Viola is a game by Jelle van Doorne currently available for early access on Steam. While not much has been revealed in regards to the story, Viola follows the journey of a girl who had lost her mother and her love of music. One day, while practising, she questions if she should even bother anymore because she isn’t very good when suddenly a black hole appears and sends her into another world. Will she make it back home? Where is she even? Only time will tell but she won’t go it alone as she meets a cast of friendly faces with their own challenges to face along the way.
The writing is lighthearted and very funny at times. but don’t let the puns and happy tone fool you: There are some very serious topics being explored in Viola. Right off the bat we are met with coping with the loss of a loved one, questioning one’s self worth, and feelings of inadequacy in the things we love because we aren’t “good” enough at them. For those looking for a fun romp you will find it here with Viola but those looking for more will also be rewarded for their efforts.
Gameplay adds to the “light but deep” feel of Viola with it’s platforming elements mixed with attentive battle mechanics. One moment I was reminded of Valkyrie Profile while running and jumping my way around the maps and enemies and the next; something more akin to Mario and Luigi RPGs came to focus. Battle itself is intuitive and plays off the musical theme well. To attack you will need to correctly handle button prompts as they scroll by. the better you do it, the better the results. but don’t try to phone it in. You will fail a move if not careful; thus wasting your turn though Viola is very lenient in this regard. The fights themselves are, in my opinion, very hard. wrong moves or needlessly hoarding your magic or special moves can and will find you hurting real fast. That said; Viola is also very forgiving in this aspect as running away will always work the first time. The monster will still be there but you can try as many times as you like to either fight the group or find a way around them. This makes the seemingly scarce ability to find items easier to manage as well. Even with my liberal use of potions in the first boss and third dungeon, I found myself not running out of those either. One of the other ways Viola is unique is with it’s Crescendo system. Crescendo points, or CP for short, accumulate by taking damage relative to your max HP. When the bar fills enough you can let loose some powerful moves to quickly make work of enemies.
The visuals are sprite based and look very clean and detailed. They also contain little bits of flair like the flowers that spawn whenever you jump. The music is also very well done which is great because music plays a large role in Viola. Need to open a door? play some sweet tunes. Need to rest up? There’s a song for that to. Want to visit a flying cat so you can buy precious gems from them? You betcha there’s a song for that too. Just open up your songbook and press the right buttons and voila, or should I say VIOLA?, Your ragtime band of buddies pull out their instruments and make it happen.
Overall there are a lot of things I could say I enjoyed about my time playing viola but if I did that I’d spoil all the fun for you. I’ll just say I was barely an hour in when I decided to buy my own personal copy to support the wonderful work put in already. I look forward to seeing how Viola plays out and I hope you agree with me. Get it if you enjoyed games like Undertale or the handheld Mario RPGs. Heck get it if you like rpgs in general. For me it was a nice change of pace and a much needed break.