One way ticket to Helvetii...and back.

The game of the day is Helvetii, which dives into northern European lore with fighters, half-beast creatures, and Druids. It’s a bit of roguelite with a splash of side-scroller, and the blend is actually rather pleasing.

Helvetii looks good in handheld mode and on the big screen. The details are not so small that the Switch screen is a negative for gameplay. Not only is it easy to see everything you need to see, what you see is visually very appealing. The use of color and form make this a game you will be happy to get into.

The soundtrack is just as nice to listen to, as well.

Game controls are fluid and responsive without being overly-touchy. I have played a few games where you need pixel level precision to make a jump, find an object, or complete some other action to move forward with the game. These usually leave me a bit flat. I appreciate a game which requires some skill to play, but it is still just a game; I don’t want to be bogged down with a desire for utter perfection just to move around. Fortunately, the developers of Helvetii remembered to keep things simple and easy to use and let the gamer focus on the adventure.

This, however, is where things lean away from the best of what the game could be. Helvetii has a story and is an adventure game. However, the story is a bit thin, and the interaction with other characters and the relation of the story to the adventure you are on are a bit lackluster. The backstory elements are well worn and vague. After learning a leader rose up to fight for his people before darkness overtook him, you now have to go stop him, but you don’t get much in the way of details or follow-through. What we are left with is an almost level-grinding approach where you need to keep fighting through areas on the map to gain the upgrades needed to get past the boss at the end of the level.

Let’s take a moment to talk about the player avatars. There are three heroes from whom you may select: a fighter, a half-beast, or a Druid. The fighter is basically “the tank”, the half-human looks like a cross between a human and a fox, and comes with less pummeling power, but more magic. He (it?) is also faster and more agile. Lastly, we come to the Druid who, predictably, has low hit points and doesn’t do fantastic damage with melee attacks, but makes up for this with more mana for magical, ranged attacks.

Most gamers will recognize the usual triangle adept routine. This does allow for some interesting replay options. The downside with the game is that going through a level for the fifth time feels a lot like every other time before it. At least there may be some areas on the map which get laid out in a different sequence, so it isn’t too repetitive.

On the positive side, you do get a map of where you’ve been at the top of the screen. The level is separated into distinct areas (represented by a rectangular box) with line segments protruding from the box which indicate a path you may continue along if you survive what you find in that area.

Some areas include a shop in which you can talk to the proprietor or purchase items such as foodstuffs (some can increase stats, some can heal, etc.), a key to unlock a treasure chest, and so on. Of course, you need game coins to buy anything and the game is rather sparing with where and how much it doles out, so spend wisely.

When you do make your way through the series of areas which make up a level, you will face the inevitable boss. The theme here seems to be “large and in charge.” The bosses aren’t just more difficult versions of the other baddies you encounter, some are unique characters.

Minor spoiler alert, one of the bosses early on is Oberon. He is what you expect of a level boss—big, hard to kill, able to take you out fairly easily, you know the drill. Some of Oberon’s attacks will exhibit patterns you can learn so you can dodge and last a little longer. Unfortunately, he also embodies the near indifference to playing along with the game. I do get that, in his position, any challengers may be seen as unworthy of his full attention and most likely easily swatted away, but he doesn’t engage the player very well. Fortunately, there are other bosses where you may be quite unhappy to have their undivided attention—get ready for the dying part of the game. Don’t worry too much, you can still gain the extra skills and buffs needed to eventually come to a mutually beneficial agreement (that is, you whoop the boss good).

If you can live with a little level grinding to get the buffs needed to take on some of the bosses, this can be a very fun game to play.