Itorah review

2022-04-12 by George P

  • Reviewed on

  • Platforms

    Playstation 4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows, Mac OS

  • Developer
    Grimbart Tales

  • Publisher
    Assemble Entertainment

The Wonder of Nahucan

Itorah’s strongest feature and most eye-catching selling point is undoubtedly its visual presentation. The world of Nahucan is simply an absolute gem of environmental design. While traversing the different levels I constantly found myself slowing down to admire the breathtaking views, the wonderful art style, and the astonishing attention to detail. The developers combine Mesoamerican natural landscapes and architecture with creative fantasy elements to forge a stylized world that is both beautiful and unique. The standard of quality in environmental design becomes apparent from the very start, but what truly surprised me throughout the course of the game was the level of environmental diversity. Nahucan’s different biomes and areas have a wide range of thematic variety that make the game feel aesthetically fresh as you move between levels.

Visually, the game also excels in character design and animation. The friends and enemies that you will encounter on your journey are always distinct and expressive with fluid and polished animations. The characters and creatures of Nahucan are more stylized and cartoonish compared to the rest of the environment, making the world feel playful and vibrant but without steering away from the overall mysterious Mesopotamian atmosphere. Most characters also have elements of traditional 20th-century animation in their design which is something I absolutely loved, and I believe gave the game an additional layer of charm.

The visual presentation of the world is greatly complimented by Itorah’s music and sound design. The game’s original soundtrack uses Central and South American instruments and natural sounds as inspiration to create a mystical ambiance that fits very well with the visual environment. Additionally, while progressing through a level’s different sections, you will notice a series of subtle changes in the ambiance and music that help set the intended tone and further enhance the overall atmosphere.

Beyond the world itself, one of my favorite parts of the game was its heroine. Itorah is the game’s silent protagonist and Nahucan’s last surviving human. Silent protagonists are nothing new in video games, in fact they have always been quite common. And while these types of characters have consistently carried a certain stigma within the gaming community, Itorah presents us with a heroine that is not only a brilliant example of non-verbal communication but also a case study of how a silent protagonist can be done right. Even without saying a word, the character of Itorah manages to be full of personality, emotion, and style. The developers are able to achieve that through multiple components, such as her unique character design, her fluid and robust move-set animations, as well as her very fluent facial expressions and mannerisms.

Jumping, Slashing, and Identity Crisis

While Itorah has a highly confident and consistent vision in its visual presentation, the same cannot be said for its greater design direction. This is most visible in the gameplay, level design, and progression system, where the game tries to implement many ideas and mechanics from other titles and subgenres without actually presenting a clear vision of what it wants to be. At its core, Itorah is a linear precision platformer. However, the game also includes elements from action platformers through a basic melee combat system, as well as elements from metroidvanias through its level design and progression system.

The content of Itorah is split into two main categories: dungeons, which are more isolated theme-based experiences, and Nahucan’s overworld, which acts as a semi-open mega-level that connects all the different dungeons together. In the center of the overworld lies the village of Chimali, where Itorah can find a serene safe haven and upgrade her HP, stamina, and healing ability. The platforming in Itorah, while not groundbreaking or particularly complex, manages to provide an overall fun core gameplay loop. I loved how momentum-based the platforming felt and I especially enjoyed some of the game’s later sections where both the protagonist’s move-set and the level design had evolved in complexity. Difficulty-wise the game is casual, and while more hardcore fans of the genre can find that off-putting, it is far from the game’s biggest issue.

On top of its core loops, the game awkwardly tries to implement features from other sub-genres, such as an action-like combat system, a metroidvania style progression system and non-linearity in level design. My impression was that such features not only did not add much to the overall experience but in many cases they seemed to take away from it. Itorah’s lack of a consistent design direction creates the problem where a lot of the game’s features seem to contradict each other. For example, the protagonist’s full platforming move-set is dynamic, has plenty of fun combos, and allows for a solid amount of depth and complexity. Level-design wise, however because of the game’s metroidvania-style progression you only get to unlock Itorah’s full move-set when the game is almost over. Similarly, the issue with the combat is not that it is basic or a secondary feature, but rather that it is not well integrated within the game’s design direction. The combat feels like such an afterthought to the point where you can even completely ignore most chunks of enemies without any drawback in level pacing or character progression. Occasionally, the game will force you to fight waves of enemies in closed-off areas where you will realize that the combat system, while not terrible, is not polished and engaging enough to hold your attention. Unfortunately, the same goes for the game’s bosses which in many cases felt like a slog to go through.

Beyond the Visual

Similar inconsistencies can be found in the ways the game develops its storytelling and world-building. Itorah is filled with visually striking characters, all with their own distinct designs and highly expressive animations, but they are never utilized in any meaningful way. Entering the village of Chimali I was excited to learn its tale, to find out about the stories and secrets of its inhabitants. Sadly, that expectation was never fulfilled. Chimali is beautifully crafted and packed with unique-looking characters but lacks any kind of intricacy or depth. It only serves as a hub area where the player can hastily progress the plot forward or buy upgrades. Unfortunately, lack of substance is a consistent theme beyond Chimali. The entire world of Itorah visually invokes a sense of wonder and curiosity that inspires the player to discover its lore, its treasures, and its mysteries, but sadly there is nothing there. This is one of the main reasons why the metroidvania-style progression and the non-linear elements in level design fail to add any depth to the overall experience.

The game’s main story is conveyed primarily through brief dialogues as well as a few cut-scenes that are mostly found in the game’s final dungeon. In both cases, the story is not communicated in an engaging way, while the writing is very basic and includes plenty of repetitive tropes. I thought this was very unfortunate because, from the few lore bits that I got to experience, it seems like the developers had an interesting main concept and quite a few intriguing ideas in mind.

Even with these flaws that prevent the game from rising to the top, the adventure that Itorah offers is one that I enjoyed, and one that I would recommend to anyone who would appreciate a casual platforming experience and who would relish a visual and auditory journey in this beautiful and unique Mesoamerican world.


Itorah is a gorgeous platformer, carefully handcrafted with a lot of passion and creativity, that sadly fails to realize its true potential due to inconsistencies in its design direction and overall weak storytelling and world-building.