image for Flamerdragon

@Dualmask: Mate been playing this game for 6 hours and 53 minutes and it is at 31%.
What would you consider short?

Not sure how long it is, but it seems long enough so far. Heck longer than some AAA games' campaign.

Love it, haven't played a game I enjoyed this much in this style for a while.

If it is your kind of game, give the 20$ if the time and % that i mentioned, do not seem short for you at this stage.

Avatar image for Dualmask

@Flamerdragon: I'd say a game you can beat in 4 hours or less is considered short. Having already bought Iconoclasts and played it for maybe 10 hours (I'm not sure about the percentage because I don't have my Vita with me right now) I feel like it was a worthwhile purchase. The gameplay, visuals and music made it worthwhile to me as well. I just hate games asking for a large amount and expecting 'the experience' to be enough to justify its length being shorter than an average movie. Fortunately, that's not the case here.

Avatar image for santinegrete

@Dualmask: money comes and goes, time is forever wasted. If you don't have nothing compelling in the backlog, shell the cash and sink your teeth.

I suggest you do this only in games you really want to play, unlike all those dumb bros that bited the Destiny and Evolve hype.

Avatar image for gjozefi

Wtf is metroidvania?

Avatar image for santinegrete

@gjozefi: non linear platformers. You can go back to some places to reach new doors that weren't unlockable but now you can do it because you have the right equipment. The willing to explore rewards you with upgrades of equipment.

You could say the last Tomb Raider games uses Metroidvania elements like the one I described.

Avatar image for Mkeegs79

@gjozefi: Well you just scream noob with that question.

Avatar image for CRAPCOM1926

@gjozefi: Google Symphony Of the night Playstation 1 game, Get a emulator on your pc, Play. Profit.

Now go And get SNES o Znes emulator and play Super metroid.

compare. And there you go, you now Know what Metroidvania is. The term was born around 1998 pal, is older than many of us ( Not me, i am older)

Avatar image for NoodleFighter

@gjozefi: 2D platformers with gameplay similar to Metroid and Castlevania

Avatar image for gjozefi

@NoodleFighter: Thank you. At least there are some decent people out there willing to answer some questions.

Avatar image for sasren

@gjozefi: I found it hilarious how they call you a noob and don't even know what metroidvania is themselves, metroidvania wen't back to who people thought what game came out first, IIRC metroid on NES came out a month prior to Castlevania, but there where lots of people who believed castlevania came out first, this sparked a huge debate, arguments on the playground pursued Metroid was first, no castlevania etc etc... Finally people got tired of the debate and so they just mashed the two together calling them metroidvania. on one side you have the "this plays like metroid" on the other side you have "this plays like castlevania" so thats how the term originated.

Avatar image for Bahamut50

Definitely getting this next week. Love the aesthetics and i eat up good metroidvanias.

Avatar image for voljin1987

Good lord, I remember playing a demo of this back in 2011. Good times.

Avatar image for santinegrete

Another good Metroidvania? Great *whishlisting it*

Avatar image for saikowaifu2003

This game looks great and I'm glad that it's coming to so many platforms. A cross-platform buy for me i.e. both Steam and PS Store purchases.

Avatar image for Berserk8989

Hell yes, VITA!!!

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat

If no review copy was provided by the game-maker, this game wouldn't even have a review article on GameSpot.

Avatar image for santinegrete

@Gelugon_baat: is that what happened to Hollow Knight?

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat

@santinegrete: Pretty much. Do keep in mind that GameSpot has published review articles for rather obscure games - whose makers sent review copies or codes.

By the way, there were staffers talking about Hollow Knight on their videos. They are well aware of that game - but it would not be reviewed, because a review copy was not sent to them.

It's like there's some budgetary bullshit there at CBSI, or some kind of bias-mitigation policy at GameSpot.

Avatar image for Naylord

Looks great. I'll get it on my Vita. I have a switch (it is the future of handheld gaming) but I prefer getting games on my Vita when I can because it actually fits in my pocket and the ergonomics are better. Plus you get trophies too!

Avatar image for saikowaifu2003

@chillingnaire: oh how pre-emptively insecure you are? I scrolled through the entire comment section and I did not see a single post/comment from PS fanboys/girls using this game as an exclusive bargaining chip. Perhaps this tells more about your own mentality than the fanboys you seek to attack.

Avatar image for Artwark

@chillingnaire: Thanks for that!

Avatar image for Artwark

Why can't devs make an effort to port their games on PC instead of porting on consoles first? Isn't PC easy money for them?

Avatar image for santinegrete

@Artwark: done.

Avatar image for Artwark

@santinegrete: I already bought the game. Thanks anyways!

