Review: Enyo08 Sep 2016 6
Released 31 Aug 2016
Enyo is the Ancient Greek goddess of war. Yes, they had a goddess of war. Not Athena, she’s the goddess of wisdom, nor Artemis, she's the goddess of the hunt. No, not Eris either, she’s the goddess of discord… hold on. Homer said what? Okay, well, some made-up blind author-function said that Enyo and Eris are aspects of the same divinity, but we're not listening to him, okay?
So, Enyo is the goddess of war, and Enyo is a tightly-constrained puzzle roguelite with Enyo (the goddess) as it's protagonist. It's in the same eclectic vein as Hoplite, Auro, and Michael Brough’s extra-strange 868-HACK and Imbroglio. It's a small subgenre, but it's one of my favorites, in part because these “pocket roguelikes” are natural mobile titles.
I’m sure Zeus’ lightning will strike me down if I call these games “casual,” but they are games you can play for two minutes at a time on your smartphone while waiting in line, with game mechanics that strive for elegant simplicity and tactical situations you can read at a glance, making it easy to pick up where you left off, even if that was three days ago while waiting to see the dentist.
Enyo is the incarnation of elegant simplicity, from it’s black-figure Greek pottery characters arranged on a wooden playboard to Enyo’s fixed set of four maneuvers with no stats, XP, equipment, or pickups whatsoever. For about five minutes when I first started playing, I wondered if Enyo was drawing too heavily on Hoplite: both are single-screen roguelites set in Ancient Greece with jumping mechanics and the goal of retrieving the golden fleece, after all.
I needn’t have worried. The deeper you get into Enyo, the more different the games are. Enyo is all about pushing and pulling, more like Auro than Hoplite, and does more than any other game in the genre to allow you to take advantage of your enemies’ abilities… or, should you overlook a key detail to watch all your clever plans fall apart.
There are only three ways to do in one of Enyo’s monsters: they can fall into lava, get impaled on a wall-spike, or be blown up by one of the crocodile monster’s bombs. I don’t recall there being any bomb-lobbing anthropomorphic crocs in my copy of Bullfinch’s, but I also don’t remember the grappling hook being the weapon-of-choice for Ancient Greek soldier or deities. C’est la game design - those bombs can be really useful.
At its best, Enyo allows one to create amazing Rube Goldberg chains of destruction, bashing a monster into a bomb, sending that bomb flying into a second monster, which is then thrown onto a spike, and leaving the bomb to explode next to a third monster, while also putting oneself in the path of a flying gorgon, which swaps places with you (what, did you think I was going to say “turns you to stone?”), causing a minotaur to spot you and charge, only to be re-directed by a rune in it’s path that causes it to dash straight into a pool of lava.
This sort of chain reaction is enabled by the fact that Enyo is played on a 10x10 grid, with a lot of “rook-like” motions and attacks: unlimited in range vertically and horizontally. Only two thing in the game ever take place diagonally: Enyo can jump to any space exactly two squares away, stunning all adjacent monsterswhen she lands, and the croc can throw bombs anywhere two squares away (even then, they explode in a cross shape, not a square).
Rook-like attacks, combined with careful application of stunning, is the deliberate part of how you set up combos. There’s also quite a bit of luck involved, as monster attacks (like the minotaur’s charge) always trigger when Enyo is in range, but their movement is otherwise somewhat unpredictable. Monsters generally try to move into attack position, and generally like to keep going the same direction they’re already going (unless you shoot past them), and they also seem to become more cautious when the player moves Enyo a single square (moving out of, rather than into her line of sight in these cases) but as far as I can tell their behavior is also semi-random, making “I’ll move to a safe square and see if any monsters walk into my line of sight” a basic strategy.
That’s where you’ll slip up. You’ll hook that centaur and pull him right past you into the lava behind you, but pulling a monster past moves you one space forward, and that’ll put you in the path of a gorgon that’s hovering over lava (they fly in this game, remember?) and it’ll swap places with you, dropping you into the lava. Or you’ll be on a roll and forget what happens when you try to bash or hook a massive cyclops (hint: do you remember the X-Men arcade game?).
Or… maybe you’ll be maneuvering and suddenly take a 90-degree turn and plunge into lava. Runes are yellow triangles that cause things moving over them to change direction. They’re a cool idea that can become really frustrating in-game, because they can become easy to miss when a figure’s on the space below them (especially on a smaller screen), and very hard or impossible to see when there’s a figure standing on them. Add in the fact that they rotate 90 degrees every time a figure moves onto or over them, and you’ll be left trying to memorize the locations and orientations of the runes on each level before you start playing. There’s a yellow twinkle effect every time a rune changes directions, but that doesn’t help when you resume a game you were playing at lunch hours later.
This flaw can be corrected easily enough, but it might not look good (a triangle outline hovering over the square when someone’s in it, for example). Right now, the way runes are shown breaks the “readable at a glance” aspect of pocket roguelites, and it’s a shame.
Enyo has a few other small flaws. When Enyo throws her mighty shield, your shield bash is replaced with “dash” (which can’t push monsters or bombs) until you recover it. That’s a nice bit of game balance for a power move that even cyclopses must yield to, but sometimes the game won’t let you select “dash” (at least in the Android build), so you’re left hopping around until you can hook your shield back to you (you can’t jump on your shield).
Also, you drag out from Enyo to target everything but the leap (which is tap-to-select), which works fine on a tablet, but on a phone that 10x10 map makes for some pretty small squares (remember that 868-HACK is 6x6 and Imbroglio is 4x4), so it’s easy to miss your target by a single square, and in Enyo, a single square is often difference between “beat the level” and “game over.” This is compounded by the fact that sometimes the game doesn’t recognize that you’re trying to drag a line out from Enyo (again, on Android), so you have to stop and try again.
I don’t want to give too much weight to these flaws: none of them stopped me from playing Enyo everywhere I went in the past week, and I’m sure Tiny Touch Tales will fix the dash bug, improve drag sensitivity, and make other improvements. Card Crawl was a great take-anywhere mobile game when it was released, and Tiny only make it better over a series of substantial updates. Enyo is also a great take-anywhere game, and with some love it could rise to the level of Card Crawl. It’s also a no-risk proposition, as Enyo is free (ad-supported) to try, with a single $2 IAP to remove ads and unlock advanced game modes.