Being a Zelda-like in 2020 means that you’re facing a ton of comparisons to other games right out the gate. The actual Zelda games, pseudo-Zelda games like Anodyne and 3D Dot Game Heroes, and departures that still retain a lot of Zelda DNA like Hyper Light Drifter. Do I think Lenna’s Inception stands up to any of these? Not really, but it’s a good, breezy way to start off a slow-starting year. The soundtrack is… pretty good! The procedural map generation is… good enough that you usually won’t notice that the world isn’t hand-crafted! The writing is… actually kind of great on occasion, but that’s balanced out by scenes like the one in the opening with a dead old man in a cave who smeared “IT’S DANGEROUS TO GO ALONE” with his own blood.
Edgy. Thankfully those moments are few and far between, and instead we get a pun loving librarian (“ISBN missin’ you!” got me pretty good) and an evil sorceress trying to convince one boss to stop opening his mouth because his weak spot’s in there.
If you’re familiar with Link’s Awakening, a form of the shell upgrade system is back. In Lenna’s, every overworld screen with enemies will drop a reward for defeating them, usually a limited-use material that can be used to upgrade any of your many items. Items like bombs, arrows, and swords. You get it. My biggest complaint with the game is that this progress isn’t tracked anywhere. This leads to you needing just one more meteorite to upgrade your bow, and you’re forced to wander the map aimlessly massacring every screen of enemies hoping that maybe this is the one you hadn’t cleared before. The weirdest part is that there IS a map and every screen has its own square you can hover over. Please, please just plop a checkmark somewhere on there if I’ve already cleared it and save us all the trouble.
Oh, also, you can swap between two completely different graphical styles at any point. Want it to look like a weirdo NES The Legend of Zelda? They got ya. Prefer a vastly superior art style that seems like what the game intends you to choose? Do what I did and slap those SNES graphics on and never look back.
If you’ve noticed by now a lack of mention of puzzles, it’s because there really aren’t many to speak of. Lenna’s Inception gates progress by whether or not you have the next item, but doesn’t require a ton of thinking beyond that. Shoot arrows at the targets, bomb the rocks, etc. This is an action game where you occasionally push a block to the right spot to open a door. Don’t go in expecting a wild variety of dungeon puzzles like in A Link Between Worlds. This isn’t that. Go in expecting to see a cool map and fight some rad looking boss monsters to get better armor and swords.