Do you ever find yourself stumbling into an ancient tomb and unleashing an evil genie? Me too. All the bloody time. It’s an issue that seems to be affecting our protagonist, Izzy, too. They should really do something about those tombs. They’re a health and safety nightmare.
Of course, when I inevitably unleash another ancient genie, I know exactly what to do: run and jump in a 2D plane across a variety of themed environments. Izzy is the latest game to join the resurgent 2D platforming genre, bringing a few tricks, but not enough charm.
You know exactly what to expect here. We’ve got mines, frozen zones, Aztec zones, and monsters that inhabit all of them, waiting to be beaten to a pulp. There are gems to collect and coins to gather. You’ve got bosses to memorise the patterns of and the occasional light pun in the scenery.
To be fair to Izzy, the game tries to make itself stand out with some differences from the usual formula. There’s no jumping on heads here. Izzy is more of a brawler, beating her enemies with her fists. I’m not sure doing so is that interesting, though. Once you’ve hit an enemy, they’re generally locked into combat, and then it’s just a case of mashing the attack button until they’re dead. I never felt that combat was fun, even though a special move can be performed by collecting gems.
Worryingly, it leans into combat as a main mechanic. There are lots of rooms that lock behind you and force you to take down a certain number of enemies. These generally are more frustrating than fun. Especially when you face the annoying bloody scorpions with their thrusting stingers. It’s an easy way to lose a life and get pushed back to a checkpoint. The checkpointing is pretty generous, though, so you won’t be stuck for long.
The structure of the Izzy is also pretty neat. It appears to be a simple left-to-right platformer at first glance, but a little bit more play reveals that it actually has a pretty large, maze-like design, with each area connected through both regular routes and teleportation portals. There’s a decent number of portals to find, and it can get pretty expansive. Useful, then, that the pause screen has a decent map, which also reminds you of your objectives. Sprawling maps are all the fashion nowadays, but being weak-minded, I often got lost and confused.
The other thing that sets Izzy apart is the costumes. Work through the early portion of the game and you’re granted a squirrel costume. It grants the ability to float and has its own special move, which can be used to unlock more paths and areas. Other costumes are unlockable, all with their own specials. You have to go all the way back into town to change between them, though, which really ruins some of the pacings, and killed my desire to experiment with different costumes in different areas.
We also need to talk about the look. I just didn’t vibe with the graphics of Intrepid Izzy at all. Part of it is cohesion. The art style is chunky and cartoonish for the most part, but there are also funny Bitmoji-looking NPCs that we can only assume are caricatures of the game’s Kickstarter backers. The boss designs can be nice, but never feel part of a set or specific to the game’s setting. It made a lot of sense when we found out this game was created to run on Dreamcast. They’re serviceable but lack a bit of specificness and wow factor in both their look and animation.
Serviceable describes Intrepid Izzy all over, really. It’s fine. If you play it, you’ll have an okay time, albeit one plagued with a little too much backtracking. It has a sense of humour, but it’s so gentle as to float away ox`n the breeze. The settings never really gel, and although there are new abilities because you can’t combine them they very rarely feel used in interesting ways.
This is a hodgepodge of ideas, tile sets, sprites, and mechanics that never quite coalesces. Intrepid Izzy? More like Mishmash Mary.
Published by Ratalaika Games, Intrepid Izzy is out now on all formats. It first launched as a Dreamcast homebrew in 2021.