The battle is won, so tonight let us drink from the skulls of our enemies! Although, if you happen to be a Zapling, you’ll do more than drink, you’ll actually wear them yourself to gain and use the powers of your enemies. So, if nothing else, Zapling Bygone is certainly quirky!
Zapling Bygone is a 2D Metroidvania-style game where you play as a little green blob of tentacles. A series of unfortunate circumstances forces an alien hive-mind to leave their home planet in search of somewhere new; after stumbling across a strange little planet sequestered in an unknown sector (yup, Earth), they send down a small little Zapling (you) to investigate the terrain and see if this quirky place can become their new home.
As a Metroidvania, you will spend your time exploring back and forth across the map collecting new powers and retracing your steps to access new areas. These powers are the various skulls you collect throughout your travels. Some of the skulls you will simply stumble across, but most of the time they come from the bosses you defeat.
Some skulls come with an essential powerup or new movement mechanic such as being able to cling to and scale walls, or the ability to double jump or dash across dangers. Luckily you don’t have to manually switch between skulls in order to use these essential skills, instead, it is merely a visual effect in the moment as the Zapling bounces and crawls around.
Each skull you collect, however, has a certain amount of nodes that will allow you to insert helpful passive powerups. There are circle, square, and triangle-shaped powerups, and skulls can only fit a certain amount of powerups. Deciding which powers matter to you allows for a nice level of customization depending on your individual tastes: do you like to attack quickly, or be slower but do more damage?
There are some powerups, however, that feel actually necessary to progress; one particular one allows you to dash in any direction (rather than just horizontally), once I got this, many more areas were opened up to me, almost forcing me to only wear the few skulls I had that could support that triangle upgrade.
Artistically, this game is fantastic; it conveys a sense of bleakness in an unforgiving world. The story is told by collecting comic book panels in each area. Find all of them, and you’ll be privy to just what exactly happened in the Ratking Gardens or Mad City. Of course, if you miss any, you will miss out on the story and some exceptionally good artwork. As well, there will be certain spots where your various skulls will want to have a quick word with you to describe how they’re feeling, or what they thought about a certain place when they were alive. It’s morose, but wouldn’t you be too if you were a reanimated skull that wasn’t allowed to die a true death because a little tentacle monster is using you to get around?
At the end of the day, Zapling Bygone is a fun little Metroidvania that is challenging without feeling unfair. The boss battles are extremely fun, and the game has a lovely flow that just feels good in your hands. If you’re a fan of the genre, pick this one up today!
Zapling Bygone £11.69
Zapling Bygone is a fun and challenging Metroidvania that will keep you entertained for hours. With fantastic comic book artwork telling the story, completionists will be in heaven… or Valhalla using the skulls of their enemies to collect every last item.