The Forbidden Arts is an action-adventure title developed by Stingbot Games. Playing as Phoenix, a young man with the ability to bend fire to his will, you’re left to tackle the world in front of you. Combining 2D stages with a 3D overworld makes this game fall in line with the Metroid series, but unfortunately fails to capture any of the magic.
Phoenix is a Pyromancer and his innate ability to control fire is what sets him apart from everyone else. As the protagonist, you’ll need to travel the world and learn more about the ability he possesses. If you’re hoping for an intricate story, you won’t find it here. It’s not that type of video game.
Controls are clunky on Nintendo Switch and hinder the game. What I thought was challenging turned out to be the opposite and left me reeling when attempting simple tasks – like jumping over a spike trap. I’m not spouting hyperbole when I say the controls ruined the experience for me. In some instances, while playing The Forbidden Arts for review, I felt defeated. I was ready to delete the game and move on. The mechanics actively work against you, and in an age where we have stellar platformers from indie developers, there’s no excuse for releasing a game in this state. The saving grace is the generous number of checkpoints and autosaving that return you as close to an obstacle as possible.
Combat is another finicky aspect that left me with a sour feeling. Enemies are rather basic in The Forbidden Arts – these enemies quickly become repetitive, and each level only offers few various monsters. Opening stages introduce bears and minor soldiers, fodder for Phoenix. The trailer sold me on an experience I never found here and it’s a shame because there’s such a wonderful idea here held back by some rather questionable decisions.
Later on, some of my frustrations became alleviated but the simplistic nature of the combat really left me craving more. The most basic combo and a few spells pad out what Phoenix is capable of, but the basic mechanics are daft.
In some cases, exploration rewards you by bits of gold lying hidden through the world. These gold offerings are used to rebuild various shrines and offer challenges of their own for those who seek them out. Completing these shrines offers their own rewards as well.
There is also a lack of polish in regards to the animation. I know this is a small game from a small studio but the early moments of the game task you with besting a griffin. As you do that, the animation this beast musters to take off no more than lifting the beast up and away, barely flapping its wing or moving its legs to make it even look remotely engaged in its flight.
With some questionable controls, barebones story, and simplistic combat, The Forbidden Arts failed to keep my attention. There’s just not enough incentive to play this game and it’s a shame that it comes to this decision, even with the frame in place for a better experience. If you really like to be punished and have absolutely nothing better to play, you might want to check this out. Otherwise, this isn’t something I recommend playing.
[A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.]