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Iconoclasts - Review

Recently I went on vacation up north and it gave me the perfect opportunity to catch up on some of the indie games I’ve bought on my Nintendo Switch. There were quite a few, but the one that kept me occupied these last few days was Iconoclasts. A pixel action metroidvania developed by Konjak, published by Bifrost Entertainment, and came out about 5 years ago. Iconoclasts spent eight years in the making as Konjak, who is known as Joakim Sanderberg in real life, made the game all by himself. He designed it, programmed it, composed the music, and did all of the pixel art. Which goes to show, because the game despite using pixel graphics is really pretty at times and highly detailed. Development began in 2010 and the game was originally titled Ivory Springs until it was renamed to what it is now. It was not until 2015 that Konjak was able to release a gameplay trailer. Iconoclasts then spent another three years in the making and it was not until early 2018 that the final version of the game came out. The game didn’t blow up, but that is to be expected of indie developers releasing their first video game. However, the game was received really well and it ended up being considered one of the more underrated indie games of 2018. I have been meaning to check out Iconoclasts for quite awhile now. As you all know I am a huge fan of metroidvania games. Just a month ago we covered Grime, and earlier this year we covered Moonscars. Not a lot of people like the metroidvania formula, but I’m one of few individuals who fit within the niche that love it. Just fun side-scrolling adventures where you explore vast worlds, uncover secrets, obtain new powers overtime that make you stronger, and eventually topple what seem like impossible odds. The only metroidvania I played that I somewhat disliked was Salt and Sacrifice, but maybe it’s because it strayed away from the formula pretty far.

Anyways, Iconoclasts was right up my alley for being the next major indie metroidvania I would play. The characters look charming, the gameplay while simplistic looks fun, and the game goes on sale pretty often for a really low price. Bought it, watched it sit on my backlog for awhile, and played it during vacation. Almost five years later is Iconoclasts still good? The answer is yes and in some cases the game managed to exceed my expectations. Iconoclasts is a really fun game, but I will say it doesn’t reinvent the metroidvania formula. It has one cool gimmick going on for it, but beyond that it’s a bog standard metroidvania. Yet again, that can be applied to a lot of the genre’s entries. My beloved Hollow Knight didn’t invent interconnected world design and the gradual increase in power we see in metroidvanias, but it did it well and managed to outsmart the grandfathers of the genre. Moonscars plays very similarly to Blasphemous and honestly it is a lesser version of it, but I still really enjoyed it for what it was. The metroidvania genre has a formula that hasn’t been expanded upon, because it worked since the very beginning. Why fix what isn’t broken, and Iconoclasts much like a majority of metroidvanias is more of what I love. It’s well designed, and contains an engaging narrative with so many lovable characters and twists. It’s a game with heart, and it’s probably one of my top ten entries in the genre now. Today we’re gonna be talking about why I love Iconoclasts and why it deserves your attention.


The story follows Robin, a young woman attempting to follow in the footsteps of her father. It’s been two months since he passed away, and while he has many regrets, all he wished for was for his daughter to live a happy life. Robin lives in a world run by a strict, violent theocracy, A group known as the One Concern are led by individuals with supernatural powers. Such powers include levitation, being able to control plantlife, heal wounds quickly, superspeed, super strength, and much more. These individuals are seen as godlike beings, and the masses seek guidance from them for when they have sinned or when things go awry. Not everyone lives under the beliefs of the One Concern though, as this theocracy decides what jobs and occupations people get in life. Going against their rules and obligations results in being labeled a sinner. You are arrested and anytime you know and love is purged from the earth. Robin’s father was previously a mechanic and she aims to be one too, but the One Concern didn’t assign her to be a mechanic which brings a bit of conflict into her life. So she secretly hides all the tools her father gifted her in a hidden basement, and the agents of the One Concern aren’t looking; she helps fix whatever the nearby town needs. One day Robin’s brother, Elro, asks her to readjust a loose bolt lying underneath his house. Two agents, Black and White, are patrolling the area and when Robin is busy cranking the bolt the two agents step in. They label Robin a sinner, lock her in jail, and blow up Elro’s house with his family inside. While imprisoned Robin meets Mina, a member of the Isi. A rebel clan who were outcast by the One Concern and worship a god outside their beliefs.

