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Sometimes, Bad Guys Don't Need the Extra Push to Make You Hate Them

The enemies in ‘Iconoclasts’ are hate-worthy alright, but how much is too much?

by Danika Harrod
Feb 2 2018, 3:58pm

All images captured courtesy Wanderbots and Bifrost

I recently started Iconoclasts, a big, beautiful 2D platformer by Joakim Sandberg. The game is packed to the brim with colorful sprites, fun platforming and exciting boss fights, but it’s starting to lose me a bit on its writing.

Iconoclasts centers around Robin, a mechanic who wants to help piece the world around her back together. It’s too bad being a mechanic means she’s a sinner in the eyes of “Mother”—a religious figure or possibly god, it's not made clear in the early game. Penance (it’s as ominous and non-specific as it sounds) is coming for her and pretty much everyone else. Robin is now a rebel fighting Mother’s army of oppressors in an attempt to fix things.

Robin’s main tool is a wrench, of course, and it’s a blast to use when you aren’t trying to expertly time a jump. The game is loaded with interesting, sometimes very difficult puzzles, and I’ve had a blast figuring out how to open gates, break evil machines, and get to new platforms. What I haven’t had a blast with is the bad guys in Iconoclasts.

Above: YouTube creator Wanderbots encounters the enemies.

A lot of the writing in Iconoclasts is witty, clearly doing what it can to hit its target demographic, and I’ve laughed at many of the lines. It often hits snags though, or feels like it’s trying just a little bit too hard to get a point across. A good example of this is early in the game, just after you’ve been captured, and then need to sneak out of a holding cell.

To get out of your makeshift jail, you have to walk across a creaky platform above a group of guards, only being able to move when they’re being loud. They’re telling each other jokes and laughing loudly. The problem here is that these jokes center around women they capture or upset, and often end with some line about how they’d like to do some sexual act with them. They get a kick out of these, they really do, except for when one of the guards attempts to make a joke about a “boy with the finest sculpted abs” he’s ever seen. The guards don’t laugh then, they don’t make any noise at all.

I know that this is an attempt to make you fucking hate these guys, and it works. But it feel like it’s doing just a bit more than it needs to in order to get the sentiment across. These dudes are already after you, they’re already the enemy. I haven’t seen lengthy dialogue exchange between them, besides this. It felt like shit to read, and not in the way I think Iconoclasts was trying to get across.

The challenging platforming and puzzles feel very good, and I hope they’re enough to keep me playing Iconoclasts through the end. What about you, readers? Is there a game that’s tried just a bit too hard to make you hate an enemy?

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