Avatar image for saikowaifu2003

@Artwark: From Wikipedia:

"Iconoclasts has been in development since 2010, totalling 8 years of development before its 2018 release.[1] It was initially called Ivory Springs, then The Iconoclasts. The existence of the game was revealed in 2011. In 2015, it was announced that it would be released for PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita with the assistance of Bifrost Entertainment.[4] In 2017, the game's release date was announced as January 23, 2018.[3]"

Which basically implies that the PC version was being developed for YEARS before any consideration for console releases took place. Seriously why do so many PCMR elitists willingly sink to console peasants' levels of spreading misinformation without prior research and paranoid persecution complex.

Avatar image for xshinobi

@Artwark: It is available on PC as well.

Avatar image for uwotm80

Metroidvania and it's on Vita? SOLD!

Avatar image for Renunciation

@uwotm80: I'd recommend Rabi-Ribi, if you haven't already tried it.

...As long as you're able to tolerate pixelized anime art and can also deal with a silly plot. That's important.

If you can get past that, the game's a lot of fun. Melee combos, upward and downward strikes, air dashes, double-jumps, wall jumps, carrot bombs (seriously), and a small hovering fairy companion with multiple projectile spell attacks and support abilities.

The platforming / exploration aspect leads to uncovering a lot of hidden and plain-sight power-ups and "badges" to equip for different effects. The main draw, however, is the boss fights: they're exceptionally great frantic "bullet hell"-style encounters full of dazzling attacks -- and there are dozens of bosses.

Although it has a 98% positive rating on Steam with around 4,500 votes, the Vita and PS4 versions seem to have flown almost completely under the radar. Definitely worth a try for "metroidvania" fans, IMHO.

Avatar image for Dualmask

@Renunciation: That game recently caught my eye as well. I thought it was a bit pricey but I looked at some videos and really considered breaking my 'no digital games over $20' rule for it.

Avatar image for Renunciation

@Dualmask: I'd say it's a worthy exception to your rule. : )

Physical copies of the game do exist, but seem to be limited -- and also seem available only in the U.K. ...I admit, I haven't done a lot of research on physical copies of the game because my digital copies (on PC and PS4) have been working out well-enough for me.

I bought the PS4 version roughly 1.5 years after buying it on Steam because the PC version has some framerate problems on some 144mhz televisions/monitors. I keep my laptop plugged into my TV (55" UHD Samsung) and ran into those framerate problems. After giving a few half-hearted attempts at fixing the problem, I was like, "Whatever, it's on PS4 now, so I'll just buy that version because the game's worth supporting."

I've read that the Switch port will be out later this year -- and I'm not ashamed to say that I'll probably get that version, too.

If you do pick it up: enjoy! There's some real excellence lurking beneath the game's "weeb" appearance.

Avatar image for Dualmask

@Renunciation: Coming to Switch, you say? In that case I'll wait, but it might be the game that makes me break my rule. Switch is always the better option...unless the dreaded 'Switch Tax' kicks in. Then I have to think about it.

For now, I'll probably be getting Iconoclasts quite soon, it looks great.

Avatar image for Renunciation

@Dualmask: Yeah, I don't really have anything good to say about that "Switch Tax". Definitely a fun console, otherwise!

And, just today, the popular "rogue-like" metroidvania Dead Cells was confirmed for a Switch release. Good news, for sure!

(Edit: Highly-rated new game Celeste is coming to Switch, too. Awesome!)

Upon further research: Physical copies of Rabi-Ribi can be imported through Amazon, but apparently require UK PlayStation accounts to purchase and activate the DLC. (The DLC, released late autumn last year, is what led me to try playing the game on PC again.)

Have fun with Iconoclasts!

Avatar image for patriotplayer90

Looks great. The light art style is refreshing, since these types of games tend to favor a darker, Castlevania-esque atmosphere.

Avatar image for Pierce_Sparrow

I'm always looking for good Metroidvania style games, so I'll have to check this one out.

Avatar image for Janpieterzun

also for pc

Avatar image for chillingnaire

@Janpieterzun: what do you expect from sonyspot? to give recognition to PC??? Absurd.

Avatar image for saikowaifu2003

@chillingnaire: why do so many PC elitists suddenly talk like the XBot-in-chief CrapGamer these days?

Iconoclasts More Info

  • First Released Jan 23, 2018
    • Linux
    • Macintosh
    • + 4 more
    • Nintendo Switch
    • PC
    • PlayStation 4
    • PlayStation Vita
    Average Rating18 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate Iconoclasts
    Developed by:
    Joakim Sandberg, MP2 Games
    Published by:
    Bifrost Entertainment, Limited Run Games, DANGEN Entertainment, IntraGames, Joakim Sandberg
    Action, Adventure
    Content is generally suitable for ages 13 and up. May contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language.
    Blood, Language, Suggestive Themes, Use of Tobacco, Violence