Mina quickly befriends Robin and sees her as a way to break out. The two of them escape their cell, but are quickly pursued by soldiers of the One Concern. They attempt to ride away using a jet ski Mina rode into town with, but are blown up and drift out to sea. Robin wakes up along a desert shore and meets a white haired man named Royal. He’s one of the supernatural beings of this world and a child of the goddess figure Mother. Royal also quickly befriends Robin after she saves him from a killer machine, and he takes her to a nearby One Concern camp to hopefully be praised. Little does he know that she is public enemy number one, but feeling bad for letting her get caught he helps her escape. Despite Robin being a sinner, Royal still sees her as a friend and wishes for Mother to forgive her for all she has done. They meet up with Mina again and… well I don’t want to spoil too much of the plot. Iconoclasts has a story best experienced on your own, and through world building you’ll understand why things are the way they are. What drives the theocracy to be so strict and what is currently happening for the world to fall apart. Things are getting worse each day and all Robin can do is stay calm and try to keep everything together.


Iconoclasts is a metroidvania, so you know what that means. Explore the world, uncover secrets, grow stronger through character upgrades, and make it towards your goal. Along the way you will fight a slew of enemies, and bosses that test your reflexes and newly found powers. Robin can jump pretty high and grab onto ledges, which is nice because it allows for good collision detection and easily fixing up platforming mistakes. You have a stun gun to defend yourself and the stun gun works like how the blaster from Metroid and Axiom Verge works. Rapidly press the fire button and you’ll shoot projectiles, but hold down the fire button and you will prepare a charge shot. It does a ton of damage, but the catch is that you’ll need to wait for your gun to cool down before you can continue firing shots. I like this, because it means you can’t be over reliant on one of the strongest attacks in the game. You can also unlock a bomb launcher and this is one gun that shoots spiraling shots. The bomb launcher shoots bombs that gravitate downward, but can roll or fit through small gaps allowing you to hit whatever is on the other side. The bombs can be charged up to turn them into missiles, which deal massive amounts of damage and zoom a long distance if you can shoot it far away enough for it to build up speed. The spiral shotgun can damage enemies even if they have shields and if charge can swap the places of between you and whatever you shot. This can especially be useful to reach places you normally couldn’t or space out enemies during combat. You can restore your health by resting at checkpoints or picking up hearts dropped by enemies, but reach 0 and it’s game over.

Combat is pretty basic and there’s a good handful of challenging bosses, but what’s the unique gimmick for Iconoclasts? Robin is a mechanic and she has a trusty wrench to help her out with many problems. The wrench is one of those video game tools that has purpose outside of combat. It can be used to smack enemies up close or twirled around to deal tons of damage quickly, but it can be used to interact with bolts lying around the world. Turning bolts will adjust objects in the environment, but clinging onto bolts hanging in the air will allow you to swing. You can do what is basically the grapple beam from Metroid, but with more accuracy and less cooldown. You get an upgrade later on that allows you to electrify yourself if you twirl around your wrench enough, and this can be used to power up contraptions or zip around certain electrical currents. You can even electricity your bombs if you obtain another upgrade later on. Certain enemies also have attacks you must block or parry using the wrench, so you’ll be forced to switch up your approach during combat. I should mention you have a ground pound to break brittle surfaces below you or stomp on the heads of enemies, but honestly you probably won’t be using it a lot. You also will occasionally get these sections where you swap over to Mina. She is equipped with a rifle that deals immense damage at long range, but has a long cooldown and you’ll be forced to hold still when aiming. It’s all about positioning yourself at the right place and knowing when to stop firing away. Besides that there really isn’t much else to talk about. Iconoclasts are as basic as you can get with a metroidvania, and maybe that’s enough for me. Hopefully you can fight your way through the forces of the One Concern, and reform society.


