Iris and the Giant


This game was reviewed on Xbox Series X.

Reviewed by: Oskar van der Vliet

Iris and the Giant was developed by Louis Rigaud and released on computers February 27th 2020. It was then later ported to Xbox one and series X on March 2nd 2023. It is an Card based RPG roguelike game following the main character Iris as it explores her emotions. I played this on my Xbox one X.

Firstly let's discuss the presentation. The game has a very scrappy art style but it's done in such a deliberate way that it feels much more like an art style then artistic limitation, which it most likely was. The crude drawings of characters help immerse you in the perspective of the main character, as well as just being generally charming. The colours are very beautiful, with an almost watercolour style. I love the setting, the art direction in the different levels and environments found in the game can be breathtaking despite its minimalist style. The music is nice, and generally atmospheric. Overall it's a strong element of the game.

There is a story throughout the game but it isn't the primary focus. You play as a girl named Iris. There are numerous scenes as you progress depicting her experiences in the real world, but the game takes place in a dubiously realistic exploration of a mysterious area that seems to represent herself. The narrative is fairly slow moving, exploring themes of mental health primarily. Whether it comes to bullying at school, her relationship with her parents, anxiety or depression, it's all covered whether implicitly or explicitly as you delve further. It is not anything revolutionary, especially in the indie space, but it's certainly done well and fairly engaging. This game to me feels gameplay driven but I always appreciate context for what's happening, and a throughline can help make an experience much more cohesive, and I think that specifically is done excellently here. I also appreciate how the narrative takes its own time, not worrying about setting enough up at the beginning, and laying everything out earlier, rather leaving discoveries and intrigue for the player to enjoy at a more carefully curated pace.

The gameplay is, as mentioned before, card based. You begin a run, where you try to get as far as you can in a roguelike structure, getting a little stronger and unlocking more each time. There are a number of different systems working through the game that can be a little overwhelming at first, but absolutely delivers once you put the necessary time in learning. You have simple elements like a health bar or deck with all of your cards in it. You have a limited number of cards and running out of either resources will cause a game over. You collect cards by either stealing them from enemies or getting them from chests. You can level up by defeating enemies, and on each level up you have the decision to increase the effect of a random set of abilities or just open a chest. You also can collect rare gems to create very powerful cards. You defeat enemies fairly simply, most of them being single hit kills. Each encounter features multiple rows, with different enemies in each all with different abilities and ways to handle them. There are a lot of different elements that all add together to keep every encounter unique, even if it's one that you've played multiple times on previous runs. The shifting game stat, your need for whatever resource or power up, and the numerous other features I neglected to mention, like buddies, memory abilities, red stars and more that all complicate things and keep things fresh. A lot of lesser known roguelikes suffer with keeping things from being repetitive but Iris and the giant certainly separates itself from them in this regard. However if I have to have one critique, it would be that the difficulty is a little harder than it should be, even on the easiest option. It's nothing game breaking, and any loss always feels like the culmination of poor decisions during that encounter and run, but I found myself struggling to climb, only getting a tad further each time, and not really funding that winning synergy that could shoot me through it. Again, nothing damning, not even something I really hold against the game as it is most likely partly the fault of my skill.

Overall the experience is quite delightful. Unique visual style, and gameplay. The story elements are certainly well-walked but the game doesn't act like it's anything revolutionary, and implements those story elements into its roguelight gameplay quite expertly done. I had a great time with this game, and found it to be very impressive. On account of this, and my lack of any genuine criticism that I feel hampers the experience, I am willing to give this game a 5 out of 5. I dont think it's a perfect experience, but a score any lower would imply more problems then I feel it has. 

Reviewed by: Oskar van der Vliet