Game

Tunic’s easy mode, called “No Fail”, let me enjoy its puzzles more

Dressan indie adventure game that combines influences from The Legend of Zelda and Dark souls into a lovely and mysterious package that has taken over my brain for the past two weeks. It’s been ages since I beat a game and plunged into New Game Plus mode without stopping to refill the glass of water on my desk. However, I have to admit: I would never have made it to the end – let alone enjoy the ride as much as I did – had it not been for the occasional use of the game’s “No Fail” mode.

I have enjoyed many puzzles and discovery feeling in Dress, I have struggled with its battle. The diminutive heroine’s swings feel bouncy, slow, and imprecise. The game lacks similar laser-like precision Combat-heavy isometric games like Hades, where failure always feels like my own fault. In Dress, I often failed in battle sequences simply because I didn’t execute a frontal attack, or dodge in the correct direction – although I often felt certain that my button presses completed the job. Even after dozens of hours of fighting in Dress and some tough boss fights, I still don’t feel like I get it.

I don’t blame Dressof the development team for this. It was created almost entirely by one person, Andrew Shouldice, who designed and programmed the game. Additional art comes from Eric Billingsley and ma-ko, and the game’s excellent score goes to Terence Lee and Janice Kwan. However, the combat design is all based on Shouldice, as is the level design and puzzle concept. Dress is an incredible feat – especially when it doesn’t have a larger team to help polish its rougher edges.

That’s why I don’t regret turning it on Dressof “No failure” mode. I haven’t used it the whole time; I’ll first explore each dungeon with full combat engagement, enjoying the rigors of battle and the difficulty of defeat as I learn my way. But once I understood the map of each dungeon, I no longer felt the need to fight over and over again. I’ll turn on “No Fail” and dive into the secrets of each location, not worrying about dying as I unearth every last chest and power-up.

Tunic's fox hero descends to a mysterious area on a floating elevator

Image: Finji via Polygon

With “No failure” enabled, DressTheir heroes still have to engage in battle, and when they get hit, their health gauges keep ticking down. However, when the health gauge reaches 0, the hero does not die; their clocks just stay at zero forever while the fight goes on. There is also a setting to turn off the stamina counter, allowing the fox to always have a full stamina meter. I haven’t used it very often, as I love to wrestle with the stamina meter (like I do in Dark souls) but not a full respawn helped me enjoy the game’s puzzles without fear.

Dressthe easy puzzles are its best property; That’s the whole reason to play the game in my opinion. My favorite part is exploring each room to find hidden ladders, doorways, and passages. I would slowly walk around each individual area, inching along the bridges to see if the narrated A button prompt would appear, which in turn indicated a hidden ladder to climb. I fled behind walls, my fox barely seen, hoping to see the same prompt indicating a hidden chest to open.

The game also features significantly more complex puzzles, like learning certain button patterns to unlock specific door types, as well as collecting page by page of the in-game manual and understanding the mysterious language that it is written. The more I play Dressthe more I unlocked and understood its world – but, again, I wouldn’t have bothered to play for so long if I had been dealing with the mushy swordsmanship all this time.

I love challenging myself in combat-heavy games, learning every precise move I need to make to win. Metroid Dreadboss battles, for example, hit my mind; I love both the challenge and the sense of pride I feel when I learn the jumps needed to dodge and counter any attack. But in Dress, I’ve never had that experience – and that’s okay. That’s not the game’s strong point, and it doesn’t have to be. By using “No Fail” mode, I got to enjoy the best parts of the game and I still crave for more. There were puzzles left that I hadn’t solved and the game gave me the exact tools I needed to face them and enjoy every moment.

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