Acid Knife Preview: A Trippy, Methodical Action-Platformer

by David Sanchez December 19, 2019 @ 3:55 pm

This preview is based on the limited time Steam demo of Acid Knife, which is no longer available to download.

The first thing that stands out about Acid Knife is its psychedelically-charged visual direction. The game utilizes pixel art in a very interesting way, and it creates a dark and twisted fantasy world that’s unlike anything else out there. It’s also a lot of fun. Per developer Powerhoof, the game is scheduled to release “when it’s done.” I love the dev’s cheeky demeanor, and I appreciate that Acid Knife forgoes the dreaded, stressful deadline or TBA in favor of a more blunt commentary. That said, I absolutely cannot wait to play the game… when it’s done, that is.

Thankfully, I got to check out the time-limited demo that was recently playable on Steam. The demo included a disclaimer noting the game’s early build status, and it made it clear that what was playable wasn’t necessarily a reflection of what the final game would be. While the demo may have shown off a chunk of the game from an earlier stage of its development, it ran smoothly, and I encountered no bugs or performance issues. Suffice it to say that if the final product is anything like the demo, but just more of it, I’ll certainly be happy.

No Hacking and Slashing

Acid Knife is very different from other action-platformers. It’s less about pixel-perfect movement around the stages and fast-paced progression, and it focuses more on deliberately paced movement and combat. Enemies appear on the screen and immediately advance on you, but even their movement isn’t all that fast, so it never feels like an uphill battle.

The challenge comes from finding and exploiting enemies’ weak spots, which aren’t visible at all times. A skeletal monster, for example, will walk toward you, and swinging a knife or throwing a punch at him will knock you back rather than harming your foe. After a few seconds, a bulbous pink growth will appear on the enemy’s head. That’s when you target the weak point and take a swing with your knife. The enemy then hides that weak point, attacks you, and exposes it again after a moment. Strike once more, and you’ll take the creature down for good.

Weapons deteriorate over time, eventually breaking if you use them too much. Thankfully, a meter shows you how much durability your blades and other items have left. You’ll come across flint from time to time, and you can use it to reinforce your weapons, which you’ll want to do if you want to avoid encountering an enemy empty-handed.

Managing Inventory Space

You can hold five items at once, so determining what to ditch along the way becomes tricky. Certain doors can only be opened by presenting gems dropped by enemies. Each gem takes one slot in your inventory. The majority of locked doors I came across in the demo required three gems to open, which meant I had two slots for items like a knife and bow, or a machete and flint. Upon opening the door and freeing up the three inventory slots, I ran back through the stage to collect the items I dropped along the way.

I’m not certain if you’ll acquire more inventory space in the later parts of the game, but because each section is so compact (at least in the demo), it doesn’t seem like you’d have to do a great deal of backtracking to get your stuff back. That said, given the style of combat and progression, some folks may not find it all that exciting having to run back to look for the items they dropped.

A 2D Action Game with Some Cool Twists

As you move through the levels, the space around you becomes dimly lit to reveal enemies, traps, and platforms. The way the game hides a lot of the space in its levels as you move around them adds a nightmarish quality that’s equal parts stylish and unnerving. Like a classic 2D platformer, you have a lot to lose if you rush in without observing your surroundings. You never know what’s coming until it’s right in front of you, so you could potentially jump onto some deadly spikes or run face-first into an enemy.

I wouldn’t classify Acid Knife as “NES hard” — and I certainly wouldn’t call it a Souls-like. The game — or its demo, at least — is difficult, and a lot could change between now and launch, but it’s not brutal. It’s definitely challenging, but the pacing is such that it never feels like it’s out solely to kill your character.

In an industry where developers have been playing a “my game is harder than yours” version of chicken the past several years, it’s refreshing to see that a game that can still pose a respectable challenge without being specifically for one type of game fan. This is especially true considering how the Acid Knife demo included a nice amount of health items. Levels were never overflowing with these items, but there were enough to give me a fighting chance. It’s impossible to say if that’ll be the case at launch, but in the demo, the amount of items scattered throughout the stages felt fair.

I’m tempted to reach out to Powerhoof and ask if there’s at least a vague release window in mind, but I’m certain Acid Knife will be ready, well, when it’s ready.

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