What do you get if you cross the Little Mermaid, Bioshock, Hollow Knight, and a touch of Nier Automata? You don’t know? Well then, allow me to tell you. You get Pronty, a spirited Metroidvania from 18Light Game and an underwater alternative to titles like Dead Cells and Rogue Legacy, packed with big bosses, skills to master, and submerged locations with secrets in every corner.
The concept is pretty standard save-the-world stuff, with you playing the role of Pronty, one of the underwater protectorate that keeps the humans who live under the sea safe. You wake up on your first day of training, the day after your birthday, but before you can get to grips with all the techniques you need to know, a terrifying monster fish invades the capital city of Royla, and your real quest begins.
The weapon for your quest is your trusty mechanical swordfish friend Bront, who you can either shoot like a gun or use as a whirring shield around Pronty, dealing damage to any enemy you encounter. It does take some adjusting to get used to this slightly peculiar underwater weapon system, especially when Bront can often get stuck behind parts of the scenery. Still, once you have it down, it’s actually a pretty nifty tool and offers the game some extra originality, something much needed in a game of this genre.
The movement is so much fun in Pronty that it makes me question why I haven’t played an underwater Metroidvania before. It completely changes how you see the quest before you, with the developer thinking up more creative ways of keeping you where you’re supposed to be outside of unreachable ledges or a fall you can’t survive. The underwater element particularly shines during combat, giving you 360 movement to dodge the ferocious fish hungry for your robot body.
The big draw of a Metroidvania like this is, of course, the bosses. In terms of design, Pronty doesn’t disappoint, with each of the aquatic beasties presenting as a terrifying challenge. My one issue with the bosses is that they might be a little too terrifying a challenge. Sure, I like to face the same boss over and over again in a Metroidvania as much as the next person, but when you take a boss like Lamina, or knifey-sharky, as I prefer to call it, there are points where it can feel a little unfair, as one hit sends you off course to your ultimate demise.
It might feel that the bosses are a little unfair, especially in the early game, as Pronty is distinctly more liminal than other games from the genre. Unlike Hollow Knight, there isn’t an alternative path if you reach a boss that provides too much challenge for your current abilities, you just have to, and I hate to say this, get good. That’s all well and good for those with quicker fingers than me, but I found myself getting frustrated with Lamina and had only two options. I could put down the game or keep trying. Honestly, if I wasn’t reviewing it, I might have given up then.
Still, I’m glad I didn’t call it quits. While the bosses take you to task, there’s that sense of achievement when you finally fell a mighty foe. If anything, the bosses just highlight my core problem with the game, the limited exploration. After being spoiled by games like Hollow Knight and Metroid Dread, I expect a lot of my Metroidvania’s these days, and Pronty feels too straightforward at points.
My problem with the limited exploration isn’t helped by the in-game challenges, like the lap race or the gauntlet battles against waves of enemies. I’m sorry, but it’s just a bit too hard, in every regard, especially for where you are in the game. I like a challenge, but my first lap was ten seconds over with little time to spare, and the gauntlet introduces enemies you’ve not even seen up to that point in the game while also going on a few waves too long. What should feel like a refreshing time out from the true challenge is too much of a challenge in itself, leaving me longing for a place where I can just swim around and have a bit of an explore.
What I will say is that the locations you can take a look around are intricately designed. The visuals are a real highlight of this game, from the nasty monsters that look like something John Carpenter might come up with after a visit to the aquarium to the dilapidated art deco of the capital city Royle, there’s a sense of cohesion across this whale of a game, which really dials up the underwater immersion.
Upgrading Pronty for battle offers some variation of playstyle, but it takes a little while longer than I’d like to unlock new slots for upgrades. You have up to twelve slots to fill with all the enhancements you find, but you only begin with a few slots unlocked, and the rate at which you pick up new upgrades and unlock empty slots is a little out of sync, leaving you to try and decide which few enhancements you should take into a boss battle.
Fortunately, you can’t blame performance for being thrown around like a ragdoll during boss battles. Pronty runs to perfection on Nintendo Switch. Much like my experience with Hades, this game feels almost like its developers designed it for the hardware, with an easy-to-understand control scheme and no instances of lag or stutter.
All-in-all, Pronty does enough to join the ranks of Metroidvania’s that I’d recommend to fans of the genre, but doesn’t quite reach the echelon of other Nintendo Switch experiences like Hollow Knight, Rogue Legacy, and Dead Cells. Still, there’s plenty of promise in Pronty, and if there’s ever a sequel with a more explorable world and maybe slightly more forgiving early-game boss battles, you can count me in.
Pronty Switch review
While maybe a little too challenging on regular difficulty, Pronty joins the legion of engaging Metroidvanias on Switch, offering engaging aquatic combat and exotic underwater locations. There could be more exploration elements here, but those who come just for the gauntlet will be glad to greet some genre-defining bosses.