Reviews - Updated on April 2, 2022

Fearmonium is already the third author’s game from our compatriots Slava Gris, who is responsible for art, code, story and game design, and Dmitry Emelyanov, who works under the pseudonym Expecte Amour (he writes music and sounds). It was Fearmonium that turned out to be the most noticeable and bright. Still, a metroidvania visually similar to Cuphead, the action of which takes place in the subconscious of a depressed teenager, where we act as one of his phobias, and remain in the bath with a half-naked girl named Lady Depression, you see, is able to attract attention. But how interesting and elaborate is Fearmonium?

Max has coulrophobia

So, the action of Fearmonium takes place in the subconscious of a teenager named Max, who really has a hard time – his mother lives with his stepfather, and he does not like the guy, to put it mildly. Peer problems at school. The only outlet – the girl he likes, immediately after a wonderful date in the amusement park, announced that she was leaving for another city. At that moment, a park employee intervened in their conversation, offering to ride in a large balloon. And it only aggravated the situation – it was she, like balloons and clowns from the park, that began to appear to Max in nightmares.

Fearmonium Overview

Yes, the guy is depressed.

For this employee of the park, the personification of the hero’s unpleasant memory, we play, going all the way to a real phobia. In the process, we plunge deeper into Max’s subconscious, find ourselves in his nightmares, in school and in other locations where uncomfortable memories, anxieties, “objective fears”, other phobias and, conversely, bright images of a teenager are piled up.

Such interest of the authors to this topic is understandable. Slava Gris has a master’s degree in psychology, although he dropped out of graduate school at the age of 27. Believing that games are not only about “Press the A button”, he decided to share his knowledge in order to “help people learn something new or get deeper into the invented [им] history.” Say, it would be extremely irresponsible not to use their knowledge of psychology.

Fearmonium Overview

Here are our main tasks.

Psychology, education or play?

The plot, according to the author, touches on the nature of depression, and standard methods of protection against neuroses, and a bunch of other things that the author heard at lectures at the university. At the same time, Slava Gris assures that if you wish, you can ignore the story, dialogues and problems of Max, and the educational part is optional – just look at the funny pictures and fight colorful monsters, and the game will still not let you get confused.

The problem is that the author, with this educational part, still goes too far and does not pull it very well into the gameplay and what is happening. Yes, he is trying. When we are told that to weaken the bosses we need to find and release Max’s inner fears, this seems logical. Or when we find a passive ability called “Consolidation” – this is the “transition from short-term memory to long-term memory”, which in the game world is responsible for autosaving.

But there are many situations, objects and descriptions that are sewn to psychology (or, conversely, psychology to gameplay) with white threads. For example, we find the item “Toy Clown Memories”, which strengthens the connection with Max’s consciousness. And we are happily informed that “now broken lamps have a chance to restore some stamina.” What, why, what’s the connection?..

Fearmonium Overview

This effect and its description also look strange from the point of view of logic.

“One of the features of phobias is the repression of objective fears. And “objective” does not mean “reasonable.” “Phobia is not always as destructive as it might seem.” “Will the clowns be able to displace all of Max’s objective fears and take the place of his main horror?” If in press releases and announcements these topics are presented in such short sentences, then in the game itself you often have to read long, abstruse explanations that are not so easy to miss.

In my opinion, in a colorful metroidvania, such serious topics still cannot be revealed – the game form is not suitable for illustrating a university psychology course. As a result, such intrusive dialogues do not achieve their goal: they distract and annoy those who do not want to dive into this specific, to put it mildly, topic, and they really do not teach anything to those who do.

Fearmonium Overview

Even clowns can’t express themselves properly.

In addition, talented games like Braid, Turgor and others skillfully operate with symbols and metaphors, leaving us room for imagination and food for thought. And the author of Fearmonium tries to chew and explain everything obsessively enough, taking the role of a mentor. It often looks tight and strained. On the other hand, this is my personal feeling. And from an objective point of view, we have a really original setting, a bright style and a story that is not trivial for such games (but quite common in life). It just seems to me that it is better to serve all this more subtly.

