Action Adventure Review

Phoenotopia Awakening – Review | The Adventures of Gail


Zelda clone; it’s a descriptor used so often that it could be its own genre. Several titles follow this tried and true formula. While a few do succeed, others flounder. It’s a competitive scene. That won’t discourage further iterations from releasing. Phoenotopia Awakening is exactly what you’d expect. It’s roots – believe it or not – lay with an ambitious flash game. Now expanded and polished, it’ll see new life on the Nintendo Switch. For those worried, fear not as the original creator is at the helm.

Phoenotopia Awakening is strongly inspired by The Adventures of Link. That begs the question; Will it become a black sheep like it, or is it destined to flourish?

Phoenotopia Awakening - World


Your adventure begins in the small town of Panselo. You’ll take control of Gail, a teenage girl with pink hair. With the sun high up in the sky, she awakens. With an adorable animation, I might add. After a huge yawn, she jumps out of bed and makes her way through her home – an orphanage. As she enters each room, she realizes that no one is there. Panicked, Gail goes to the kitchen. It’s there she’s finally able to find someone. Inside is the live-in caretaker – Nana. Upon speaking to her, she notifies Gail that the other children are outside playing. With dinner almost prepared, she’ll be asked to collect them.

After finding those still in town, Gail learns some have left for the nearby forest. Worried, she rushes over, defeating any monster in her way. Eventually, she comes to a hill with ruins just ahead. She also sees the missing kids. As she approaches, two take notice. The third is busy, trying to hit the mechanism for the door. Gail walks up to him and interrupts. She then asks why they left the village. He answers that a shooting star crashed inside the ruins. This intrigues her and when he asks her to help open the door, she agrees. He gives her the slingshot and she takes her stance. With a quick shot, it nails the switch dead-on. This marks the beginning of a journey full of quirky characters, tribulations, and spaceships.

Phoenotopia Awakening - Perro


Throughout your quest to solve the mystery of the disappearing village, you’ll obtain various tools. Tools that allow you to get to previously inaccessible areas. Be it the explosiveness of a bomb, the piercing nature of a javelin, or the slingshot given to you early on. This is where the Zelda footprint really begins to show itself. I had lots of fun finding the plethora of secrets. So much extra goodness to partake in when a break is needed from the main plot. Like an even harder version of boss fights. This has to be one of my favorite things about Phoenotopia Awakening. There’s just so much to do. This will include but isn’t limited to;

  • Helping to fill up a Museum
  • Fishing

Speaking of the latter, I was perplexed by this. You’ll be able to catch all sorts and in varying sizes. The bigger they are, the harder it‘ll be. Now, I’ve never been one to enjoy inverted controls. My brain’s unable to process it. So, learning that bigger fish causes this exact effect was discouraging. Left became right, and up became down. The way fishing works is after each bite, a ring appears. A needle will be in the middle, with a green reticle that circles the outside. With each jump in size, that’ll shrink. With large fish already having the handicap of it being minuscule, it’s overkill to also have the inversion. I get that it‘s to create a challenge. It did the opposite though. It deterred me. I chose to ignore it.

Now, Breath of the Wild still sits in my Top 3 most played. A game I purchased at launch. I loved it and especially adored the exploring. I would investigate every nook and cranny. The part that resonated most was being rewarded for doing so. It felt amazing, and that feeling translates to Phoenotopia Awakening. Late into the game, when you have most tools, you won’t be held back. The javelin specifically will open up the world. I was able to scale castles that extended well past screen limits. I‘d enter into a new area completely and even found a moonstone waiting for me. You’re encouraged to search every corner.


The biggest sin of Phoenotopia Awakening is a failure to convey. Before meeting Gail, we’re told of past events. A Great War ravaged the planet centuries ago. Once the dust settles, the earth is rendered inhabitable. Humans are forced underground. Based on still images, I had assumed that the aforementioned war was between monster VS man. I was mistaken. It’s man VS man. That idea never came across. It’s this factor that left me worried. I thought this was a precursor of things to come. It being vague and cliched didn’t help. Fortunately, the narrative did a complete 180. Despite the little hiccup, I found myself gradually becoming invested, especially when aliens were introduced.

While the story did find its footing, the issue of conveyance persists. Only, it infects another mechanic; the puzzles.

Just like Zelda, Gail obtains a flute quite early in her quest. This becomes essential in solving most puzzles. You’ll know when to whip it out. Just look for the musical note etched on blue paper and plastered to the wall. These puzzles usually consist of playing specific notes. You’ll know which by context clues or hints within the same room. Before I get into anything, I did like these. The feeling of accomplishment that swallowed me as I cracked it was great. However, for every thinker I found, the obtuse crept in. One example was a room containing 4 glass cases. Inside each was an item. On the walls next to them were symbols. These will be familiar; they’re musical notes. I was stumped by this. There was no visual indication guiding me to a solution. I was lost and so gave up. The danger of doing so was that is I lost a chance to bolster health or stamina. The latter being especially vital for boss fights.


