It’s not quite Valentines’ Day, but we’re sure Link won’t mind this love letter from Analgesic Productions. Top-down action-adventure Anodyne is a beautiful pastiche of Link’s Awakening, taking the gloomy forests, intricate dungeons and pastoral loveliness of Nintendo’s 8bit world and recomposing it in richer, darker hues.
Forget Ganon’s Dark World, Anodyne’s land is a far more disturbing mirror image of Hyrule. It’s a place where anthropomorphised cat people ponder mortality in a manner entirely unlike your average Goron, a place where handily placed helper stones are likely to remind you of your mother’s aging, decaying body as they are to dispense useful advice, and a place where Link himself can be spotted desperately trying to eke a living from the unyielding land. It’s dark then, but has a strange lightness of touch with it: the typical hero’s questline and all-round pixellated cutesiness sugar-coat the bitter themes.
And beneath the surface, this is a faithful recreation of Link’s handheld adventures (and, indeed, some of his more primitive ones), with single-screen puzzles and crisp melee combat culled straight from his pre-DS days. Sadly it’s missing Zelda’s gear-gating, and the ever expanding inventory of tools that comes with it, but Anodyne offers in its place a mature lack of handholding or convenient interpretations of its mysterious, fourth-wall breaking world. This is a game for those who grew up in Hyrule but spent more time in Lordran in recent years. Some finicky platforming also frustrates, but then Link didn’t get an auto-jump until Ocarina Of Time.