Well, that took a sudden turn. One minute I’m loving everything about this game, and then a comically ill-advised stage full of nuisance mosquitoes, migraine-inducing lightning (which causes a full-screen flash every time), and an annoyingly long chase sequence for the final boss fight that highlights all of the game’s problems completely destroys all of that good will. Oh, and apparently all of the bugs decided to wait until the very end of the game to show up at once. Go figure.
There are some good parts
The last stage that has a significant focus on platforming (there’s a trek back to the village afterward, but no real platforming there) isn’t without its positives. It’s really interesting that switching between blocks suddenly also moves platforms, and while this is utilized to a fairly limited degree, it’s still an appreciated gameplay addition:
Buuuuuut mostly bad parts
Mosquitoes become a huge problem. They knock you off of platforms, slow you down, stick you in an unskippable animation when you need to jump to avoid being pushed to your death, etcetera. There’s good difficulty, and then there’s this:
The mosquitoes are annoying, but they’re nothing compared to the second and final boss fight. It’s a giant chase sequence (where you’re moving from right to left, which is awkward enough on its own). I don’t even know where to start with the problems here. The fact that it’s a cloud stage means that the platforms have moving visual effects in the foreground and background that are distracting and make it more difficult to tell which parts are solid, which isn’t ideal. At one point the foreground elements block a pit, causing Ayo to slowly pull herself up onto the ledge and almost touch the boss (which is instant death). This thing has a lightning attack that is telegraphed, but at one point I had to commit to a platform before the cue and had no ability to get away from the attack because of that. That’s just the beginning of it, too. This boss can flip platforms like Ayo can, so you have to pay attention to its body language in case it’s about to make the platform you’re running on disappear. Making this even more of a chore are the constant, overwhelming lightning flashes.
(The video above speeds up a couple times, but that’s not the game’s fault. That’s actually a quirk of my recording box thing when I make long videos.)
Then there’s this lunge attack it does. You have to make a block solid right as it attacks so that it rams into it, but the boss runs past every other solid block in the level, so the game actively teaches you to avoid trying the very thing that’s required to survive this. Suddenly changing the rules of a fight isn’t good game design. I even came across a bug where I died out of nowhere when I made the block solid:
That type of stuff is inexcusable given how long this chase sequence already lasts, and it’s hardly the only bug I encountered. At one point in the chase, my wireless Xbox 360 controller stopped working and Ayo stood around, dying to the pursuing boss over and over again. I’ve also noticed that disconnecting (say, if you hit the controller hard enough in a scorpion-induced rage that the batteries come loose) and reconnecting the controller causes it to similarly fail to be recognized. The only way to fix this is to exit the game entirely and load it back up. That left me with two options: figure out the keyboard controls during the most annoying and demanding part of the game, or quit out and hope that it didn’t restart the chase. I chose the latter, and it indeed sent me right back to the beginning of the chase sequence.
It was around this point that I discovered that restarting from the checkpoint during this chase sequence reliably bugs out the stage’s opening, forcing you to quit to the menu and select the “continue” option if you want to actually keep playing:
The very end of the game is a slow narrative lap where Ayo is weighed down by the water she’s fetched and has to slowly make her way back across an early area. She gets overwhelmed by the heat and can die if you don’t occasionally take refuge behind one of the large rocks to cool down, which I felt was one of the more effective methods the game has used to convey its underlying message:
But the truth is that I was checked out by this point, having basically played through that stupid chase sequence 2-3 times because of bugs and dealing with a migraine from all the flashing. I’d still consider this a better game than Never Alone because of the sheer number of bugs and miscellaneous issues that game suffers from, but it’s difficult to recommend Ayo: A Rain Tale given all the problems toward the end.