Iconoclasts is a joyous adventure through and through. It took me around ten hours to beat and I would say that’s a good runtime for a game such as this. The world isn’t interconnected like a lot of other metroidvanias, but the level design is good as areas are fun to progress through and you unveil shortcuts that cut down backtracking. Combat is pretty fun as there’s good enemy variety, utilization of different tools, and you don’t face the Metroid problem of firing forward and then seeing half your shots miss or not hit the target standing in front of you. Instead your shots are automatically adjusted to hit the enemy and that’s really nice. Iconoclasts’ difficulty curve is well adjusted as the game starts off easy and gets harder as time goes on and you unlock new powers. Bosses become more chaotic as they hit harder and throw more projectiles at you. Flooding the screen, but not making things so chaotic that you can’t tell what is going on. The controls are smooth as butter as navigating the world is easy. One thing I do like is how every area is distinct from one another. You have a grassland, desert, snowy mountain with a cave going through it, an industrial tower, and a couple of others. All of which are colorful and brimming with detail as Kojak put a lot of time into the pixel art. All of the characters have cool designs that make them distinct from each other even if they are part of the same faction, and they are very expressive with the emoticons and animations they transition between. As I mentioned, the wrench is a brilliant tool as it is used for both combat and solving problems in the world. Building different game mechanics in unique ways. One thing I want to talk about is the story.

The story starts off a little slow and I would argue it doesn’t leave a good impression at first. It doesn’t tell you enough about the world and the importance of certain characters, but maybe that was for the best as Iconoclasts has really good world building. Spoilers for anyone who hasn’t played the game, so skip ahead to the last paragraph if you don’t want any. You learn more about the One Concern and where these superpowered beings came from. They were manufactured using machines, and some candidates weren’t that successful. These candidates were forced to become murderous monsters and you can tell some of them clearly don’t want to live anymore especially under such a corrupt government. The characters are well written and even antagonists have clear understandable goals. Mina is trying her best to protect those she loves, but she often has to go away from home and this created a distant relationship with her mother. Royal was taught to see goodness in everyone around them and remains a good friend to you no matter how much you oppose the One Concern, but the way he was raised led him to have an unrealistic view on the world and when his powers are no longer of use he begins to question his place in society. This kindness eventually leads to Mother, his mother, hating him where he truly feels abandonment. You get to see the religious beliefs of the One Concern raised conflict amongst its troops which leads to an all out civil war and a collapse of an entire government. Things keep getting worse and worse and Rob has no control of it. She watches her brother lose his family, towns get torn apart, and a close friend die near the end of her journey. She wants to break down and cry, because it feels all of these things are happening because of her. The world is falling apart because of her. Yet, it’s an endgame conversation where she is told none of this is her fault. She’s a good person deep down and through perseverance she can fix the broken world. I really like the story near the end, because it’s one about being able to stand tall no matter what.

Iconoclasts is an amazing metroidvania. You can tell that by now. I do have gripes, but nothing that detracts from the experience. The game has a crafting system where by uncovering chests in the environment you can gain materials to forge perks. These perks can be equipped at checkpoints, and are active until you get hit. There are quite a few downsides that make the perk system fall or ignorable. For one, why would you make it so that the perks are no longer active when you get hit? This makes perks somewhat viable especially in the case of bosses where you will always get hit. In fact, bosses will often drop hearts if you shoot any of the minor enemies summoned so the one perk that negates damage for one hit is practically useless. Second, you can only equip three perks. You can’t stack copies of the same perk type on top of each other or increase their capabilities, so experimenting is not all that wide. Third, and this is the big one, half of these perks are useless and don’t contribute anything to character strength. They don’t increase your maximum health, attack power, defense or anything else. I ended up finishing the game without using a single perk, and that really says something. The perk system is bad, but it doesn’t mean the game is horribly designed all together. My final complaint is that there’s not enough to make Iconoclasts replayable like other genre contemporaries, but who am I to judge? There’s a new game plus mode, harder difficulties to challenge yourself further, and you can try speedrunning the game. I strongly recommend Iconoclasts and see it as one of many underrated indie masterpieces of 2018. I give Iconoclasts a 9.5/10 for excellence at best.

9.5/10, Excellence

This critique was written by the single man at Review on. Stay tuned for more content and feel free to check more reviews out over at my site!


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