STAFF REVIEW of Imp of the Sun (Xbox One)

Friday, April 8, 2022.
by Peggy Doyle

Imp of the Sun Box art If you know me in real life, through social media or here, you’ll know I’m a fan of an underdog story, a champion of the scrappy indie game that rarely gets credit amid all the big flashy titles, a lover of cute and adorable animation and a massive fan of music - especially beautiful game soundtracks. Often compared to the likes of Ori and the Blind Forest, this debut game from Peruvian developers Sunwolf Entertainment, Imp of the Sun, checks off all of those boxes for me. Taking its inspiration from Inca culture, the beautiful imagery and soundtrack transports you through time.

In Imp of the Sun, you play as an adorable little imp named Nin, created from the last of the Sun's power. With Earth being plunged into an eternal eclipse, you must find a way to bring the sun's power back. This involves defeating the four keepers that have stolen that power. The last two humans, a young girl named Suyana and her grandmother, offer tips on your adventure.

2D platformers have been and will always be a popular choice for indie developers, and Imp of the Sun falls within this genre. Being a popular genre means that a lot of games will be released in this category, and you have a work a bit harder to get noticed. Its gameplay mechanics are typical of a 2D platformer, you start the game with a basic jump, then acquire a double jump, dash and a wall jump. Using a combination of your moves you will make your way forward to the Keeper of each of the four realms of the map, jumping over gaps and avoiding obstacles. You will upgrade skills to include more powerful attacks, higher jumps, speed boosts and even the ability to light fires. Your stamina bar known as your “inner fire” gets replenished with fire orbs from defeating enemies or by being near a fire, so having the ability to light your own fires in certain places helps maintain your Inner Fire. Fans of the genre won’t find anything exceptional or new here but there is something about the familiarity of moves that helps this genre stay the course and remain popular.

When I first saw the trailers for Imp of the Sun, I was intrigued by the Inca influence and the adorable art style. Of all the games I’ve played through the years, I don’t know of one that used Peruvian story telling. The dialogue in game is provided entirely through text, although the characters make sounds as their speech text appears on screen. I knew it was an action platformer and wasn’t expecting anything super original. I liked the exploration and collecting components, but I loved the puzzle solving. Most puzzles involved finding your path through various parts of the world, using your skills to break through walls and finding switches and levers.

Combat was also typical of 2D platformers, attack, jump, dodge etc. The boss fights, although few, were enjoyable and well designed. Tough enough to have me die a few times before noticing the pattern of movement or what I needed to accomplish and were enjoyable along with the mild challenge. I found Imp of the Sun to have a good balance of not being too easy, but not becoming incredibly frustrating either. The main issue I had with the combat was that it was often imprecise. This meant there were times when you would get hit from an enemy when you shouldn’t have been, or you’d miss a hit on an enemy when it should have connected. This was frustrating at times, especially if it caused you to fail a boss battle. If you die, you’ll respawn at your nearest checkpoint. luckily these were frequent throughout the map and often just before boss fights as well. This meant you didn’t have to go far to get back to the fight should you die. I died a fair amount in the game, and after multiple attempts at a boss, I would often wander off in search of new skills or upgrades and then fast travel back. Most platforming sections weren’t too difficult, even with my ‘older gamer’ reflexes. With the exception of an area near the end that took me much longer to navigate than I care to admit.

With four sections of the map, you can explore any area at any time. This was a relief as I got stuck on one of the Keepers and had to move on to avoid pulling my hair out. Once you learn all of Nin’s skills you’ll likely have to go back to each section anyway if you want to collect the artifacts and trinkets strewn about. Your skill level and the desire to collect all of these things will determine the length of time you take to complete Imp of the Sun. If you are particularly skilled at these types of games and not into collecting, you will likely breeze through in an estimated 4 to 5 hours or so. Or you can take your time and sink more hours into it. The short competition time is not a terrible thing, I think the game paces itself very well and doesn’t give you too much filler to artificially inflate the game.

I briefly talked about the text and sounds used for speech, but I would also like to touch on the music. One of the things I love the most about indie games is that they always seem to put a lot of care into their music selections. Some of the best soundtracks come from these small games. The level of detail is never lost on me, and if you’ve read many of my reviews of these hidden gems you’ll see I often spend time talking about that. Very frequently, I’ll track down these soundtracks and add them to my playlists to listen to as I write. Imp of the Sun is no exception to this. Its soundtrack is playing right now in fact. The melodies flow freely and easily. Pan flutes (a staple of the culture represented) are forefront, and each map section or area has variations that help lend a special atmosphere component to the game. The soundtrack features 17 tracks utilising Andean and Peruvian instruments. Some of these instruments are over 6000 years old and have never been heard in modern recordings until now. You can purchase the soundtrack on Steam, but as of the time of writing you can listen to it in its entirety on the developers website. A massive thank you to the Peruvian composer, Jose Varon, for your beautiful music.

As for your enjoyment of Imp of the Sun, it will depend on a multitude of factors. If you are a fan of 2D platformers and/or are interested in the Inca inspiration, you’ll likely enjoy the game. If you’re looking for something completely new, a strong challenge or a lot of history/story, then this likely isn’t a game for you. Ultimately, I enjoyed my time with Imp of the Sun very much and I look forward to what Sunwolf Entertainment produces next.

**Imp of the Sun was provided by the publisher and reviewed on an Xbox Series X**

Overall: 8.8 / 10
Gameplay: 8.0 / 10
Visuals: 9.0 / 10
Sound: 10.0 / 10


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