It’s 2009 and Nintendo is about to release Pokémon Platinum on DS to critical acclaim. Seeking something similar for the PSP, Sony snaps up the publishing rights to Adore – a top-down creature capturing game with an Aztec theme and a slightly edgier tone. Whereas Pokemon’s critters are mostly cute, Adore’s beasts display large fangs and claws. Only, none of this ever happened – Sony’s answer to Pokémon ended up being the Invizimals series. But while I was playing Adore, I couldn’t shake the feeling that it would have felt right at home on PSP, or perhaps PS Vita at a push. Déjà vu, but for something new.
In Adore, you play as Lukha – a brave soul with a stylish haircut who takes the reigns of Draknar, the God of Creatures, with a newfound ability to capture and command the mythical critters found in Gaterdrik. Lukha’s defiance provokes a monstrous foe to spread a curse, and so a quest begins to become a master ‘Adorer’ – the term used for anyone able to wield the power of creature capturing.
Lukha cannot attack enemies directly, merely blessed a roll – used to evade attacks and smash environmental objects. Instead, creatures are summoned to rid foes, attacking with claw swipes, toothy bites, slams, and projectiles. Two creatures can be summoned at once, and their appearances are governed by a stamina bar. Once drained, they must be returned to Lukha for a few seconds. Four critters can be taken on a quest – which feature randomised layouts – and each is assigned to a face button.
It’s a good idea to always carry a critter with a healing ability, but outside of those with a distinctive role, their attacks are similar. And while there are some influences from the developer’s home country of Brazil, creature design isn’t anything too outlandish either – imagine regular wildlife with exaggerated features, such as bigger claws, wings, and horns. There is the occasional exception to this – bosses and mounts have a more fantasy look – but this is less of a trip to a mythical world and more a trip to a zoo, albeit an exotic one.
The method of capturing creatures is neither engaging nor exciting. Simply, you’re required to hold LB while standing in a small semi-circle – while at the risk of taking damage. This fills a gauge, and once full, the creature is added to your collection. A bit more interactivity, such as impromptu button bashing or analogue stick wiggling mini-games would have had more of an impact. There’s nothing to note of a new creature appearance or a gap in your Adore-a-dex either, with the problem here being that some of the less imaginative creatures can look similar.
There are 39 creatures to find in total, which each of the five key locations on the map featuring less than a dozen. Maths! They’re stored at a shine at the refuge hub, but space is limited – to gain more storage, you need to go hunting for fragments. Fragments are also required for stat-boosting artefact upgrades, chest keys, and rune slots – and they aren’t commonly found, resulting in taking on ‘kill all creatures’ style sub-quests. This means returning to past locations to gather them and other resources – with the refuge also including a cooking station to create vital health top-ups. This does slow progress somewhat. I expected a progressive story-driven adventure, but instead, Adore mostly involves revisiting areas – albeit randomly generated ones – to grind and become strong enough to overcome its bosses, which is where the difficulty increases.
The randomised quest locations help give Adore a modern feel but fail to feel radically different from one another. Quests are at least brief, and it’s possible to teleport around the map instead of backtracking. I never felt like I was making good progress here though, hitting a brick wall whenever a boss battle was on the agenda. This is one of those games that makes you wade through a level before confronting a boss, meaning when you arrive at their domain, you’ll like to be worse for wear.
Consumables such as health items can only be crafted at the refuge, and as you drop resources upon defeat – mimicking a Soulslike – it’s possible to get up in a rut, continuously losing the resources needed to craft the items needed to progress. Lukha’s creatures become cursed too, requiring downtime in the shrine to recuperate. This means you’re sometimes forced to take out your ‘B team’ – and while it’s not too detrimental to the experience, it can be a hurdle to overcome if you’re stuck in a rut.
For all its shortcomings, there is some depth and originality to find here, mostly in the form of giving your creatures new traits to create a synergy – which increases their skill in battle when they fight alongside others. There’s even a video tutorial to explain the finer points. When you throw longer-lasting expeditions, and the time needed to unlock everything requiring fragments, there is a lot to sink your teeth into if you can withstand the repetition. This is an easy game to like, but a hard one to love.
Developed by Cadabra Games and published by QByte, Adore is out now on all major formats.