Sometimes I luck into an observation, and the header image I went with above is one of those occasions because it highlights a problem that’s becoming more and more prevalent. Basically, the player doesn’t know as much about the game as the developer, so things are written in a way that can be easily confused. In this case, it looks like Robin’s brother, Elro, is telling you that the person you’re looking for is named Sunflower. If you managed to miss the one occasion early on where he calls her that directly—a remarkably easy thing given how much text of varying importance is dumped on you without any indication of what’s important and what isn’t—you don’t find out until 2-3 hours later that “Sunflower” is a nickname he has for Robin. Little things like this (and the writing’s love of frequently delving headlong into interpersonal drama so shamelessly manufactured and hollow that it could make a soap opera blush) is creating a strange disconnect that has me almost completely detached from the game’s story, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg as far as the problems are concerned. Iconoclast could still end up being brilliant later on, but my hopes for that turnaround shrink with every overlong cutscene, every near-stranger spilling their guts to Robin, and every scripted fight awash in visual chaos.
Let’s start with the fights
I really liked the first fight that happens just minutes into the game. Looking back, what was so great about it was that shooting the boss caused its health to go down. Sadly, fights have since succumbed to gimmickry, as switches now need to be flipped and bolts turned and random ice blocks damaged (but only with a specific attack, as all of your others inexplicably don’t work) before you can get a single powerful blow in. That’s not great, but I wouldn’t have a huge problem with it if fights weren’t also incredibly visually busy. All of the attack effects and things moving around tend to obscure cues for how to progress with these incredibly scripted fights, turning them into a mess of trial and error while you dodge attacks.
Normal encounters aren’t immune from gimmicky stupidity, either, as I’m now having to put up with invincible ghosts who can be knocked back and pacified for a short time before they come back and come screaming (literally) across the stage for you. If you’re not the creator of a Mario game, invincible ghosts are a bad idea. Period.
[EDIT: The ghosts are actually killable. I have no idea how, but I got lucky once. The game is irritatingly arbitrary when it comes to things like this, so I have no idea which specific attack and angle caused it to suddenly be killable, but the general point stands that the whole thing is gimmicky and the farthest thing from fun.]
And the not-fights are bad, too
I don’t even know what to technically call this. A semi-boss fight? A chase sequence? Whatever it is, it’s bad. The boss is unkillable in the first several sequences, so you have to get away. That means dodging a laser beam while moving platforms with your explosive gun, then making it past a bunch of spikes on ice by purposefully tripping, which causes you to be a smaller target and is apparently the only way of avoiding things here. Oof. Then there’s an autoscroller where you have to jump over fireballs every so often. Then you’re stuck under ice and have to swim around to avoid being shot at. Only after all of this what-the-hell-is-this-crap stupidity do you finally have the opportunity to fight the boss for real.
There’s also sidequest tedium!
I’ve obtained two different letter delivery quests already, and the first one I completed was awful, full stop. Basically, the trek across large, mostly-empty areas above has to be completed 3-4 times as each person wants to send a letter back, and this is such obvious padding that I can’t even be mad at it. There’s a legitimate case to be made for ignoring sidequest fluff like this, though, because it’s simply not fun.
And there are bugs on top
At one point, Robin got hit, and like in many such games, she began flashing to indicate a brief period of invulnerability. The difference between most games and this one is that when she finally stopped flashing in and out of existence (which is how the effect is created), the game had settled on her nonexistent version, meaning Robin was invisible. This wore off once she took damage again, thankfully, but I’ve read about people’s saves being corrupted and all kinds of other bugginess like that.