There’s no shortage of card-based roguelites out there, and while they often hit the nail on the head with the mechanics expected from the genre, few actually follow through when it comes to the narrative. Iris and the Giant promises top-notch quality in both aspects, packaged nicely with minimalist visuals and painterly animations. There’s beauty in simplicity, and that’s never been truer here.
Table of contents:
IRIS AND THE GIANT VISUALS
The minimalist vibes of Iris and the Giant shine through in all aspects of the game, whether it’s in the gorgeous hand-drawn artwork or in the meditative soundtrack that accompanies you unobtrusively throughout every stage. There’s no overly complicated narrative here – right off the bat, you’ll step into the shoes of a shy little girl named Iris as her father takes her to her swimming class. While it might seem like an ordinary day with an ordinary girl doing ordinary things, Iris’ inner demons soon rear their ugly heads, and it’s not long before you get an inside look at what truly goes on underneath Iris’ seemingly indifferent facade.
It’s here that her demons literally manifest themselves into adversaries she needs to overcome, symbolising her many layers of insecurity. As it turns out, still waters really do run deep, and as you progress through the levels, you’ll slowly uncover Iris’ memories and understand her a little bit more each time.
THE GAMEPLAY OF IRIS AND THE GIANT
Iris isn’t hard to sympathise with, and with each level you clear as you climb up the metaphorical tower of her fears, you’ll see just how hard she’s struggling for some semblance of control over her life. Her confidence is often ripped to shreds by the people around her, and these demon cards can whittle down at her Will (which innovatively stands for Iris’ HP) until she’s defeated.
This is where the roguelite card battling aspect comes in. You’ll use a variety of cards to attack manifestations of Iris’ demons, with each one offering a unique trait. You also have Confidence cards that can heal your HP (or, more appropriately, restore your Will). And typical of the genre, defeating major foes can reward you with a special talisman of some sort. You can also collect stars to level up your skills as you go along.
WHAT’S THE APPEAL?
I’m a sucker for a good roguelite deck-builder, and when you combine that with lovely visuals and a darn good story, you essentially have, in my opinion, the perfect game. I absolutely loved the strategic element of the card battles themselves, and it perfectly captures that roguelite feeling of sweeping through enemies with ease one moment and holding on for dear life with 1 HP the next.
There’s also that added thrill of discovering secret levels littered across the floors from time to time. For instance, you might stumble into a new portal where you’ll need to defeat all foes with one card, making each victory all the more satisfying.
The winner for me, even more than the highly engaging gameplay, is the story. It’s pretty straightforward, but the way it was executed makes it stand out from other games tackling issues on identity, coming of age, and finding yourself. The ending is as satisfying as it is moving, and it’s a great reminder to us all that the power to take down our giants has always been inside us all along.