Imp of the Sun is charmingly beautiful. Challenging, but not punishing. Approachable, yet it does not hold your hand. Imp of the Sun is a Metroidvania grounded in Peruvian lore and crafted by indie developer Sunwolf Entertainment. Imp of the Sun provides a gateway into the Metorvania genre. However, there is enough challenge for existing fans to enjoy.
From the opening moments, Imp of the Sun makes its’ Metroidvania roots clear. To the left are areas not accessible yet. However, a wall jump or air dash would provide access. Consequently, these are some of the moves that unlock as the game progresses. The contiguous map design creates an intricate world of various biomes. Each is filled with collectibles, some of which are just out of reach until a future power-up is discovered. This is a core design element of any Metrovania, but what makes Imp of the Sun stand out is the accessibility and optional difficulties.
There is no lack of Metroidvania games available. However, few games in recent memory have made the genre as approachable as Imp of the Sun. Fortunately, this is not to say the game is easy. There are still areas players can wander into only to discover powerful enemies and quick deaths. These challenges are not roadblocks though, they are signposts. Developer Sunwolf built a branching game world where the player always has the tools to explore a path. As the game progresses, the above-mentioned dash and wall jump open up additional areas. New and more powerful attacks unlock to offset those initially powerful enemies. In addition, the sun imp can level up health, attack, and the sun charge by collecting orbs throughout the game.
The sun charge ability and meter in Imp of the Sun allow the player to heal and deliver special attacks. The healing ability adds a unique twist to standard Metroidvania fare and fits nicely within the lore of the world. The sun meter charges when exposed to sun or flame. Out in a sun-filled level, it is constantly charging. However underground, torches, and other sources of light are required to charge resulting in a measured and strategic use of healing or special moves. The ability to heal frequently or retreat to a flame creates additional accessibility for a variety of skill sets.
However, for those that want a challenge, a hard mode unlocks after finishing the game and remixes some of the map layout. Hard more requires precision platforming and an understanding of the combo and juggling system of melee combat. Air attacks juggle an enemy and provide a slight lift in height. Sunwolf created a deep set of mechanics for players looking for it, while maintaining approachability for those less experienced.
Graphics & Sound
The Peruvian inspired setting creates a graphical style reminiscent of Guacamelee, yet the character designs are unique. NPC art feels like part of a children’s storybook. Enemy designs retain the esthetic and the detailed animation is valuable in timing attacks and dodges. Imp of the Sun‘s soundtrack drives the energy of the action and atmosphere of the game world. The instrumentation, winds and drums, connect the cultural setting and creates a sense of place as the player explores the world. The soundtrack by Jose Varon becomes a character within the world and central to the experience.
For experienced genre fans, a fast playthrough can take a few hours. While this may seem fast, the genre has always rewarded and encouraged speed runs. Unlocking various images of Samus in the original Metroid was tied to the game clock. However, most players will be rewarded with collectibles and a satisfying world as they take the time to explore. Imp of the Sun understands that game that it is. The developers succeeded in creating reasons to explore and unlock abilities while not punishing the player.
Imp of the Sun Succeeds
The more I played Imp of the Sun, the more I loved the experience. Combat was satisfying, yet not frustrating. Exploration was rewarding and teased areas just out of reach. While it does not redesign the Metroidvania genre, it reinvigorates it. While many games in the genre push in the direction of adding challenge, Imp of the Sun pushes in the direction of approachability. Resulting in a charming, enjoyable, and easy going experience. A perfect change of pace and one of the most enjoyable gaming experiences of 2022.