Fortunately, there’ll be other methods to earn health and stamina buffs. Unfortunately, they are quite easy to gloss over. You’ll find that as you talk to an NPC, their dialogue cycles. I’m not referring to initiating once and having it drag on. If you repeatedly talk to one multiple times in a row, their words could change. This was an odd choice. Generally speaking, most players will either ignore an NPC or talk to them once. Think of it like making a good first impression. Make a bad one and that’s it. You blew it. No one will give you another go. So, I highly suggest being almost obsessive about chatting. You may even unlock a side quest doing so. One that may reward Moonstones – a currency used to upgrade.

Every central character has a personality. I enjoyed each one. Be it the scientist that mistakes Gail for the boogeyman. Or an old friend that gives you her ID. Just dye your hair brown and you two are practically twinsies. I also enjoyed some interactions with NPCs. In a restaurant, you’ll run into two friends eating. One is telling the other a knock-knock joke. I won’t repeat it but the punchline‘s “beets me”. 

What really surprised me was a few examples of adult humour. Like a woman mentioning a musician’s finger dexterity. Clearly because he was playing great. Or a son and mom sharing a bed. Nothing about her being his step-mother thankfully. We all know all that turns out. I didn’t expect either, but it added that extra cheekiness.


Gail must be a mafia member. She has quite an affinity with baseball bats. Ironically, you can hit soldiers in the knee caps. Given the nature of this weapon, her melee attacks are close range. I didn’t like this at first. It made getting hit a common thing. The more I played though, the more I realized that combat is methodical. It has that old school tinge of enemies rotating through a set of attacks. While it’s never in a precise pattern, each one can be telegraphed by a sound effect.

Now, battles I’m a bit lukewarm over. While I appreciate that none are random. I feel they’re pointless to even get into. Monsters will fill the world map as you journey between locations. I can tell you honestly that I avoided them like a plague. The rewards for not doing so aren’t there. While this is a perfect time to try and gather items for selling. It’s not always a guaranteed thing. There were several times I’d risk my life and have nothing to show for it. As is, combat is monotonous.


I absolutely enjoyed Phoenotopia Awakening. However, there are nonsensical implementations that hold it back. For instance, there aren’t any invincibility frames. Well, correction; they do exist but you need to meet certain conditions. It only activates if your foe executes a combo. It’s a problem. I’d sometimes find myself enclosed in a small room. With me are about four foes. Foes that with just one hit can send Gail flying across the screen. On several occasions, I was ping-ponged between two enemies. I couldn’t move, I couldn’t dodge. I was at the mercy of the game. I died repeatedly due to this.

Phoenotopia Awakening - Boss

My final and probably largest gripe lays with the stamina bar. It fills up slowly. Each attack, dash, or roll will deplete it. As it does, a dark green residue is left behind to indicate what‘s been used. In other titles, the recovery after is almost instant. Phoenotopia Awakening takes its time. I had times when I had to wait for a full second or two. It seems minimal, but it’ll add up. And it creates problems. For instance, during the first boss, I’d unload continuous strikes until I was tuckered out. Then I’d dodge attacks until an opening showed itself again. When I tried to repeat the assault; nothing. All I did was invite a counterattack. I was too tuckered. This is not acceptable as boss fights tend to be fast-paced. I feel that speeding up the recovery would go far to improve the quality of the mechanic. The game is already a difficult affair. We don’t need this to add to that.


Most of the issues that Phoenotopia Awakening has are all easily fixable. The game runs flawlessly. It’s a very fun action/adventure that improves on the original. While I’ve never played, I did look up gameplay. The differences are night and day. Just the amount of detail put into the cities is mind-blowing. A lot of work went into modernizing a classic for the current period, and it shows. The Nintendo Switch is the ideal way to play, no doubt about it. I can’t finish up without mentioning the music. It’s really well done and catchy as hell. There’s one track in particular that reminded me of Disgaea. Not a bad shout as that franchise has stellar music. Do yourself a favor and wear headphones as you help Gail out.

Something I sporadically mentioned was the difficulty. Phoenotopia Awakening is tough as nails. The bosses are unforgiving but they can be beaten. Each one follows a pattern that they attack in. Unlike their lesser counterparts, it’s usually always in order. Of course, you’ll need to learn it before victory can yours. So yes, trial and error will be a thing. You‘ll die a couple of times. I sure did. The sense of accomplishment I felt when I won was amazing though. The same goes for the puzzles. My favorite one was the variation of Sudoku. More of that. As for the visuals, can I get recognition for the pixel art? Not to mention the gorgeous illustrations of all the characters. Gail is a looker, who knew.

As it stands, I can confidentially say;


Platforms: Nintendo Switch (PC/PS4/XBox Coming Later)

Enjoy anime style games? You might be interested to read this review of Shantae and The Seven Sirens, which the writer dubbed the “waifu Metroidvania”.

Many thanks to Cape Cosmic for providing a Nintendo Switch review key for this title.

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