STORY (without spoilers)
You play as Kiara, a young woman who has gone searching in Pandora to obtain a “gift”— an enigmatic power bestowed upon those who can clear the trial and make it out of Pandora. Once receiving this gift, which grants you a bow that allows you to control the age of flora and fauna, you set out adventuring across a land filled with mystery and magic, meeting new people and encountering different challenges, all in search of your sense of purpose and confidence. In the very beginning, you befriend Vi from the village, Remnant, who you cross paths with in Pandora. We later find out he is trying to save his little sister, who has been afflicted with a disease since birth. After reuniting with Vi later in Remnant, you will also encounter him throughout on his quest to save his sister.
Ageless will have you traversing the land and exploring mysterious and beautiful landscapes imbued with futuristic magic and danger, surrounding the concept of time. As you progress, the story continues to unfold in deep and unexpected ways. Each area of the map is unique and ripe for exploration— this truly feels like a great and difficult journey with unforeseen twists and challenges. In fact, the more you play and discover, the better this story gets. By the end of it, I was completely absorbed.
Before we get into the mechanics, it’s important to know that Ageless does have a bit of a learning curve— it requires you to be precise, sometimes excruciatingly precise— but that’s what makes the progression feel so rewarding. Ageless is a game that if you really invest in learning its mechanics and quirks, you will be rewarded heavily. It’s not just the mechanics that stand out, however— it’s the combination of quick thinking and problem solving, followed by the execution. This is a game that not only requires strategy, but a skillful execution in order to progress. It will have you wanting to throw your Switch across the room. It’s frustratingly good.
To get a better idea, let’s look at some of the gameplay below.
The main feature you will use is a bow that gives you the ability to “age” the life around you— this means you can make the creatures and plants younger or older by shooting them with your arrows. The lifecycle is presented in four stages, from creation to death. Each stage will prompt new abilities from the creatures that will help you clear the map. The other main ability is activating your “ageless” form. This pauses life and allows you to absorb the life energy of a living being in order to dash. This will revert the organism to the previous life stage. You can also wall jump. Investing in mastering these mechanics will unlock the full potential of each map.
While I found that the sensitivity of aiming on the bow was slightly higher than I would have liked, it was not an overwhelming issue. As I progressed, I was able to adapt to this sensitivity; however, it did result in some deaths due to the general mechanics. There are also a few glitches I encountered while playing, but again, nothing too alarming.
Each stage may cost several deaths before you make it through. The quick and seamless respawns— much like those in the top Indie game, Celeste —encourage you to jump back in. It’s easily a game you can play in short bursts and long sessions.
You also have the option of collecting “relics”, which resemble a glowing “A” that you can only access in your ageless form. These are similar to the strawberries in Celeste.
In fact, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Celeste, one of my absolute favorite games, while playing Ageless. Mechanically, there are more complexities and a steeper learning curve, but there are many similarities in the flavor of the gameplay and style. Even so, this game certainly stands out as its own. The mechanics are arguably more complex, utilizing the aging ability in different ways to advance throughout the map. The stages, story, and unique gameplay elements feel original and fresh. The more I discovered each map, the more Ageless stood out as its own unique title— and everything about it works wonderfully.
This is a game that those up to the challenge will want to replay, either to obtain all of the relics or speedrun.
It’s not just the mechanics and story that stand out, but the pixelated art style looks absolutely gorgeous in this title. Each map feels unique and alive with the beautifully depicted color schemes. While the lore is mostly conveyed through dialogue and signs throughout the game, I found each new setting helped to steadily build upon the untold background of the world. This keeps the story intriguing and allows each new area in the game to feel new.
The soundtracks are also fitting for each stage. Ranging from adventurous to thrilling, the music felt atmospheric, beautiful, and exciting, without becoming distracting. It flowed flawlessly with the story.
Ageless is a fantastic addition to the genre. It offers fresh gameplay mechanics while utilizing the more classic features such as the wall-jump and dashes as support. What’s more, the story and character development get noticeably deeper and better with each new map. Not only does it feel like a hard-won accomplishment to complete, but an entire adventure.
It took me a little under 20 hours to complete the story, including collecting around 50% of the relics.
Those who enjoyed Celeste will definitely want to jump on this title. It offers a fresh take on the puzzle-platform genre with an original concept and unique mechanics. Of course, it’s definitely not for the faint of heart. Anyone down for a challenge will meet their match in Ageless.
Ageless is available on the eShop now.