In recent years, a new platforming phenomenon has appeared. Billed as "masocore games", this subgenre of platformers heavily emphasizes pixel perfect jumps, cheap deaths, and more spikes per capita than every Mega Man game combined. Whether as a reaction to classic games that were percieved as being too hard, or simply an exercise in masochism, this new breed of platformer has proven popular with hardcore and casual audiences alike. Even within this subgenre, there are generally two different types of masocore game: western style, which are all about timing and precision (think Super Meat Boy), and eastern style, which emphasize devious traps and jokes at the expense of the player. Eryi's Action falls squarely in the latter category.
Developed by Xtal Sword and originally released in 2011 as a doujin title, Eryi's Action has recently been localized by Nyu Media in 2012. Taking after games such as Super Mario Bros 2 Japan and Syoban Action, Eryi's Action is a platformer that's all about making the player suffer in numerous ways.
The premise behind Eryi's Action is thus: The evil troll Farta, who looks more like a fairy or wood nymph, has stolen Eryi's prized melon, and it's up to Eryi to retrieve it. Eryi must make her way through seven levels of platforming misery and defeat three bosses before she is able to challenge Farta. The story is advanced via brief exchanges with bosses before you fight them, as well as hint boxes scattered throughout the levels. Not exactly engaging stuff here, but it's enough of an excuse to jump on things and fall into pits. According to the manual, the game has mild BDSM overtones, with Farta being a sadist and Eryi being more masochistic, but you wouldn't know it just from playing the game.
Eryi's basic mechanics should be familiar to platformer fans. Besides her basic jump, Eryi can also run and grab things, the latter ability coming in handy for the few puzzles you will encounter. There are various objects to interact with and pick up, such as fountains, switches, bouncy mushrooms and even enemies. In a refreshing twist, enemies are affected by environmental hazards in the exact same way you are. For example, throw an enemy on top of a fountain and they'll go sailing into the air. Enemies can also trigger switches, something that will either work out in your favor or be a huge nuisance.
The ultimate goal of the game is to reach the flag at the end of every stage through any means possible. However, standing in your way are the numerous traps hidden within the levels for you to "discover". Some of the most common are hidden blocks placed in front of pits ala Super Mario Bros. 2 Japan, as well as parts of the stage that fall out from under Eryi when she jumps onto them. Another common trick are the random pots you can enter. These almost always contain an inescapable, Bond-esque death trap, the most amusing of which involves Eryi uncovering an evil, alien conspiracy. Traps can sometimes produce an amusing reaction from Eryi, such as a random, sticky block at the end of the second level that will become glued to Eryi if she jumps next to it. Most of the these are meant more to amuse than to frustrate, although sometimes they do both. Finding all the little jokes and gotchas hidden throughout the game is a challenge unto itself, as it's possible to miss many of them if you play carefully. While the basic platforming plays a vital role in the game, it takes a backseat to the developers' desire to see you suffer.
The boss fights are easily the best part of the game, however. Each of the bosses has a unique gimmick to them, the most amusing and hair pulling of which is a fake RPG battle against the third boss that must be won in only five turns. Good luck figuring out what the proper course of action is the first, second, or even tenth time! The final battle is a treat, too. Eryi dons a super suit and does battle with Farta in a mini danmaku segment, ridiculous bullet patterns and all. True to form, Eryi's hitbox is gigantic, making for a frustrating conclusion.
Unlike other games in the genre such as Super Meat Boy or I Wanna Be the Guy, Eryi's Action rewards patience over speed and precision. Being able to predict what is going to happen next, and ultimately overcome the odds, plays a vital role in beating the game, especially when the traps become more devious. The stages are short, the only real requirement being to navigate a series of gauntlets before reaching the next checkpoint. These often require a lot of trial and error, and a few of the stages require you to solve a simple puzzle using items you've used before, such as angry bombs that explode shortly after you grab them. All of this is made more bearable by the fact that you have unlimited lives to clear the game. For those seeking extra challenge, there are seven gems hidden throughout the stages for you to uncover. Collecting all seven of them unlocks a special EX Mode that limits the number of lives the player has to 30. It also has a bonus story that can be uncovered via the hint blocks scattered around the game. Despite the difficulty, the game can easily be cleared in an afternoon if one is dedicated enough, although clearing EX Mode will likely take much longer.
While Eryi has a charming, hand drawn quality to it, the graphics are a bit of a mixed bag. Sprites are generally highly detailed and colorful, but are often lacking in terms of animation. In fact, a number of objects, including a couple of the bosses, have no animation at all, rendering them nothing more than attractive clipart. The stage backgrounds suffer from a similar problem: While vibrant and colorful, they are otherwise devoid of detail. As attractive as the high res sprites are, the corners cut on animation and background detail makes the game appear to be cheap, stiff and awkward. Eryi's sprite is well animated at least, and there are a number of nice touches here and there, such as the huge variety of goofy death animations.
The audio fares a bit better, with the music being one of the biggest highlights of the game. A few of the instrument choices are suspect - a number of songs use a cheesy horn sample - but most of the arrangements are catchy and nice to listen to. The same can't be said for the song that plays every time you die. This little tune will quickly grate on your nerves long before the game is over. The sound effects are the sort of inoffensive boings and blips you'd expect from a platformer, and are thus quickly forgotten.
In terms of interface, Eryi's Action offers all the requisite options you'd expect from a PC platformer. Sound, volume, and controls can be adjusted from the options menu, as well as the color depth and framerate, the latter of which seems to make the game run better at the cost of a choppier framerate. While the game is locked at a resolution of 640 x 480, the game can thankfully be played in a window if one so chooses. On the controls front, the game supports both keyboard and gamepad. Both control schemes work well and are responsive for the most part, although there is one subtle difference between the two input methods: The swimming stages are an absolute nightmare on a gamepad. In order to swim on a gamepad, the jump button must be tapped repeatedly, making the fine precision necessary to navigate its hazards a chore. The keyboard controls for swimming are a lot more forgiving in comparison, as you can swim in any direction you want by simply pressing the keyboard in that direction. As such, it's recommended that you switch to the keyboard for these segments, or simply bind the keyboard controls to the gamepad instead.
If it seems like there's not much to talk about other than the difficulty, that's because there really isn't. While it is a competent entry in the masocore genre, there's not much new to see in Eryi's Action if you're even remotely familiar with these sort of games. It's also much gentler than the likes of I Wanna Be the Guy, so those looking for maximum frustration factor might find the game lacking. As such, Eryi's Action is best recommended to those that are either new to masocore games and are looking for something to ease themselves into it, or for diehard fans always looking for a new challenge. It's still worth playing through once just to experience all the jokes, and there is replay value there for those that want it.