The Dreamcast indie scene goes from strength to strength and this month we have another new game to check out. Intrepid Izzy started out life as a PC game on Steam. Developer Senile Team has joined with publisher Wave Game Studio to bring it to Dreamcast and boy is it good. The game releases 20th August 2021 and you can pre-order copies online right now. I was excited before receiving my review copy and I hope you also get excited after reading my review. The headline is this; Intrepid Izzy is a well crafted game that has translated well to the Dreamcast. Platform fans will love it but there is plenty to satisfy any retro gamer.
The story starts out with titular character Izzy finding an ancient chest. She unleashes a genie who sends her to the depths! You will need to guide Izzy in uncovering clues and solving simple puzzles in order to make your escape. The graphic style is clearly inspired form 90’s platform games and keen eyed retro fans will notice the nod to Sonic and Superfrog amongst many others. This is not to say Intrepid Izzy is a clone, it has its own feel and is paying homage rather than simply copying. But how does the game play? Let’s find out.
Intrepid Izzy starts out on a gentle curve. The first level is a straight platform stage filled with enemies, obstacles and traps. The delicate incline in difficulty is welcome as you learn the ropes. Sonic style jumps across spikes allow you to learn how Izzy moves while beat-em-up style combat trains your skills. You even start with a Ryu inspired hadouken fireball to use on the tougher opponents. My first thoughts were that this game was a little simple, a bit easy, a bit run of the mill. However, things start to look up once you hit the first boss. You get a sense that more is coming and your senses do not deceive you.
Once the training level is complete you find yourself in a small town, an overworld of sorts. You can visit various characters and it soon becomes apparent all these will have a use at some point. You also visit a wizard who tells you that with four heart pieces he can give you more hit points…yes, Zelda. The best part about this town however is the in game arcade…yes, Shenmue. You use coins collected in the action stages as quarters and each go consists of one life. The games are simple, Atari 2600 simple, but it is a lovely addition that adds some depth to the game. It is rare for an indie title to go to these lengths but Intrepid Izzy is pulling out all the stops to give a deeper experience than most.
Once you have explored the town the game really starts to take off. The enemies suddenly increase in difficulty and the traps are harder to avoid. The platforming sections become larger and the path is not as clear. You soon realise that Intrepid Izzy is not an A to B platformer. It is actually a light Metroidvania that requires you solve a few puzzles and track back once new powers are acquired. Personally, I would have preferred a level to level action platformer. But that is the Sonic fan in me talking, the journalist knows this open world makes for a much deeper and rewarding game. I got stuck, not just once either, my brain having to think laterally about where to go next. Not everyone will appreciate this but it certainly adds depth to an indie game that could have took the safe route.
During my playthrough I also felt that Izzy was missing something. I kept finding areas I could not get to or rooms that were closed off. Then after a few more levels I got my first powerup. A squirrel suit that enabled me to glide like Knuckles. It also gave me a new special move to crack floors away. Now it was making sense. Get the new powers, go back, reach the places you could not before. It is a great mechanic but it gets better. You cannot hold all your powers at once, they come in the form of suits…yes, Mario…or Kid Chameleon. The beauty of this mechanic is that you must decide on which suit (power) is needed to get to the next part. Even the bosses take a few goes where one power will be better than another…yes, Mega Man. The cherry on top is that you have to go back to Izzy’s house in town to change your suits which is a neat idea.
One of the standout features of Intrepid Izzy is its fantastic presentation. The sprites are bold and colourful. The animations are excellent and the level of detail impressive. A few of the areas are a little sparse but not anything that detracts from the spectacle. Some of the bosses are huge with great attack patterns. The standard enemies all look and act different as well. Each requires a different tactic to defeat and this helps keep the gameplay fresh. The levels all look different as you move between them and the map is a wonderful tool. It helps you navigate and keep on track of where to go next. My only criticism is it took me a while to work out what tasks were complete and which were outstanding. But I soon worked out how to read everything.
The music is accomplished, composer Ben Kurokoshiro has done a fine job. Some of the tracks really stand out while others fall into the background a little at times. The sound effects are bold and have punch, you feel each hit and crash. The music knows when to liven up, for a boss say, and soften, when in the town. Overall Intrepid Izzy is a feast for the eyes and ears and is testament to the efforts of Senile Team. It is impressive for an indie game when so many others would have cut corners. Senile Team clearly wanted to make a game that stood out and they have succeeded. I was drawn in to the world and that is very hard to produce for players when you are a small team most likely on a tight budget.
If you are looking for a new Dreamcast title with challenge and excitement then Intrepid Izzy ticks those boxes. The team behind it have taken great care to create a game with depth, style and interesting mechanics. Intrepid Izzy is not perfect, some of the back tracking becomes long at times but overall the pace is good. It is not every day we will get the chance to play a new Dreamcast title and this is one you should be adding to your collection. It is out 20th August 2021 and can be pre-ordered on Wave Game Stuio’s website now.