Broom attack! Also, you might be trapped in a dream. Or some other sort of subconscious realm. It's tough to tell, but judging from the strange sights and the cryptic "as legend has foretold" messages from sages and statues, there's definitely something odd going on here. Anodyne from Sean Hogan and Jonathan Kittaka is an adventure through a melancholy world that plays out like a classic 16-bit RPG. It borrows some of the best micro-concepts from games like The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening, Yume Nikki, and even EarthBound, creating a world that's as innocent as it is moving and as dangerous as it is surreal.
With a straightforward action RPG setup (though, without too much action, and not an RPG proper), you won't have a hard time getting started with Anodyne. Move around with the [arrow] keys, interacting with people and objects with the [C] key. You can also save your progress by standing on checkpoint squares and pressing [C]. Early on you get a broom, your weapon of choice in this here dream world. It lets you attack enemies, sweep up dust, and one or two other interesting uses that we don't want to spoil here. Later, you'll nab a few items that give Young new abilities. Abilities we also don't want to spoil in a review!
Sort of the driving point of Anodyne, apart from its journey of self-exploration and discovery, is gathering cards. There are almost 50 in all, found in treasure chests hidden throughout the overworld and deep inside dungeons. Once you gather all the cards in an area, a gem will light up in the Nexus, your hub zone that offers quick-warp portals to different parts of the world, letting you know you've pretty much cleared that chunk of the game. Certain gates halt your progress until you have a certain number of cards (or special keys), encouraging you to stick your nose in every corner of the game to see what you can see.
Analysis: Anodyne sets you free in a wonder-filled environment that contains just as many neutral encounters as it does enemies. Everything has a modestly eerie undertone to it, sort of like playing a David Lynch movie. There's also this constant sense of foreshadowing in everything you see and do, as if something preposterously grand is waiting for you around the next corner. Or just plain preposterous, you never can tell with this game.
Anodyne looks like a classic action RPG, and it indeed feels and moves like one, but the star of the show is the artwork, story and setting. Sure, there are enemies to kill, but they're almost incidental. Yeah, you collect things and get new equipment, but just so you can explore more of the map, not so you can feel stronger or anything. Even with the focus on atmosphere, Anodyne isn't locked in by a wordy narrative, and it's far from being a text heavy game.
If I can break the tone of the review and get personal for a second (as if you could stop me), Anodyne is the most fun I've had with an adventure/RPG game since the last time I played through Mother 3. Listing all of the things Anodyne gets right would be a list of all the things Anodyne does. Unless you're particularly averse to exploration, there's no reason not to sneak up and give this game a try. It's one of those rare gems that gives you an experience you wouldn't trade for anything.