Review: No Place for Bravery (Nintendo Switch)
Welcome to Dewr, where there is No Place For Bravery—the game, not the philosophy. You will definitely need to be brave…at least as brave as necessary for a video game.
No Place For Bravery—from Ysbryd Games/Glitch Factory—is an adventure/combat game with familiar elements from a few other games you may have seen. It may not get a perfect score for originality, but a large portion of what it does is done well. The other side of this coin means, yes, there are some things which didn’t leave me with the most positive impression.
I’ll start with the game’s visuals. I’m torn here. There are some nice visual elements, and the different environments have interesting elements which help to paint a full picture of your world. The eShop entry says the game has “exquisite visuals.” Yeah, not really. This is another game trying to look “retro-cool” by being rendered in a chunky pixelation. Please, for the love of real visual appeal, stop it with the 8-bit look; it went out in the early ‘90s for a reason. There are precious few games which would look good with this approach, and No Place for Bravery is not one of them.
The game does include plenty of visual interest points—from baddies to traps/hazards to quaint villages to dank caves—and attempts to keep the characters and NPC different enough so you can tell who are friends and who are foes.
The soundtrack does a better job of living up to the advertising. The music provides a good atmosphere and sets the mood nicely. There is some nice vocal work (non-lyrical) which goes well with the text-based story delivery. The game supports a few languages for the text, and having “wordless” singing allows for a nice continuity with the story.
Let’s dig into the gaming elements and mechanics. Navigation is pretty easy. The left stick will let you walk around the 2D world you inhabit, while the right buttons are what you might expect: attack, shield/parry, use, and dodge. There are special actions you can access by combining ZR and the Joy-Con buttons, including weapon change, use object, etc.
No Place For Bravery provides three band-style meters so you can keep track of your vital stats. The big red one is, of course, hit points. The others are for shield stamina and for attack. I’m a bit mixed on these as well. While it adds a level of complexity which keeps the player on their toes, I have to wonder if these are really helpful to gameplay. With some of the more intense combat sessions, it is enough to have to worry about your hit points and your attack stamina; adding the defense stamina seems a bit of a pile-on. Speaking of piling on, when the action gets heavy, the game slows down noticeably. The order of events doesn’t get messed up, so your attack or dodge or parry will still happen when it should relative to the enemy attacks, it may just take a couple extra seconds to happen.
As you wander around the game world you will find area borders every so often. No Place For Bravery is not very good at telling you this, but when you reach a border (sometimes a door to a building, sometimes a new area in a dungeon, etc.) you will need to press and hold the A button to keep going. This press and hold routine is used for a few other things as well, like interacting with the small altars scattered about the place or decapitating a disabled enemy.
Speaking of decapitation, this game earned an M (17+) rating, so expect some things to be a bit graphic. Along with all the blood and guts, as pixelated as they are, there is also the ethical conundrum of the main character running around in dangerous places, engaging in combat and the like, all while carrying a small child on his back. It’s only a game, but the treatment of children in games can be a touchy thing. Again, rated M.
You do get to travel with allies at different points. Don’t expect a lot of help in combat from your “friends,” but they do help advance the story. This is another good point of the game; you can play at a few difficulty levels. The base level is a story mode which provides the narrative elements and difficult, but not insane, combat. Be careful what you do in the game because your choices can change how the plot plays out. Another helpful feature is the game map. It isn’t always the most clear or helpful, but it does keep track of where you have been. I did have the top bar in the “+” menu get a bit glitchy on me once, but a reboot of the game cleared it up so I’ll chalk that one up to “stuff happens” for now.
Taken as a whole, No Place For Bravery is a good game with some minor irritations and one significant issue. The story is intriguing and the environments are interesting. There are some gameplay problems with frame rate slowing, and there could be better instructions or a tutorial for some of the travel stuff. With a system whereon we can play games with actual “exquisite visuals” (we know what they are), still having to squint to figure out what that 8-bit pile o’ pixels is supposed to represent may be retro, but it isn’t cool.