We all try and live up to our heroes, don’t we? Even if we don’t realize it, a lot of us do our jobs to try and match, mimic and maybe surpass those who’ve done amazing work before us. When it comes to trying to capture elements and aspects of classic games, this becomes a slippery slope of difficulty. After all, a lot of the titles that were wildly popular in yesterday were the pinnacle of what could be achieved with games at that time: if the next Donkey Kong game was simply a 1:1 of the original Donkey Kong Country, it would be deemed sloppy, pixelated, and a waste of an opportunity. Yes, to capture the feeling of an old game, you have to choose your battles wisely. For Ennui Studios, the attempt to emulate so many great feelings was well placed, but, ultimately, fell slightly short for what a game can and should be today.
Tyr: Chains of Valhalla is an incredibly novel concept from the beginning. Tyr is our titular character, a sort of android creation of Professor O.Din, who needs Tyr to stop the rising evil powers of L.Oki, who wants to destroy the whole world, which is by triggering a cataclysmic explosion that perfectly mimics the fabled Ragnarok. The plot itself isn’t terribly original, but it’s a good use of infusing some inspiration from classic mythology and affixing it to a cyberpunk framework that’s more focused on the meta humans and robots than computer hacking and keyboard cowboys. As Tyr makes his way towards victory, he will gradually find his body upgraded and augmented, allowing him to become the full robotic vessel of righteousness his father always wanted him to be. In terms of storytelling, making Tyr take on the role of Mega Man as interpreted by the Protomen is a decent angle, and I was fully on-board.
In terms of game play, Tyr: Chains of Valhalla really puts the speed in speed platform. Though the roots of the game are clearly dripping with things like Mega Man, Metroid and Contra, the main focus is always, always on the clock. You have a limited. Amount of time to get through each level, with a points based system being your reward for getting through things successfully, and some decent mechanics to hold things together from the very beginning. Tyr is a master of the double jump, the vertical wall jump (which was always my favorite versus the sandwich type), a dash, and an elemental blasting system that asks you to keep an eye on the enemies. At the end of several levels are bosses that you need to deal with, and the bosses often require you to keep an eye on elements in order to deal the most amount of damage and finish the fight quickly. I cannot stress enough how important it is to try and beat the levels in a good amount of time, and to keep the total seconds very clear: after the first couple of stages, time becomes a real crunch for you to worry about.
There are a lot of great aspects to Tyr: Chains of Valhalla. First and foremost, the game is a spectacular showcase of music and sound. Nodding towards the Nordic ideas throughout, the metal and symphonic thrashing of the soundtrack throughout really helps to capture and emulate both the ancient mythology that inspired the game and the futuristic landscape that moves throughout. Whether you’re dashing down tunnels, blasting baddies in the face or trying to figure out the pattern to get past the next boss, the strong guitar licks and thumping drums throughout really make the game worthwhile and enjoyable.
Additionally, when Tyr: Chains of Valhalla has a good spurt of gameplay, things really come together in a wild and exciting fashion. The buttons have been mapped to the Switch in a fluid way, so you get into a great rhythm of jumping, dashing, shooting, dodging, and swapping between elements in order to pull off the perfect kill. When the game comes together, you really do feel like a vessel of vengeance crafted to stop the apocalypse from happening, executing wild, exact justice on those who would oppose you. Since a lot of the game involves learning from your mistakes, when you finally enter into the groove and fly through a level, knowing where to jump, when to stop and who can be dealt with or passed over, ti grants the appropriate demi-god tone, complete with the thumping soundtrack and the pretty decent visuals. I do appreciate that Ennui Studio rode the line between going full Norse and full anime to try and bring something in-between that I mostly liked.
However, it’s the lead up to those times when the game soars that leaves you feeling down in the gutter a lot of the time. Tyr: Chains of Valhalla is an absolute chore to deal with when it comes to getting the game down pat. You quickly realize there is an inherent clunkiness to how things handle when you’re feeling your way around: the dash goes a bit too far and takes a moments too long to recharge. You jump a bit awkwardly, and the hitboxes of enemies are very precise and sometimes difficult to target when jumping or dashing. The powerups to your weapon are great until you get hit a single time, and then they’re gone, and you’re left with nothing. You start to realize there will be many times where you don’t even want to shoot enemies unless you HAVE to: instead, you just jump dash past them and leave them firing in broken lines towards your general direction. There were even a couple of times where I killed enemies essentially off camera, shooting wildly and then watching their shadows disappear even as I approached the spot where they used to be.
The biggest deal breaker, though, is the clock mechanic. Since everything comes down to getting to the final boss before the 60 minutes is up, you start to sacrifice logical gameplay in favor of keeping the time down. If you miss a jump or get stuck shooting an enemy four times instead of three because the element was wrong, you’re better off just killing yourself and restarting from the last save point. The whole elemental system just becomes a trifecta of “match the color fast” so you don’t waste a second, but how many MINUTES of my life did I waste figuring out these moments? Like my complaints with the older Atelier games, Tyr: Chains of Valhalla alienates several kinds of customers by forcing them to play in a stressful atmosphere regardless of your play style.
I wanted to like Tyr: Chains of Valhalla. The concept was cool, the presentation was nice, the soundtrack was dynamite and, when you get to those difficult platforming areas later on, it really shows the bones that the game was built on: inspiration from oldschool titles that ate up quarters and hours in equal measure. Yet, when you don’t get that same nostalgic thrill from a level that’s just mediocre but challenging due to framework, you lose the spark and the drive to play, especially when the clock makes you feel like it’s all a waste of time. If you’re ready to dedicate the patience and play to it, Tyr: Chains of Valhalla could be a rocking experience. However, if you’d prefer to enjoy a game in a more casual way, you might need to ride the Rainbow Bridge to another shore.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Tyr : Chains of Valhalla Review
Gameplay - 6/10
Graphics - 6/10
Sound - 6/10
Replay Value - 6/10
User Review( votes)
Despite prayers to the Old and New Gods, Tyr: Chains of Valhalla only manages to have a mortal status with a great soundtrack but poor overall gameplay.