I’ve been eyeing Effie for quite some time; the shield-surfing GIFs on the bright red plains they’ve been sharing certainly drew the attention. Another aspect that pulled me in is that the game claims to have drawn inspiration from PS2-era classics like Jak & Daxter and Maximo, so let’s see if it succeeds in that regard.
The game starts off with an old knight, Galand, telling a story to a young girl named Effie, and his narration carries on throughout the game, with him providing snarky feedback on what happens or giving a bit of foreshadowing on things to come. It’s a funny way of keeping the player engaged with the story, without having to show too many cutscenes.
And that’s a good thing, as making characters behave naturally in cutscenes seems to be a weak point of the developers. They seem aware of this, showing our protagonist from behind whenever they have the chance or zooming in on objects instead of the faces. It’s good that they worked to their strengths, but maybe they should have chosen to double down on the animated drawings they used in the opening cinematic to serve their story-telling purposes.
Sadly, the animation woes do not end there: some of the in-game events don’t look particularly better with levers being pulled in thin air (without seeing your arms grab them) or chests being opened by slamming your shield on them. I can usually forgive these things easily in an indiegame, but something about how it plays out on the screen felt off in Effie. (felt offie?)
The meat of the game plays out like a typical action adventure from the PS2 days and they’ve certainly succeeded in bringing out the nostalgia for those titles, with accurate platforming action and plenty of collectibles to find along the way, most of them serving as experience to help Galand level up.
There are a few locations where I had to learn the hard way that so much as touching some of the dangerous liquid surface mean instant death and that would have been fine, but it’s never clear how much progress you’ve just lost. Sometimes you’ll have to re-collect all the pickups in the level before attempting the jump you’ve failed only seconds before, it adds a certain amount of stress that I could have done without (perhaps I’ve simply been spoiled in recent years where every item pickup prompts a quicksave).
On a couple of occassions, I did get stuck in the level, like that boat image above, which luckily happened during a short boss-battle. I had to quit to the main menu and reload the savefile. It’s not the worst kind of bug, but it’s always unfortunate when it happens…
One thing you’ll definitely won’t get stuck on are the puzzles: they’re all fairly straightforward with hints on how to solve them in clear line of sight. It’s not something I mind, personally, but I can see some people feeling unchallenged after simply pressing a few buttons. Ironically, Garland will comment stuff like “of course, I succeeded in my first try, yeah, that’s how it happened…” as if I had a failed attempt behind me, when that was never the case.
As for the combat: it’s a fairly simple approach, mostly because of how easy it feels. Your shield is able to create a forcefield around you, but it’s rarely more effective than just spamming the heavy attack button. Once you gain the ability to perform a powerful earthquake slam attack, any challenge the game may have offered evaporated in thin air. Though that particular attack does look pretty cool in slow motion!
You’ll gradually gain more abilities as you explore more areas but the coolest of them all is without a doubt the single element that made the game stand out in the first place: Surfing your shield across the gorgeous red plains in the overworld, which connects all the different locations.
The trailers may make it seems like this is a big focus of the game, but sadly it only accounts for maybe 10-15% of your playtime. Think of it as riding Epona across the Hyrulian fields in Ocarina of time. It’s pretty satisfying though and I easily spent more time here just cruising around than I should have.
You may have noticed I added my own music to the video above and that’s not entirely without reason. The game’s biggest flaw, is hands down the ton of audio issues:
- Monsters looping their screeches & growls
- Background music and audio effects disappearing entirely
- Cutscene narration playing a second time after just hearing them
- Certain sound effects being too loud compared to others and not coming from the correct location in the game (with headphones on)
I really hope these are issues caused by the port to Xbox One and that they will soon be fixed with an update.
The game isn’t overly long and feels like just the right length for an adventure of this scale. There are 4 major locations in the game with a gorgeous overworld that offers a few sights to see and optional collectibles or challenges to take on, like a checkpoint race for instance. It kind of feels a bit too empty for its size, but that’s probably to allow for more manouevring on your shield/hoverboard.
Effie aims to bring back the nostalgic feelings for the 3D action-adventure games from the golden era on PS2 and certainly succeeds to some degree, but it’s missing an overall level of polish and has a few too many bugs to fully enjoy.
*Disclaimer: This game was reviewed on Xbox Series X, a review copy was provided by the developer.