Published on August 3rd, 2015 | by octaneblue1
Developer(s): OXiAB Game Studio
Publisher(s): OXiAB Game Studio
Platforms(s): Wii U eShop
Release Date(s): July 23, 2015
Over the past couple years, the Wii U eShop has been blessed with some great titles from indie studios. Developer OXiAB Game Studio has brought out a unique 2D stealth platformer in the form of Canvaleon. This game is easily one of the most unique games on the Wii U eShop, but be warned: this game is very tough. Read on for the full review of Canvaleon!
Canvas, the protagonist of Canvaleon, was born without any colors. Thus, he was shunned from his village, except for his one friend, Doodle. However, when his village is taken hostage by evil forces, it’s up to him to rescue the fellow chameleons and defeat the enemies. Since Canvas is completely white, Doodle had the idea of using paint to create camouflage patterns for Canvas, which is a very big and important part of the game.
As previously stated, Canvaleon is a 2D stealth platformer. It is important that Canvas sneaks around undetected, as he initially cannot fight back against enemies, and has to rely on being unnoticed. Enemies can easily spot Canvas if you’re not careful, and the game really, really punishes players if they get caught. When Canvas is spotted, a warning appears, and enemies will pursue him or will be on alert. Some enemies will also start appearing out of teleporters, with some literally rushing out in your direction. Once you get spotted, you can retreat until the warning level goes down… if you survive, that is. Needless to say, getting spotted is something that should be avoided at all costs. However, there were instances where I had no other choice other than to be spotted. All enemies have distinct movements, but sometimes their patterns of movement were too in sync with one another, so it’s nearly impossible to get through without getting caught. It should also be mention that Canvas dies in one hit, and there are no checkpoints in levels, except for the very last one. Some levels are actually on the lengthier side, so if you die, it’s all the way back to the start for Canvas. And while this goes to the complete opposite manner in which the game would like you to complete levels, I found that sometimes just making a mad dash for several of the levels ended up working better for me than just trying to sneak around.
Throughout each level, Canvas can collect butterflies of various colors. These are essentially used to create colors of paint, which are then used to create patterns for Canvas. Creating patterns is easy; all you have to do is go to Doodle’s shop, which is accessible from the map screen with the push of a button, and draw on Canvas’s body using the Wii U GamePad. There’s a lot of freedom for different creations of patterns here, and the game offers options such as zooming in and out and displaying a grid, which helps with creating more articulate works. This part of the game is really unique and it’s fun creating various patterns to use in levels. It should be noted that each pattern has its own meter in the levels. As you change into a pattern (you can hold up to four at a time per level), a meter slowly drains down. So you can’t hide for as long as you want. However, you can use more butterflies to refill the paint for each pattern in Doodle’s shop. For the patterns, they have a percentage that displays when you’re in the “sneak” mode; this indicates how close the pattern mimics the background. Higher percentages mean that enemies won’t be able to see you. There are eight default patterns, with several slots for your own creations. The custom patterns can reach a higher percentage threshold than the default ones, so it’s important that you make your own. Something I noticed is that many patterns require black butterflies. These happen to be the rarest ones, so I had to go back through the tutorial level quite a few times to build up the amount for those so I could use the necessary colors for patterns.
Canvaleon doesn’t have a linear path in terms of progression. Right after clearing the tutorial stage and exiting the village, you’re brought out to a map screen. You can choose to go through any of the worlds in any order you like. I ended up going through the water-themed world first, but that was because I tried every other one and had a difficult time getting through the first or second levels. But after beating each of the levels in a world, you’ll open up a boss level. The boss fights are very interesting, and none of the bosses are the same. Some of the bosses don’t even require a direct fight. Some of the bosses are quite massive, and most of them look impressive too. But what’s most important is that defeating each boss gives Canvas a brand-new ability. These include double jumps, tongue attacks, the ability to swing, and so on. Once you start getting these powers, Canvas will have a slightly easier time getting through certain sections, at least more so than when he had no powers whatsoever. Some of these abilities will allow you to go through areas that you couldn’t get to before, so you can backtrack to explore those if you’d like.
The game’s difficulty is sure to be a divisive part of the game for players. Most levels have a lot of trial-and-error portions, specifically with enemy placements, hazards, and the necessary patterns required to avoid being spotted. Throughout all of the levels, it’s important to remember what enemies are hanging around certain areas, as well as where things like spikes or stalactites are placed. As noted earlier, you can hold up to four patterns, and each one is very important for each level. If you’re stuck without a pattern that doesn’t have a high percentage, you’ll get caught very easily and quickly. But knowing which patterns to bring relies on going through at least some of the level, going back to the shop, creating a pattern with certain colors, and then testing it out. There were instances where I made a pattern, but it was too bright or too dark, so Canvas didn’t blend in much and was easily spotted and killed. There’s definitely a couple instances in a level where a very peculiar pattern was required towards the end, and it’s completely different than what you’d expect for that level. There are also parts of levels that require some leaps of faith, specifically when jumping up or going down. You can hold the control stick or control pad in those directions to see a little higher or lower, but the camera stops at a certain point, and you can’t always see enemies or hazards that end up being a little out of sight. The overall difficulty is quite easily comparable to several 2D platformers on the NES.
One of the aspects I enjoyed about Canvaleon is its hand-drawn presentation. The sprites of characters look like something out of a book. The animations are fine, and, with the exception of the final level, the framerate is nice and steady. For some reason, that last level had a framerate that was unstable at times, perhaps because there were way more enemies in that one. In most of the levels, the backgrounds resemble paintings, they look quite nice. But going back to the final level, there’s one section that really looks out of place in terms of graphics. I’m not going to spoil it, but the art in that section seems worse than everything else in the game, and it really stood out to me. The music is great, and it’s another part of the game that I enjoyed. The background themes fit each of the worlds perfectly. There’s a nice variety of musical genres here too. The sound effects were mostly okay. Canvas has some funny sounding voice samples. There are also plenty of gaming-related references scattered throughout the adventure. I was able to spot slight references to Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, Metal Gear Solid, and Resident Evil 4.
The game length of Canvaleon depends entirely on player skill. Most of the levels take about a handful of minutes to complete, but that’s just including a successful attempt. Actually completing several of the more difficult levels require a lot of time and patience to clear. I’d say I’m decent when it comes to platformers (not so much sneaking around), but I died quite a lot throughout my entire playthrough. Canvaleon took me about 13-14 hours to beat. And that’s just for regular completion; if you want to find all the music CDs, rescue all the fellow chameleons, and get the S-Ranks in every level, it will obviously take a much longer period of time to do all that. The game features seven worlds, with three levels and a boss fight in each one, as well as a final stage and a final boss. The final stage is a massive maze that mercifully includes checkpoints and requires you to go back and forth throughout the level. You’ll need to make sure that you have all of your paints at a high level; you’ll quickly run out of patterns to use otherwise. It’s a ridiculously lengthy level to go through, so be prepared and attempt it when you have several hours to spare.
While it may not seem like it from its presentation and premise, Canvaleon is a brutally difficult game. The camouflage feature is undoubtedly creative, but the challenge level for this game is very high, which be off-putting to most players. But if you like hardcore gaming experiences and have plenty of patience, then Canvaleon may be for you.
+ Nice storybook-like graphics and soundtrack
+ Unique camouflage creation feature
+ Fun abilities and power-ups
– Too many instances of trial-and-error
– Grinding & backtracking required
– Very high difficulty level; hard to recommend to all players
A review copy was provided by the publisher. This did not affect the review or final score.
Update:The developer clarified that the section in the final level with the pixelated trees and such was done on purpose and fits in with the game’s storyline!