Fearmonium
Gameplay 9
Graphics 9
Sound 9

Play as an unpleasant memory that has manifested in the form of a female mallet wielding clown as you wreak havoc on the psyche of a teenager named Max. It is your job to break down all the barriers in his mind and eliminate the competition as you attempt to become a full-blown phobia. Fearmonium features eye-catching hand-drawn visuals, tons of unique enemies and locations, as well as a stellar soundtrack by Expecte Amour. Best of all, it is an absolute blast to play, and Metroidvania fans should not hesitate to pick it up.

Gameplay: Not too challenging, but very captivating.

Graphics: Charming hand-drawn visuals and plenty of variety

Sound: Features a great soundtrack by Expecte Amour

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Fearmonium

Developer: Redblack Spade | Publisher: Redblack Spade | Release Date: 2021 | Genre: Action / Adventure / Indie | Website: Official Website | Purchase: Steam

From darkness and heights to flying or thunder, there are plenty of phobias that people struggle with on a daily basis. One of the more unique ones is coulrophobia, which is the fear of clowns. Fearmonium introduces players to Max, a teenager going through a very tough time after the death of his grandfather. Not only does Max have to deal with his abusive stepfather and bullies at school, but his girlfriend is moving to another town. She breaks this awful news to Max at a fairground, just as a female performer in clown makeup startles him with a balloon.

However, in a unique twist, players do not take control of Max in this Metroidvania-style adventure. Instead, it is the clown that takes center stage as an unpleasant memory in Max’s mind. After a short encounter with Lady Depression, who is having a great time bathing in all of Max’s tears, you are given a purpose; to become a full-blown phobia. To accomplish this, you must navigate your character through the twisting corridor of Max’s mind and break down all the barriers standing between you and success. Due to Max’s tragic life, there are plenty of other fears and phobias clamoring for attention, so all of these must be eradicated first if you want coulrophobia to become the top dog. It is a pretty interesting premise for a game, especially a Metroidvania title, but Fearmonium makes the most of it.

As is traditional for the genre, you start Fearmonium with just a basic jump and a primary attack. This attack takes the form of a giant mallet that clown girl can swing at enemies for a three-hit combo. Most enemies are pretty resilient, and the range of your mallet is very short, so it takes a while to get used to the combat. To make matters worse, enemies can easily knock you back with their attacks, and there are no invincibility frames after getting hit to protect you from taking more damage if you get struck into another enemy or trap.

However, as you explore and uncover more of the enormous map, you’ll also unlock some new skills and abilities in the process. These include the obligatory double-jump, slide, and dash moves, which makes traversing the numerous rooms in the game a little easier. Of course, you’ll also encounter the usual assortment of seeming dead-ends, such as spike pits and ice walls. Players familiar with the genre will know that these require special abilities to reach and will take note of where they are located to return to them at the appropriate time. Unfortunately, while you can leave a single marker on the map, it lacks any icons denoting locked-off areas, and there’s no way to label rooms of interest either.

The location of important characters, such as Lady Depression, who acts as a save spot and fast travel point, is marked, and players can also pay a fee to mark the location of other characters, such as the clown vendors. However, to keep track of what obstacles were barring our way and where they were found, we had to resort to outside means to keep track of everything. It is not a big issue but can result in lots of backtracking if players are not careful about paying attention to their surroundings.

Visually, Fearmonium looks excellent, and it is hard to believe that the game is the work of pretty much just one person. The developer is a self-taught artist who created everything in the game using just a simple mouse. It took him three years to develop the game, and it is easy to see where all the effort went. Not only is the game world huge and filled with various themed areas, but each area also has unique enemies. The hand-drawn animation style is invariably going to draw comparisons to titles such as Cuphead but has a unique style of its own. Redblack Spade definitely managed to capture the mixture of creepy and cute that was the hallmark of the 1930s cartoons the visuals resemble. Players will take their clown character through areas based around Max’s childhood, his school, the city streets, as well as his fantasies, and more. There he will battle everything from knights and witches to rocking horses, paper airplanes, mushrooms, street cats, and many other unique foes. The bosses also show a great deal of imagination and are based on Max’s other fears, such as bullies, his teacher, and stepfather.

