This weekend I had the chance to play a pre-release build of TEVI, a ‘bullet hell Metroidvania’ from CreSpirit, the developer of the indie darling Rabi-Ribi, as well as publisher Neverland Entertainment. A game that, black marks to my gamer cred, sits in a list of games that I should’ve played well over five if not ten plus years ago. But let’s look to the present, and what we have here is a fun mashup of bullet hell and Metroidvania gameplay.
And a quick recap before we start: a bullet hell is a game that has the player dodging numerous projectiles, often in a puzzle like manner to escape the maze and defeat their target. A Metroidvania starts the player off in a weakened state, but as the player explores the map, they gain their powers back and are then able to access other parts of the overworld to eventually confront the final boss. Now without further ado…
TEVI starts off with our heroine Tevi, a bunny-eared girl that has lost all her powers and receives help from Vena, her self-proclaimed ‘rival’ and our fourth wall-breaking demo guide. She wants to get Tevi her powers back and she sends you towards the first area of the game to look for a pair of boots that will help you jump over a very high wall and to the slums. On the way, you also find yourself accompanied by two other ‘data hunters’ (far as I can remember) that you use to fire projectiles at baddies, but I’m getting a little ahead of myself.
Right in the beginning, players will be learning how to out maneuver their foes. Unlike other 2D platformers where baddies charge at you, maybe one-by-one or in groups, TEVI’s first enemies instead focus on lighting up your screen with green and red projectiles. Dodging these projectiles is key, but also in doing so you need to learn to line-up your shots and get as close as possible to chain melee attacks for maximum damage. As you progress, you’ll eventually find more upgrades and other mechanics to the combat, such as cores and sigils.
Cores act as bubble shields, absorbing projectiles and firing off their own depending on the data hunter you have equipped. Up to where the demo ended, these cores proved to be useful and I would imagine be even more important later in the full game. Now sigils are core to Tevi’s build because you can essentially change how she plays. Some sigils boost stats but others grant attacks and abilities. Essentially you can mix and match sigils to better take on particular maps. Whether you need to be more at range or close-quarters and the like.
Now TEVI plays really well. Tevi herself controls smoothly and her hitbox is small enough that you can squeeze through a surprising number of projectiles and right to bonking your enemy with a wrench. Overtime I picked up a number of sigils that let me effortlessly dodge projectiles from my rear, showing off this cool backdash animation that made me feel like I just pulled that off without a sweat. Particularly the final boss for the demo, a fair fight against a giant flower that telegraphs its attacks proper while still testing whether or not the player has learned to be fully aware of their surroundings.
The gameplay was easily the highlight of this game. But I feel the game’s map, and particularly the visual indicators, could be a bit better. TEVI’s art style is pleasing to look at and the spritework is really solid. You can see that as you run through the many environments the demo has to offer, such as murky and colourful forests not too unlike MapleStory’s, dry deserts, quiet cities, and more.
But actually exploring the levels, I was never really compelled to do more than follow the main path. There were also a lot of secrets to be found, but unlike other 2D platformers TEVI prefers to hide everything with the same texture work and palletes. I usually ran into secrets because I fell into them or overshot a jump, not because I was looking for them. But the later stages, in fairness, do become more complex thanks to strict pathing and well-placed environmental hazards that you’ll need to keep an eye on.
The demo runs short, about an hour or so depending on how fast you follow the main path. I ran through it pretty quickly, eventually mashing through the game’s text because it wasn’t really pulling me in—it felt like I was dropped into the story a third of the way in. When the demo ends, it shows glimpses of the full game and I kind of wish I got to play the prison escape sequence instead of whatever run around I was doing. On the other hand, Vena shows up to thank the player for trying the game and that there’s extra content that you’ll be able to play with. Nothing makes me feel more warm inside than a nice “thank you” at the end of a video game and I enjoyed the combat enough that I will definitely try out the bonus boss next weekend.
TEVI is currently planned to release on PC and Nintendo Switch first in Q3 of this year. An Xbox version has been announced as well, and will come later on. Folks looking for a Metroidvania with strong combat should definitely keep an eye out on this release.