Review: Anonymous Notes Chapter 1 - From The Abyss (DSiWare)

Non-stop grind

There's nothing quite like a good dungeon crawler to waste away an afternoon. All that hacking and slashing and magicking and looting and leveling — when these gel together, why, yes, please. These are all traits found in Anonymous Notes Chapter 1 - From The Abyss, but sadly the glue keeping the game together lacks a very vital component: purpose.

Looking and sounding an awful lot like a charming, overlooked 16-bit romp, Anonymous Notes Chapter 1 is actually plucked from Sonic Powered Co.'s full retail game From The Abyss. We're not sure what gives with the hokey title since we didn't find one note written anonymously within, but so it goes. The story is equally hokey monster portal stuff and the writing is nothing to write home about, but really it's all just an excuse to dive into an ever-growing dungeon to murder monsters and collect equipment. So you dive and slash and dive further and slash harder until you finally get to the end-of-dungeon boss who doesn't put up much of a fight, and once you conquer it you're basically told to just do it all again. No reward, no cool equipment, just back into the fray with dungeons undergoing a palette change. It's as if the game was built to be just one huge grind.

Dungeon crawls tend to lean on leveling up and increasingly fancy loot to keep you engaged, and Chapter 1 approaches this in a different way from genre convention. You don't really level up in the sense of earning XP or spending skill points, instead everything is hinged on what you're currently equipped with. Beasties are eager to drop loot, so destroying their armies will eventually find you stronger armor, new weapons or one-off spells for battle. There's no incentive to keep anything in your inventory beyond what's equipped, though, since not only does dying wipe your inventory completely but there is no in-game economy to speak of, amounting to a cluttered inventory on the touchscreen with nothing to do with anything excess.

Earning new skills — as well as replenishing health and magic, for that matter — is centered around the pretty neat concept of absorption: once you weaken an enemy, you throw your tiny ball of light at them and mash the button until you've yanked something. What you'll receive is unpredictable, but it's the only way to permanently acquire abilities. It's a refreshing take on powers, but not necessarily something we'd like to see become the genre standard.

Being Chapter 1 of a retail game it's safe to assume that there'll be a Chapter 2, and this is something the developers have left hooks for through save slots: two of the slots are said to be readable by future chapters, so presumably you'll be able to carry forth your equipment and skills to the next game. Unlike the retail release there's no multiplayer component, which we found to be sorely disappointing as half the fun of dungeon crawls is crawling with a friend. And what good is flashy loot if you can't show it off?


Too often the question of "why?" rears its head when playing Anonymous Notes Chapter 1 - From The Abyss; the game has a sound foundation but does few interesting things with it. After hacking, slashing and magicking your way through Chapter 1, you might come out on the other end confused as to what the hell the whole point of it all was. Perhaps this'll be expanded and explained in Chapter 2, but as it stands Anonymous Notes is an OK albeit aimless dungeon endeavor.

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