Smelter is a clever blend of two genres that really packs a punch


Indie developers always do their best to put a spin on classic formulas giving birth to hybrid games that offer new experiences. If you own a Nintendo Switch then youll quickly realise its a haven for these quirky but fantastic games. Developer X Plus are looking to offer players a really unique experience with their 16-bit action platformer Smelter.

Smelters adventure tells the story Eve who has her peaceful days taken away from her after Adam eats the forbidden fruit. Eve suddenly falls and keeps falling for a long time, this is also where Smelters clever writing takes centre stage. While falling into an unknown abyss Eve unknowingly breaks the fourth wall and has an hilarious argument with the narrator. This does last some time and if not for the brilliant writing I wouldve skipped it.



Smelter is a fantastic example of a genre mash-up

Once Eve finally lands, she stumbles upon Smelter, a living suit of armour who persuades her to fuse to give Eve the power to fight. Eve doesn’t realise that she has been entwined into an audacious adventure full of twists and turns. Smelters plot is filled with far-fetched scenarios that are nicely paced with its stellar comedic writing. The developers have done a great job creating a fun story filled with memorable characters and captivating action.

Smelter looks lovely with its vibrant 16-bit world invoking all kinds of nostalgia with nods to classics like Mega Man X. Each character model has a fantastic design with intricate details that enhance their characterisation. Eves attack animations radiate so much personality especially when you unlock newer ones further into the game. There are two types of levels in Smelter, the action platforming levels and the real time strategy levels.

The action levels are well crafted with each new offering something new and unique. The real time strategies levels on the other hand are quiet bland and repetitive, with each new area feeling like a rehash of the previous one. The enemies designs feel fresh and unique, with it being clear that the developers have created villains that perfectly reflect their environments.



A platforming section set in underground caves
The platforming portions feature some nice level design

The soundtrack is awesome, with each retro sounding theme invoking a sense of adventure, adding an extra atmosphere to every situation. The soundtrack is one of the highlights of Smelter.

Smelters gameplay is a unique blend of action platforming and real time strategy. After fusing with Smelter, Eve gains access to an arsenal of abilities that allows players to fight the hordes of enemies that await them. Players will have access to different elemental skill trees that will not only boost her attacks range but increase her ability to reach new areas and tackle some of the clever level designs.

Even though there is a healthy balance of exploration and combat players will find facing foes a little more thrilling. This isnt due to the fact that the enemies are hard to defeat, its more their positioning within the levels that will make players think what’s the best attack to use to progress.

The soundtrack is awesome, with each retro sounding theme invoking a sense of adventure, adding an extra atmosphere to every situation. The soundtrack is one of the highlights of Smelter.

Smelters gameplay is a unique blend of action platforming and real time strategy. After fusing with Smelter, Eve gains access to an arsenal of abilities that allows players to fight the hordes of enemies that await them. Players will have access to different elemental skill trees that will not only boost her attacks range but increase her ability to reach new areas and tackle some of the clever level designs.

Even though there is a healthy balance of exploration and combat players will find facing foes a little more thrilling. This isnt due to the fact that the enemies are hard to defeat, its more their positioning within the levels that will make players think what’s the best attack to use to progress.



An in-game enemy
You’ll have to keep your wits about you to progress

Each attack comes with an equally impactful name such as Earth Basher or Face Pummeler that makes you wish Eve could shout them out anime style while dishing damage. Boss battles are really challenging and go beyond just attacking and dodging, they often feel like mini puzzles added that extra bit of challenge.

Exploration and puzzle solving was surprisingly complex at times, there were parts of the game that left me scratching my head. I feel the developers have definitely utilised the strengths of environments the levels are based on, which made the experience that much more fun to tackle. The world in Smelter is full of secrets that will help players to access new abilities for Eve and help Smelter in the top down mode.

Finding all the apple cores and moxie deposits arent an easy task. And if the game wasnt already packed enough there are secret times trials with difficult objectives like not getting touched or stealth your way through the trial without being seen. These trials offer another level of gameplay which is fully welcomed, their difficulty will see completionists and speedrunners attempting them multiple times.



A top-down view in the strategy mode
The strategy elements are neat but can feel drawn out at times

Now Smelter mixes the action platforming with top down real time strategy games. Here Eve will rest and players will control Smelter as he expands his domain and conquers other territories and it is surprisingly well worked.

Players will have to build houses for Zirms, the soldiers who fight for Smelter, across the map. Once this is done players can start building barracks and outposts to defend their territory. However players cant just build whatever they want whenever, you will have to watch the apple supply which is what the Zirms live on. The amount of apples will determine what can be built. But players can also build Orcharion shrines which will increase their apple capacity. This is important as the Zirms will have to battle the enemies and players need to have enough men to fight.

Players will be able to use Smelter to heal buildings and use certain abilities to help in battle. The real time strategy is a mixed bag with the extra style of play helping to change the flow of things, but I do think these segments drag on a little too long and with so much happening on the screen it can get confusing at times.

Verdict

Smelter is a fun action packed game with plenty of depth to keep players engaged for a while. The combat system is intuitive and works a charm with the level design actually presenting a challenge rather than just being superficial. However I do wish the developers focused more on these parts of the game and minimise the real time strategy sections which felt like drawn out mini games. Saying that Smelter is a well devised indie game filled with witty dialogue and stellar action to match.

Smelter is out now for Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox One and PC





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