Fearmonium Overview

And there are periodically felt bouts of graphomania.

Classics of the genre, but with features

The gameplay itself in Fearmonium is classic for two-dimensional hand-drawn (and others too) metroidvanias, only adjusted for the fact that autosave here is called “the process of transition from short-term memory to long-term memory”, and to weaken the bosses, you need to release the “inner fears” of the hero. Well, you get the idea.

We run and jump left-right and up-down, we fight, we find useful items like missiles and passive abilities like the same Consolidation or Vampirism. And, of course, from time to time we unlock important skills that allow us to go where we could not go before, for example, a sharp dash or a heavy blow that can destroy stone barriers. You can also summon a flying knight, an umbrella, and a wizard that transports through spikes.

Fearmonium Overview

But this barrier of hearts will not be destroyed by a heavy blow – you need to find something else.

In the presence, of course, and fights with bosses, and riddles. The latter are built to move boxes, but not everything is so banal – it happens that the boxes need to be cunningly and in the correct order to drop, so you also have to think.

Fearmonium Overview

Many abilities are unlocked by defeating bosses.

Plus, the author tried to add interesting situations. Either we, having inhaled helium, fly like a balloon, maneuvering between enemies and spikes, then we ride horses, then we ride a trolley, jumping over the same spikes, knocking down kids on a bicycle and balloons. The latter, by the way, are the local currency for which we buy consumables from the Lady of Depression. We also save, heal and teleport to other places (namely, to the baths) of her stay.

Fearmonium Overview

Try to fly carefully!

And again questions

However, there are shortcomings here as well. In Fearmonium, it is not very convenient to fight and jump, the heroine sometimes reacts slowly to our actions, some situations are unnecessarily complicated (nervous flights in the form of a helium balloon immediately come to mind). And many bosses are not very interesting and are simply too tenacious.

Fearmonium Overview

Some have to be hammered in the same way for 10 minutes.

Even with the visual style so bright, in the spirit of Cuphead, all is not well. We are talking about clumsy animation and comic inserts, which clearly and not for the better fall out of the overall picture.

The author of the game loves early Disney cartoons and platformers on this topic, but most of all he was inspired by this clip.

Even before its release, Fearmonium was praised by many developers who were sent to watch it as part of indie competitions – for example, from Blizzard, Two Point Studios, NeocoreGames, tinyBuild Games and Creative Assembly Sofia. And we, of course, will praise it – this is an interesting, stylish and in some places original metroidvania for 20 hours. Especially since it was made alone for three years by a Russian enthusiast developer who did not sleep at night. If we have people who single-handedly deliver games that Blizzard pays attention to, then we can only be proud of that.

But it is obvious that Slava Gris (no questions to Dmitry Emelyanov – the music here is great!) just for objective reasons did not have enough game design knowledge and resources, and somewhere, perhaps, advice on how to bring the project to mind. Therefore, I really want him to team up with the same talented developers and together they will give us a real masterpiece.

Pros: non-trivial setting; an interesting story about the psychological problems of an ordinary teenager; exciting gameplay in the tradition of metroidvania; bright visual style; awesome soundtrack.

Cons: the educational component about phobias and neuroses seems intrusive in places – the author chose not the best form of its presentation; there are questions about control, animation, combat system and balance of difficulty.

Similar content:

Displaced: Review

Reviews • 13/04/2022

Video games are a reflection of our reality. It is not surprising that violence in one form or another is present in almost every ...

Titanfall 2: Review

Reviews • 15/04/2022

Main Content Reluctant friends Entertaining acrobatics The frontier is worth fighting for Small but distant It’s hard to say how successful EA’s decision was ...

The Evil Within 2: Press Release Review

Reviews • 13/04/2022

After Silent Hill, Alan Wake, Resident Evil, it was hard not to notice the secondary nature of The Evil Within – Tango Gameworks went ...

Octopath Traveler: Review

Reviews • 11/04/2022

Relevant for platform: NSW Main Content Don’t even call friends Don’t come off Silent but helpful Octopath Traveler was considered one of this year’s ...