Bring color and light back into the world of a coma patient as you run, leap, and roll your way through seven challenging levels. Fight off the fading darkness by stomping monsters, and watch as color returns to the black-and-white world of the game. A deep and powerful story unfolds as you progress through the levels. Discover how you got into the coma even as you fight your way out of it!
As a 2-D platformer fan, I was starving for the majority of this past decade. Once Mario 64 opened the Third Seal and gave way for seemingly all future platformers to take place in the loosey-goosey world of polygons, I figured my favorite genre was doomed to extinction. Thankfully, a resurgence has largely taken place in the last couple of years, one arguably brought about in no small part to Braid, Jonathan Blow's explorations into pretentiousness. Despite a holier than thou attitude, Braid is an incredible 2-D platformer with brilliant level design and puzzles, a game which single handedly justified my Xbox 360 purchase at the time.
Braid's unexpected popularity gave way to clones, artsy platformers looking to invoke some of that game's magic. A Fading Melody is just such a game, one I eagerly bought at the then launch price of just 200 points. Unfortunately for those currently interested in the game, the new pricing structure for Xbox Indies meant that developer Anchorcast would either have to drop the price to 80 points or raise it by approximately 50 cents. While A Fading Melody does offer some challenge and comes with its own bag of pretentiousness, either of which may hold appeal on some level, in the current Xbox Indies environment full of quality games, A Fading Melody's flaws are highlighted that much more and reveal a game not worth its original $2.50 let alone $3.00.
A Fading Melody tells the tale of a coma victim named Melody. She is depicted in game as a naked, white silhouette. In fact, every enemy is also depicted as a nude white silhouette as well. Though the game aims high for style and achieves some small level of fulfilling an artistic vision, the animation remains terribly jerky and the repetition of bland colors and barren landscapes do little to excite the player. Accompanying Melody on her journey is a predictably moody albeit pretty piano score, awful platforming controls, and a plot striving so hard to emulate Blow's poetic narrative but lacking the depth and introspection of Braid's story. One neat touch is how Melody must defeat enemies to brighten her world; though no reason is given which ties to the story, defeating enemies is necessary to be able to see the game as the world continuously dims until Melody fades away and "dies."
Of course, Melody can never truly die. Infinite lives and a plethora of checkpoints will see to that, ensuring that most players should be able to make it to the end of each chapter and run by the floating text revealing further details of her situation. For what it's worth, the story can be captivating to a degree and definitely urges the player to complete the next level to find out more about the plot. Along the way Melody will learn a few techniques beyond just running and jumping, namely a roll move and a double jump, and while they control just as poorly as everything else, the addition of new moves and the challenges they present help give some sense of accomplishment as one progresses through the sea of repetitive level design. A player will need to complete seven stages to see the entirety of Melody's story, and I would guess an average player can finish the game in half an hour to an hour of play. Some of the later stages can pose a good challenge, but that's largely do to the way too slippery controls which take some getting used to.
If anything, A Fading Melody highlights just how far Xbox Indies have come and how high expectations have risen. We no longer have to contend with cheap Flash derivatives, and platformer fans can do without the such weak attempts thanks to the influx of superior product from developers such as Arkedo. While A Fading Melody may still hold some appeal to some due to the setting and style and could have been the basis of a worthwhile effort, far too many flaws prevent me from recommending the title. No one should be so starved for 2-D platformers anymore to the point where A Fading Melody looks like a good option.