Given the success of Cuphead, it was bound to happen eventually. In fact, we’re surprised that it’s taken this long for someone to do it. Of course, by ‘it’ we mean copy its formula, and even its art style. Enchanted Portals by Xixo Game Studio simply wants to give players some more old-timey, hardcore run ‘n’ gun action. The trouble is, it falls short.
A neat animated introduction allows players to meet the protagonists of Enchanted Portals: a pair of rookie magicians who find themselves hopping dimensions in pursuit of a book. The tutorial level that follows, however, offers the first signs of a game that’s lacking.
As Bobby or Penny you can move left or right, jump, double-jump, and make use of a trio of spells. You can also perform a melee attack, dash, and momentarily create a shield around yourself to block incoming attacks. Much of this isn’t explained to you though. And neither is the fact that once a gauge around your character icon in the corner of the screen is full, you can power up your attacks for a short while.
Enchanted Portals expects you to figure most of this stuff out for yourself, which isn’t ideal. It also doesn’t make it clear that certain enemies can only be defeated by shooting them with the magic that matches the colour of their aura. Although the game isn’t consistent with this – some enemies appear in multiple colours but you seemingly can’t kill them at all. And projectiles are sometimes colour-coded without any real meaning.
These are just some of the issues you’ll face as you make your way through Enchanted Portals’ fairly large and rather repetitive run ‘n’ gun levels. And some of them are carried over into its multi-stage boss battles, too.
When it comes to bosses, Enchanted Portals is again very much reminiscent of Cuphead. They’re undoubtedly the highlight here, but they’re also where the difficulty gets cranked up a notch. Learn their patterns and lay on enough hurt and you’ll find that they change their tactics throughout the fight, sometimes even offering entirely new mechanics.
What starts as a typical boss fight against a giant cow in a flying saucer, for example, finds you dancing uncontrollably in its second stage, leaving you to simply avoid falling to your doom as floor tiles give way. Then, in the third stage, the fight turns into scrolling shooter, with your hero using a broom to keep airborne.
There’s no lack of ingenuity here, then, but there is a lack of finesse and polish. You’ll find that the transitions between each stage of a boss fight are a little awkward, switching between your spells is stilted, and after the attractive animated introduction, most of the story is just conveyed with stills.
What really irks us about Enchanted Portals, however, is how lifeless the combat is. There are no sound effects for casting spells or hitting enemies, and it simply leaves the experience feeling soulless and unfinished. Put everything together, and you have a game that has potential, but squanders much of it.
Pick up Enchanted Portals and you’ll find that you can have some fun with it, especially if you get a friend in tow and play in co-op. But while it sports an attractive art style and a listenable soundtrack, the gameplay will frustrate you from time to time, and you’re likely to find its run ‘n’ gun stages a tad too repetitive. Throw in difficulty spikes, disjointed boss transitions and a lack of sound effects, and you have a game that’s ultimately a stylish disappointment.