Fearmonium features music by Expecte Amour, and these tunes serve as the perfect backdrop for the style and tone of the game. We spent a considerable amount of time exploring every nook and cranny of Max’s mind, and the music never became annoying or grating. The sound effects could have been a little better, and the game lacks voice acting, but overall the audio quality is outstanding.

As recommended by the developer, we played Fearmonium using a controller and had no issue pulling off any of the moves or attacks. Along with jumping and attacking, you can use items and abilities that you unlock or purchase. The currency in this game is balloons, which can be found floating around in bunches or randomly dropped by enemies. Clown girl can lob items such as firework rockets and presents at enemies if you have any left in your inventory. On the other hand, abilities mainly consist of special attacks by clowns you discovered and are tied to your stamina meter. You can only equip one of each at a time, but it is easy to switch between them using the trigger buttons on your controller. In addition, you can equip up to three passive abilities but must unlock the slots for these first through unique collectibles. Speaking of which, Fearmonium has 21 “masks” that are hidden throughout the levels behind secret walls, and finding all of them provide an additional challenge.

Overall, Fearmonium is not a very difficult game, and you have access to up to three healing items and one revive in your inventory at a time. If you manage to run out of these, you’ll have to reload your game back at the last save spot. As long as you try not to rush through an area, the enemies shouldn’t pose too much of a problem. Trying to rush past them instead of taking them down one by one can become an issue as they can easily overwhelm your character if you become swarmed. Some enemies are more annoying than others, especially those with ranged attacks or unpredictable movements, but none of them are too infuriating. Enemies do respawn after leaving an area, making backtracking a little tedious if you are lost. Thankfully, there is a character that can tell you exactly where you need to go next in the game, but this information comes at escalating prices, so make use of it sparingly.

We also enjoyed how the platforming areas were broken up briefly by some side-scrolling sections where you might hop on a rollercoaster or have to dodge obstacles while riding a scooter or flying stick horse. There’s even one area where your character has to outrun a seething mass of children literally climbing up the walls to get to you. The story starts rather grim and depressing, but stick with it as there are plenty of interesting twists along the way. The developer has a master’s degree in psychology, which clearly shines through in the conversations with other characters in the game.

After spending many, many hours with Fearmonium, we can safely say that it is one of our favorite Metroidvania titles. The sheer amount of creativity that has gone into it puts many big budget titles to shame. Despite the size of the map, the game held our interest throughout our playtime. In fact, we enjoyed the experience enough to go back for all the secrets and collectibles. Fearmonium doesn’t reinvent the genre or does anything drastically different enough to draw in players who might hate the genre. Still, anyone who enjoys a good Metroidvania will love this game.

System Requirements

  • OS: Windows 7
  • Processor: Dual Core 2.4 Ghz
  • Memory: 4 GB RAM
  • Graphics: Hardware Accelerated Graphics with dedicated memory
  • DirectX: Version 10
  • Storage: 750 MB available space
  • OS: Mac OS 10.7+
  • Processor: 2 GHz dual core
  • Memory: 4 GB RAM
  • Graphics: Hardware Accelerated Graphics with dedicated memory
  • Storage: 800 MB available space
  • OS: Steam OS 2.0 / Ubuntu 14.04 LTS (64-bit)
  • Processor: 2 GHz
  • Memory: 2 GB RAM
  • Graphics: OpenGL 2.1-compatible, 512 MB video memory, framebuffer object support. E.g. Intel HD 4600 or better.
  • Storage: 750 MB available space

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3 Comments

  1. wavezephyr May 24, 2021
    Reply

    Saw people raging on the Steam forums about the difficulty of this game. I finished the bloodstained games, would I be able to finish this?

    • GAMERamble May 24, 2021
      Reply

      Absolutely. It has a generous amount of save spots, enemies (including bosses) all have very distinctive “tells” before their attacks and there’s plenty of items and abilities that can help you out. Players who are impatient and try to rush past enemies will have a bad time as they tend to follow you, but for the rest, the game is really not that tough. The only boss battle in the game that we had to attempt twice was the final boss and that was only because we entered it unprepared.

      • wavezephyr May 24, 2021
        Reply

        Thank you!

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