Enchanted Portals Review
Everything about Cuphead is a homage. Its throwback gameplay, 30s-inspired aesthetics and glorious soundtrack combine to create a side-scrolling shooter like no other. Enchanted Portals is clearly influenced by Studio MDHR’s modern classic but will it manage to be more than a replica?
You play as a rookie magician who is completing his daily chores. While sweeping up, you accidentally knock the bookshelf and a mysterious tome falls to the ground. With wizardry scripture upon its pages, you peer over with wand in hand. Soon a portal opens and sucks you into a different dimension. This sets up a chase through the world in order to reclaim the book and return home. Although the opening is animated, the majority of story sequences are just still images without any form of dialogue. Even though you are able to grasp the straightforward narrative, its delivery is amateurish. There is little in terms of transitions and the overall presentation lacks the whimsy the game tries to achieve.
Falling at the First Hurdle
Your adventure begins with an introductory, tutorial level. A couple of the mechanics are explained, however, there are a number of elements that are not. It’s baffling that Xixo Games Studio overlooks a bunch of features that are pivotal to the experience. You can access the controls in the menu and they are relatively simple to master, however, the lack of explanation can stifle your first steps. Titles of this ilk require tight controls as you need to avoid the plethora of projectiles in order to be victorious. Unfortunately, the movement is a little sluggish and the jumping is a bit floaty which can cause frustration when trying to skip past hazards.
There’s a rigidity that is present with the mechanics. Blocking takes too long to initiate and has a lengthy cool-down period, similar to dashing. Certain enemies you encounter have a glow around them which indicates that you must shoot them with a particular elemental attack. The red and blue projectiles are extremely similar, but the green shot has a three-way spread but isn’t as powerful. While I like the options available and the Ikaruga influence, switching between these is awkward. When you press the D-Pad to change, your stream of bullets stops. This means you have to press shoot again which spoils the flow of combat. Where precision is key, the little annoyances are magnified and therefore hinder enjoyment.
There’s Something There
Each world consists of a couple of run and gun stages and culminates with a boss battle. The levels can get a little repetitive and tend to lack the ingenuity of the art direction. Bosses have a wonderful aesthetic and offer some interesting scenarios. Some take you to the skies and others get even more creative with dance battles and flipping the art style. While there are undoubtedly innovative ideas within, the execution lets them down. Transitions in boss stages lack the sophistication seen in other titles in the genre and due to this, fights lose momentum as they feel more like separate parts.
With three difficulty modes, you can choose how challenging you want it to be. No matter which you pick, there are spikes that can make it quite tough. Often you’ll get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of projectiles which is hard to avoid due to control issues. This leads to failure feeling like a result of the design rather than the lack of skill.
A Tale of Two Halves
Visually, Enchanted Portals is full of great moments. The 1930s style shines. There are some inconsistencies, however, for the most part, each level works well. Inanimate objects have character and antagonists are very well designed. The score is simple in its execution but compliments the design, however, the sound effects do hinder the experience. Attacks lack impact and enemy cues are absent due to many not having an accompanied audio effect. It’s quite jarring and feels unpolished because of it.
Enchanted Portals falls far from its influences due to its poor execution. The controls are not tight enough for a precision-based shooter and the bosses lose momentum due to the transition between stages. There’s some creativity with the design and it does achieve the 30s cartoon aesthetic, however, gameplay issues hinder the overall experience.
***A PlayStation 5 code was provided by the publisher***
- Captures the 1930s Art Style
- Some Nice Boss Segments
- Different Spells
- Sluggish Controls
- Repetitive Run and Gun Levels
- Difficulty Spikes