Inculinati Video Game Review – Monster Mischief in the Fields

How jolly the medieval illustrator must have been. Even in some of the most austere works of liturgy, the fields are surrounded by monkeys playing bagpipes and admiring mirrors, cats defending castles besieged by mice, and knights fighting giant snails (with disconcerting regularity, actually). . Or take the far more terrifying amphivena, depicted in the breviary as a two-headed and two-legged beast so ferocious that its limbs resort to attacking each other.

With its charmingly drawn sword-wielding dogs and bardic donkeys, a video game It’s a peanut follows this living tradition. But unlike the beasts depicted in medieval manuscripts, the ones brought to life in this turn-based strategy game form the ranks of your personal army as you embark on a mission to save the life of the master who taught you everything you know about aggressive pigments.

Curiously, this isn’t the first game based on medieval manuscripts to be released this winter – Repentance had you flipping the parchment in a story-driven murder mystery set in 16th-century Bavaria – but Yaza Games” It’s a peanut embraces the more chaotic side of illustrations. Here, the pages are your battlefield, the pen and ink your weapons as you summon creatures to defeat those of your AI-controlled opponent by drawing them into the fields.

For some encounters, your character (I named mine Isabella, after a breviary containing the musical monkeys) will sit in the middle of the battle, hastily sketching to bolster your ranks each round; in others you just have to work with the troops you’re given. Combat is turn-based, with one beast per player attacking at a time, so forget about wiping all enemies off the page before they start, à la XCOM. Likewise, confined to the pages of the parchment, you’ll find few places to hide. Add in obstacles, impending hells, and instant death, and the result is a frenetic and claustrophobic—if gleefully silly—fight to the bitter end, where every move counts.

The pages are your battlefield, the pen and ink your weapons

Regretting your moves as soon as they’re made is often a good indication of the depth of a turn-based strategy game. But It’s a peanut imposes, for all its charm, a steep learning curve on players—or so I told myself as a giant slug swallowed yet another of my archers in one gulp. Early encounters can prove infuriatingly difficult, with the AI ​​seemingly immune to error even on the lowest difficulty settings.

There are more overarching dilemmas to distract you along the way: unlocking and upgrading your beasts, pausing between battles to invest in different aspects of your army – choosing between more health or more ink, say – though it’s all strictly limited. Dexterity plays a secondary role: on certain attacks, the slider will cycle through different damage values, and it’s up to you to stop it at its highest value. They’ll drop in different places for different enemies, so if you’re attacking several at once, you’ll have to decide who to prioritize.

But the joy really lies in the game’s escapist aesthetic. As the battle rages, the columns above the fields gradually fill with text recounting – loosely – the actions of you and your enemies. “God-fearing Hildebert weakly beat the unworthy wretch, and he felt as empty as a baker’s evening” described a duel that I lost rather badly. It’s also visually authentic: Eleanor Jackson, curator of illuminated manuscripts at the British Library, draws parallels with Renaud de Barre’s Breviary, an early 14th-century prayer book.

The early access state of the game shows at times: signposts can look a bit sparse in menus, tutorials could use a replay button, there’s no keyboard support for typing character names on a PC. Online multiplayer is planned for the full release, but for now you’ll have to stick around one keyboard. But what the title lacks in polish, it more than makes up for in the originality of its setting and the charm of its animations. Centuries after their predecessors first set foot on the fringes of literature, these strange creatures have finally found the spotlight.

“Inkulinati” is now available on Steam Early Access and Xbox Game Preview

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