Pronty Review (Switch) – Pearl In The Rough
It goes without saying that there’s a Metroidvania for every occasion nowadays. Whether it’s the Spanish gothic horror, Blasphemous, the cute but cruel Ori and the Will of the Wisps, or the critical darling Hollow Knight. They’re all varied in their execution yet share the staples of the genre. Pronty is the next in line for the ever-growing genre of Metroidvanias.
This time round I’ve taken the plunge to the darkest depths of the lost city of Royla. Pronty has taken the Marmite quality of ‘water levels’ and made a whole water game. We’ve come a long way from the obtuse swimming mechanics of Metal Gear Solid 2. Games like Gris have perfected the trend, with Pronty following suit likewise. If you’re someone who loathes water traversal but loves Metroidvanias, this title may just change your mind.
The Life Aquatic of Pronty and Bront
In this game you play the titular Pronty – a fishlike humanoid – on their first day on the job as a Protector. A Protector’s day-to-day is the ridding of mutated fish from the underwater city of Royla, as the last line of defence. You won’t be alone, however, as you’re accompanied by a Javelin named Bront – a mechanised combat system reminiscent of a prawn.
During Pronty’s training, the presence of the almighty evil mutated fish Rashka causes terror at home base. This sparks Pronty’s mission to defeat Rashka and their mutated goons to make Royla safe again. After the intro, you’re set off to explore. It’s not the strongest opening and with very limited abilities from the jump, it’s tough on motivation. However, the world is so rich with lore collectables that slowly paint a picture of the descent of a once great city.
Pronty puts the gameplay at the forefront, leaving the environments and lore to answer the questions that were racing through my head. What happened to the people? How much time has passed? It goes as deep as the game’s depth if you’re willing to find it, and it certainly pays off come the credits. There are multiple endings, including a hidden one which is sure to satiate those who want to uncover every secret.
Let Neptune Strike You Dead, Winslow!
Being an underwater Metroidvania, Pronty does away with the genre staple of platforming. The freedom of movement is a novel aspect for the genre. This change makes way for creative methods of introducing challenge, primarily by environmental puzzles and combat. Early on Pronty learns a dash ability and by the end, you’ll be shrinking in size to fit through small tunnels, as well as using Bront to teleport between you both with an electrical current.
Of course, these skills are drip fed, opening up new sections of the open map. The skills aren’t the only way your partner Bront comes in handy either. Your craw-companion is your only method of attacking enemies. It makes combat more akin to a twin-stick as you aim Bront with the right stick, commanding them to attack with ZR and moving Pronty with the left stick and using skills like dash with ZL. This results in a frenetic challenge of brawling chaos. It’s not all smooth sailing though, as I had a good few instances where Bront would get stuck in the environments, leaving me defenceless.
The combat does teeter on the repetitive side. With not many attacks to go for, different enemy types are subject to all attacks. There’s no nuance in the standard fights as such, I found myself dashing and spamming the attack until it was over. One attack increases Bront’s heat, and if you overheat you’ll have a cooldown period before continuing the fight. This just made me rarely use the attack, and most enemies aren’t weak to it either. On the flip side, bosses are the most exciting highlights. They are incredible in their design and varied with attacks, each boss after the next is always an adrenaline-fueled endeavour.
Gonna Need A Sturgeon
To assist you in your combat you have a memory board. The memory board acts as a modular system that can upgrade up to ten slots to be filled with what are essentially perks. Some are mundane and minor that should be at Pronty’s disposal regardless i.e. the ability to see enemy health or a gravitational pull that hoovers up currency. Others boost certain attacks you pull off or give extra elemental damage. I didn’t find them all during my playthrough, but the ones I did find never felt like they amounted to anything.
Granted, I did play this on a customisable difficulty due to the blistering boss battles. However, I don’t see any of the perks amounting to affecting your gameplay too much. Some are even needed to explore sections in the later game areas, and the only way to switch them out is to find a base. It’s a minor gripe, as it’s a feature I never found too much use in any way. Maybe if it was easier to mess around with I’d have felt more inclined to experiment.
As well as the memory cards, you can also upgrade Pronty’s stats. Red vials go towards HP or stamina, whilst blue vials go towards damage or Bront’s heat. These usually drop after bosses and you’ll also find singular vials that – once you find three of – you can upgrade. These are the bulk of the collectables outside of lore and with an incredibly sprawling map, it makes exploration a delight.
It Is Better, Down Where It’s Wetter
But the collectables are only part of the delight when exploring, as the level design is gorgeous. There’s a strong inspiration from BioShock’s Rapture with the aesthetic of Royla. The line-drawn style of an apocalyptic Atlantis is one of the better-looking places to explore with my time spent on Metroidvanias. From the hollow yet grandiose Royla’s city entrance to forbidden lairs littered with decrepit children’s toys. The variety is astonishing and mysterious, bolstering the intrigue of what happened.
Pronty’s cutesy design matched up against the menacing bosses creates a visual scale of the dangers that lie in the depths. The dichotomy of the once was opulent Royla and the evil that now roams it is so reminiscent of Hollow Knight in the best way. The atmosphere paired with the soundtrack from Paul Su boasts a grand sense of melancholy. The subtle changes in orchestral lineups depending on the areas are a great attention to detail, with each boss fight having their own theme.
It’s a huge soundtrack, making every corner of the game not only visually distinct but sonically. Cutscenes – whilst sparse – are presented in a comic book panel style. Something I would have loved to have seen more, especially when some of it is locked behind other endings, but that’s because I couldn’t get enough of them. It’s all very underwater Grimm fairytales, resulting in a really impressive presentation.
I mentioned earlier that I played with a customisable difficulty. At the start, you can choose just one but as soon as I found it too difficult in-game, I went to the options to be delighted with a bunch of sliders to play how you want to. This approach to accessibility is so welcome. When this is paired with the lack of platforming, this could be a great entry point for anyone looking into getting into the Metroidvania genre.
For hardened veterans, the difficulty is for sure there – mainly with the bosses – creating an overall package that could work for everyone. However, I don’t think it excels exceptionally outside of Pronty’s presentation. The combat can turn mindless in the standard fights, and the memory board, whilst extensive, is obtuse and ineffective in many ways even though it’s a nice touch. The world is an absolute standout with its emphasis on lore and secrets, making it a palpable lived-in world, and bosses are wonderfully engaging. I just wish the sum of its parts did their part too.
This is one of the most accessible Metroidvanias to embark on. Pronty’s underwater excavation in a city, crawling with well-designed bosses is one for both newcomers and seasoned players of the genre. Combat is lacklustre and it doesn’t reinvent in any game-changing capacity, but it sure is a world worth diving deep in.
Pronty: Fishy Adventure is out now on Nintendo Switch (review platform) and PC via Steam.
Developer: 18Light Game Ltd.
Publisher: 18Light Game Ltd.
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a promotional code from the publisher. For our full review policy, please go here.
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