A Cute & Cozy RPG

HIGH A diverse cast of characters and great visuals

LOW Not much challenge to the game.

WTF Why couldn’t I get the dapper robot sooner?

Everyone’s had a day that just doesn’t go their way. Not a bad day necessarily, but one where nothing seems to work out quite right. Viola is having a day like this when practicing her violin. After struggling for hours, she gives up and starts to doubt her ability to ever learn. Then her violin starts to shudder, and sends her into a magical world. Stuck in a strange land, Viola will explore, make new friends, and learn life lessons along the way.

Viola: A Heroine’s Melody is a 2D platformer/RPG wrapped in a cozy musical aesthetic. Players will explore the world with triple jumps, wall jumps, springs and cannons. As the story progresses, players will learn new abilities that can unlock secret areas in each level. These abilities normally come in the form of songs – one song may cause plants to rapidly grow, creating platforms for players to get to a new area of the world. Another may part waterfalls, revealing secret caves filled with items.

Dangerous monsters also populate these levels, and that’s where the RPG flair comes in. Combat is turn-based, and each attack has a rhythm to it — players will have to hit buttons at the right time to complete the attacks. Basic attacks need a single tap of a button, while spells may require players to mash, hold, or do presses in a pattern. Along with that, spells normally have some type of elemental quality, so it gives combat a bit more depth when fighting.

Viola was a remarkably comfortable game to play, which is both a boon and a bane. Exploring and platforming take inspiration from other platformers like Mario with Viola being able to wall jump, and double or triple jump. Planning these jumps and pairing them with wall jumps or other level elements gives the player a lot of freedom for exploration and even in avoiding combat, if they so desire.

While this is all strong, there are couple of rough edges. For instance, Viola has specific points in the game where it will save, normally at the end of the level. If the player quits before completing a world, they will have to restart the entire area. This is made worse by the occasional times when Viola ended up getting stuck in the level geometry, requiring me to quit to the main menu. These bugs didn’t happen often, but often enough to where it became annoying.

On the combat side, there’s no good way to check out character skills outside of combat, and in combat, players can only look at a skill if they have enough mana to cast it. While the skills don’t get too crazy in terms of what they all do, it would be nice to learn about them at some point other than when I’m just about to use them.

Despite those hiccups, there’s a lot to enjoy about Viola, and one of the biggest things were the characters and story. The cast is wide and diverse – all different races, with different backgrounds and different ideas of love. Each one also has something to teach Viola. Niko, a budding young wizard, brings her to meet his family of mixed race and touches on the fact that there’s nothing wrong with having parents who are different. Fenyrs, a warrior wolf, helps Viola learn that it’s ok to make mistakes ,as long as you can learn from them and be better in the future. Sybil, a lonesome scholar, helps her learn that she’s allowed to grieve. With a lot of representation on display, each character reminded me of a friend I knew growing up, and I would guess that a lot of people would be able to connect with the characters here.

Viola: The Heroine’s Melody is a simple story about Viola exploring a fantastical world, meeting new friends, defeating foes, and growing up, but when our real-life pandemic casts a lingering air of dread and gloom over everything, spending time with a game like this is a relaxing, calming escape. There’s value in that.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10

Disclosures: This game is developed and published by Jelle Van Doorne.  It is currently available on PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PC. Approximately 8 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. There is no multiplayer.

Parents: According to the ESRB, there is no current rating for the game. Overall, I didn’t find anything that would stick out as problematic. Players will fight monsters, but there’s no blood or gore. There were no instances of any strong language in the game. Approved for all ages.

Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: Text and voiceover are in the game, but the text is not resizable. Playing with no sound doesn’t hinder gameplay since each note has an indicator on when the note needs to be hit. This game is fully accessible.

Remappable Controls: This game has fully remappable controls.

Eugene Sax
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