Effie is a Disney-esque 3D action-adventure packing all the cliché tropes of a bog standard fairy tale. It meshes together traditional elements of the genre with expanded, enchanting environments to explore, all of which dazzle and ooze with charm.
You follow the story of Galand who ventures far and wide across the region of Oblena, desperately battling to reclaim his youth after being cursed by an evil witch, ageing him prematurely. Galand narrates his quest as you play, offering guidance and tips without cutting to and from tutorial screens and ensuring instead that gameplay flows pleasantly. The occasional cutscene brings a welcome break to your endeavours, but a dull script coupled with cheesy voice acting makes these breathers a real theatrical cringe-fest. Although arguably in keeping with the childish, fairy tale vibe, this among other aspects only highlights how Effie is best-suited for a younger audience.
With the first chapter under your belt, you’ll find yourself well acquainted with Effie’s simplistic control scheme and in possession of a magic shield. This trusty shield brings versatility to platforming, and serves as the very cornerstone of combat. It’s also a nifty little aid for traversing the red plains of Oblena. Yes, the cities of Oblena - Effie’s chapters - are separated by a sizeable open environment that’s free to explore at your leisure. The ravishing red grasslands in contrast with cerulean skies and immaculate white structures is a real ostentatious treat when hunting down collectable relics in between chapters.
This inviting wilderness can be negotiated both on foot and by hopping aboard your shield using the touch pad. It’s oddly satisfying whizzing through a chain of speed-boosts to get from A to B at a break-neck pace. Sadly, once the initial novelty of surfing around like a loon has dwindled, you’ll come to the realisation that, despite a few ruins with some mediocre platforming puzzles, the world feels almost barren and devoid of anything to really sink your teeth into. It’s clear Inverge Studios hopes to unite the hallmarks of classic 3D action-adventure titles with more modern nuances, but unfortunately the open area is a flavourless attempt to break up the more linear elements of gameplay.
Platforming puzzles are the foundation of each of the various locations you visit on your travels. Some smart design choices, including the need to utilise shield attacks to progress, result in delectable puzzling moments. The uniqueness of each setting nullifies the tedium of feeling like you’re replaying similar sections over and over. The real drawback is in regards to difficulty, in the sense that none of the puzzles feel sophisticated enough to pose any real challenge. It may be amusing flying through chapters with the greatest of ease, but it doesn’t offer the same thrill of finally overcoming an obstacle that’s completely stumped you for ages, and led you to begrudgingly brush the dust off your thinking cap.
This very same concern protrudes from Effie’s combat. The region of Oblena is swamped with whimsical, evil creatures of all shapes and sizes, but disposing of them is hardly the burden you’d hope it’d be. Most enemies fall easily to incessant mashing of your generic light-attack, and replenishing your health effortlessly with the energy of those downed means you needn’t pay the slightest bit of notice to your health bar. There’s definitely fun to be had in putting to use Galand’s expanded moveset. As he learns new abilities, it’s hard not to get a kick out of using your shield to clear crowds of swarming enemies in slow-motion, even if the lack of difficulty doesn’t necessarily call for it. However, heaven forbid your finger slips onto an unmapped button in the heat of combat, as Galand the grump will bark at you like an angry sat nav reminding you that you’re unable to use that action in that particular moment. On the first few occasions it’s easily overlooked, but a fair bit of play time in and it’ll have you aching to roll up your sleeves and jump into the game to throttle him.
There’s a severe lack of a defined difficulty curve. Even tougher monsters fail in presenting any form of challenge. This makes the abundance of Runestones scattered across the game used for upgrading your mana and health feel hugely redundant. There’s also a disappointing absence of consistency, as random difficulty spikes in boss battles will leave you bewildered. The sudden need to nail precision platforming while taking on clusters of enemies and shielding yourself from spells feels unwarranted. But this aspect alone is not enough to salvage the overall easiness of Effie, and how it clearly leans towards more youthful audiences.
The vision of reconciling nuances of more recent 3D action-adventure titles with well-loved elements from adored classics is undeniably a heartwarming one. There’s great enjoyment to be had in playing through this nostalgic nod to the past, but the lacking presence of a challenge truly robs Effie of its oomph. Simplistic puzzles and brainless brawling almost completely eliminate any real sense of gratification or accomplishment. This is most certainly a game better suited for those who don’t appreciate being staggered by more intense difficulties, or a younger gamer seeking a vibrant, spellbinding world to frolic in.