Arzette: The Jewel of Faramore Review – Back to the 90s

Arzette: The Jewel of Faramore Review

Retro-inspired games are common practice in the industry. An ode to the classics, developers aim to spark that feeling of nostalgia with new titles that would feel right at home on consoles like the NES and Sega Genesis. Arzette: The Jewel of Faramore embodies the spirit of a platform that is rarely emulated: the Phillips CD-I. Quickly fading into obscurity after being discontinued in 1998, this long-forgotten console has had a resurgence in popularity due to the infamously poor Zelda games. With such a niche inspiration, will its obscurity hinder or resonate with a modern audience?

After years of peace, an evil overload returns to wreak havoc on the quaint world. As Arzette, you must travel through diverse environments to collect the five magical shards to acquire the power to defeat the evil king Daimur. While the narrative is straightforward, it’s the delivery that truly shines. The CD-I was notorious for its animated cutscenes with hilariously bad voice acting, and this game leans into that. Each character is gloriously brought to life with over-the-top voice acting that parodies yet pays homage to the platform. Even though it captures the tacky Microsoft Paint-style aesthetic, it genuinely looks great and successfully whisks you back to the 90s.

Nudge, Nudge, Wink, Wink

As you would expect from a developer named Seedy Eye Software, there are a ton of references throughout. Whether it’s nods to certain titles through gameplay segments or characters who are obvious imitations, the game delivers a variety of elements that will amuse gamers in the know.

In addition to the pixel art style, the stellar soundtrack helps to cement the 90s presentation. Since this is reminiscent of the CD-I era, rather than relying on chiptune music, the format allows for much greater capabilities, which is exemplified in Arzette: The Jewel of Faramore. The funky synth basslines and slick pan-pipes-style melodies are the perfect backdrop for your adventure across a beautiful world.

In terms of gameplay, you will progress across a variety of levels which are made up of several areas. Progression is simplistic which makes it easy to navigate the environment. You will notice areas that are out of reach and will need to revisit when you have the correct unique ability to progress down that route. The platforming stays a little too close to its influences. Movement is slow and Arzette is a little weighty when trying to jump from A to B. While I understand the philosophy behind the decision, a less rigid protagonist would have improved the overall gameplay.

Each ability you get on your quest helps to improve the gameplay. At first, it does feel very basic with only a jump and attack but soon you’ll be able to lay bombs, shoot and evade enemies. Although never moves out of the conventions within the genre, it does enough to keep a steady pace that will keep you engaged.

The Lost Woods

The game includes a non-linear progression system that allows you to visit any area you wish. While this may sound like a great idea, in practice, it’s just confusing. Not knowing which abilities you need to venture down a route can get a little frustrating and lead to your wandering from area to area to work out which way to go. Because of this, you will end up replaying certain areas several times which can also get a little tedious. There are items to collect and secrets to be found in each level, however, this gets relegated in terms of priority as you’ll just want to know where to go.

In addition to normal difficulty, there is also easy. The first offers a fair challenge with only a certain number of hits and no health drops from enemies. Due to this, you are tentative in your approach which adds a slight tactical aspect to how you proceed. If and when you die, you’ll restart from the beginning of that area. As levels tend to have about three areas, this means you never lose a lot of progress but it’s enough to keep you on your toes. With the easier difficulty, enemies have less health and often leave health items which makes the game a breeze. As it’s only a short experience, I would suggest playing on normal as otherwise you’ll fly through it.

Arzette: The Jewel of Faramore is a wonderful homage to an awful console. It faithfully captures the iconic aesthetic but also manages to deliver a solid platform adventure. Although it’s short and sticks a little too close to its inspirations, connoisseurs of the industry will lap up the humor and enjoy this trip down memory lane.

***An Xbox Series X code was provided by the publisher***

The Good

  • Addictive, Retro Gameplay
  • Stunning Soundtrack
  • Full of Character

The Bad

  • Difficult to Navigate
  • Weighty Controls
  • Quite Short