Numskull Games Treasures of The Aegean puts us into the shoes of thief and parkour expert, Marie, who, along with her friend and partner in crime, James, are treasure hunters in search of the next big ancient score. That score comes in the form of the resurfacing of the destroyed island of Thera in the Mediterranean. James obsession with the Minoan Prophecy, which predicted the resurfacing of the sunken island in modern times, leads to an adventure that is far bigger than either of them and which has dire consequences for the world.
Described as a historical puzzle thriller, Treasures of The Aegean is a fast moving 2D puzzle platformer that is a combination of genres. Part Tomb Raider, part Majora’s Mask, part Metroidvania with a generous helping of Indiana Jones, Treasures of The Aegean throws you into its world with a basic movement tutorial and then leaves you to figure it out all on your own.
This approach is both welcome and overwhelming, as the desire to explore the ruins of Thera can be met almost immediately and overwhelming because once you do, you begin to get a true idea of the scope of this game. Your initial exploration is cut rudely short by the volcanic activity that raised Thera in the first place. A sedate exploration trip for treasure and fortune is suddenly turned into a save the world journey as we’re born witness to the destruction of the island. . . and a not insignificant portion of the planet. And suddenly you’re waking up on the floor of your holiday apartment just after the initial volcanic uprising and the game throws its major gameplay twist at you, the dreaded time loop.
If you’ve played Majora’s Mask or other games with the same Groundhog Day mechanic, then you know what to expect. You’ve got to make your way across the games map, finding treasures and solving puzzles with each loop allowing you to streamline your approach more and prioritise what you need to do. At first you only have fourteen minutes before the reset but each treasure you collect, along with presenting you more information about Minoan culture, adds extra time into your loop. Thankfully treasures only need to be collected once.
At the start of each loop, more information about what’s going on, along with more story and background information about our heroes, gets revealed. Along with exactly how your loops impact the Minoan past as well. A nice twist as well, is that new story locations and gameplay segments get added so that you’re not only travelling across Thera’s vast and wonderful environment. There’s a heist that you have to perpetrate without been caught and, a personal favourite, a rooftop escape from a police helicopter.
The meat of the game is, of course, Thera itself. To say that the map is huge is really an understatement. It may channel the feeling of Metroidvanias, but you’re not blocked from where you can go right from the start by needing new abilities. Mary has all the tools she needs from the get go and the only thing that can separate you from collecting treasures is fast reflexes and some creative platforming. Thera itself is a wonderful environment of ruined architecture, deep caves and some of the modern world caught up in the islands resurfacing. It’s also rather gorgeous to look at.
It’s very easy to get lost and overwhelmed by the size of the map. Thankfully you have a journal and an interactive map that fills in automatically the more you explore. The developers have also added the ability to place down various marks on the map with pictograms for you to make notes of the important places, a feature I feel all Metroidvania games could benefit from. Eventually I broke my exploration down into completing grid-like segments of exploration through each loop though I never got over the sense of just how tiny I was compared to the scale of the past, especially as, after the fourth loop, you’re randomly dropped in an area of the environment.
Marie’s move sets are all parkour based. You can run, slide down slopes, crawl, slide under low objects, wall run and wall jump and swing across vines. Pressing back allows you to slide down walls in a fantastic display of physics flaunting but it’s paramount to getting around and reaching some areas. Marie is wonderfully animated as well, reminiscent of older 2D games such as the original Prince of Persia and the wonderful Flashback. However, with a time limit to watch out for, it wouldn’t do for Marie to move slowly and she doesn’t. Treasure of The Aegean has one of the fastest moving characters in games that I’ve seen in some time.
While there are enemies present, the game has no combat. Instead, they’re treated as more obstacles to be overcome. When shot at, their bullets move rather slowly, the developer’s way of showing you exactly what it is that this game is really about. But take a long tumble or get hurt and instead of dying, you get a short scene of Marie picking herself up minus some precious seconds from the clock.
James and Marie are wonderfully written characters as well. The game takes a comic book approach to presenting its story and it all looks wonderful. Saying too much about what’s going on will ruin the whole, just one run feel of the game that actually makes the loop reset something to look forward to.
While I’ve never been a big fan of time loops set against a clock in games, Treasures of The Aegean made me look forward to each new run. With a wonderful story, a game map that is truly epic in scope, beautiful animation and comic book style design and wonderful platforming mechanics, Treasures of The Aegean is an essential game for your library with two great lead characters that I hope we get to see more of.
Available on PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X and Series S, Microsoft Windows, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 5
Publisher: Numskull Games
Reviewed on Switch
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