Run from the savepoint, skip the cutscene, jump to grab a ring, another cutscene showing the miasma that’s chasing you, platform section, mess up a jump, get eaten by the miasma. Then repeat last three sections over and over again until you die and start from the savepoint again. This was the point at which all the goodwill we had for the otherwise delightful Itorah evaporated like so much stale beer at the bottom of a pint glass. You’d have hoped playtesting would have highlighted this and the developer Grimbart Tales would have added an option to skip tricky sections like this if you die more than say, fifty times at the same spot, But no. There’s no option and no way of backtracking either as you’re funnelled down this hateful death gauntlet over and again.
It’s made much worse by the fact that even if you gain a healthy lead on the writhing tentacled mass, it rubberbands right on back to you so any margin for error you did have is virtually zero. We’d prefer a straight fight rather than an arbitrary nightmare loop like this. At least Groundhog Day had peak Andie MacDowell at her most charming, but this is more like the Ned Ryerson encounter over and over again.
Until this point in the Forbidden Ruins, matters were fine. Some light Metroidvania style platforming with some fair obvious roadblocks to hinder your progress. OK, so you go to the next area and revisit. Only it takes damn well ages to get anywhere, let alone bag the finish the game in five hours trophy.
We concede we may have made matters far worse by neglecting to dash when we returned the following day, but this sequence highlighted one major shortcoming that is present in Itorah. Save points and hence your checkpoints are either really far apart or far too close to one another. There’s no happy medium here. So you can be tackling a tricky gauntlet, only to die due to a pernickety jumping section and find yourself miles away from your previous checkpoint.
Fair enough, but you’ll often have a prelude of enemies to defeat before you get back to your sticking point. Not to mention the spike filled shaft you have to negotiate by wall jumping. We died on one section repeatedly when we revisited Itorah in the midst of writing this review to see if we were perhaps being a little harsh. But no, it kept happening even if we made a little progress otherwise.
Graphically, it’s all very pleasant and your stranger out of time player is well depicted. You find yourself cocooned in a catacomb with an initially unseen companion. It turns out to be a magical talking war hammer who invariably has a fine line in sassy backchat. You’re roused from your slumber by the sister of the local village chief who’s exploring in the ruins despite being told otherwise.
The Mesoamerican setting is all very lush and verdant, sadly it becomes clear that it’s mere window dressing. Combat is largely uninspiring, platforming is average and the unlockable powers via the periodically placed ethereal goo that you’ll encounter are predictable by way of the spaces you can’t yet encounter. The fact that there’s no fast travel between checkpoints is also a glaring omission, but more likely a deliberate design decision. Additionally, unlockable health and stamina upgrades are only applied via the smith in the main village and it becomes unavailable after a certain point in the story doesn’t help either.
Somewhat oddly, even though Itorah is the latest version and you can buy it on the PSN store for a penny under sixteen quid, the version number reported is version 0.0.37. On top of this, the dev Grimbart Tales have effectively said they’re calling it quits in this tweet from February. We hope we’re wrong, but we suspect that any issues with Itorah are likely to remain unsolved going forward.
The same enemies keep on cropping up throughout, only they’re basically identical throughout. Not even a reskin with extra health. The same enemies you fight in the opening stages are still bothering you otherwise. Though when you get the ground pound attack, one bothersome tree guardian is fairly easily dispatched. It’s a rare bright point in the otherwise blaverage experience we had playing.
Itorah is the game equivalent of getting a lovely looking new car, except the engine is gutless, it has an automatic gearbox and handles like a yacht. Or a bloke you meet in the pub who likes the same football team as you and somehow latches on to you. Fun to begin with but ultimately a Super Sunday super bore. We felt like that with Itorah unfortunately. We might revisit it if we can be bothered, but we’re more likely to tackle the laundry as it’s more fulfilling.
We recommend you ultimately swerve Itorah altogether, it’s not that it’s particularly bad but neither is it inspiring enough to keep you engaged. The lack of fast travel and the generic uninspired gameplay don’t help in the slightest, nor does the inconsistent checkpointing. The music is alright at least, even on the main menu screen to the point where we didn’t feel the need to mute it. Shame we didn’t feel the desire to play Itorah more than we had to. At least it’s not a buggy mess like the execrable Guardian of Lore.
In conclusion, Itorah is a pretty platformer with average at best gameplay. Mean checkpointing and fussy platforming don’t help the case. It runs well on our base model PS4 too, albeit with slightly longer load times compared to our PS5. The fact that the dev called it three months ago suggests we’re not alone in terms of the indifferent feeling we felt from playing Itorah.
+ Music isn’t that annoying
+ Runs OK on a base PS4
+ At least it isn’t a bad as the similarly set Guardian Of Lore
- The dev winding things up prior to release is a worry
- Nice graphical style is mere window dressing for insipid gameplay otherwise
- New powers are as predictable as they are generic