This anime-inspired action platformer gets by with solid gameplay, and even better characters!
I was able to play the first demo of Lab Zero’s and 505 Games' Indivisible a few years ago on the PS4, some time after it got funded on their IndieGogo. There was a lot to be done in terms of fleshing out the world, but the team behind Skullgirls already packed a lot of depth and character in that small snippet I played. From its unique take on action RPG combo gameplay to the personality I could feel from its eclectic cast, I couldn’t wait to see the world of Indivisible fully realized in its official release on all major platforms. Fast-forward to 2019, and Indivisible has indeed finalized itself as a charming and challenging action platformer indie title, though not without a few kinks in the machinery.
Jumping off from a gorgeous Studio TRIGGER x Titmouse-animated opening (and a Gurren Lagann-esque prologue to boot), you play as Ajna, a young and rambunctious youth who grew up undergoing strict training from her father. After her village comes under attack by an evil army, Ajna embarks on a globe-trotting quest for vengeance and answers to her parents’ mysterious past.
Along the way, she meets several warriors, mages, and other helpful companions who she can somehow store within her mind and can summon to aid her in battle. Each one provides different benefits for her both inside and outside of battle, and the choices you’ll have with your party members will eventually become overwhelming.
When I first played the demo way back when, I could already tell a lot of thought went into crafting both platforming and combat. That novel game design was certainly retained in the final product. Using a variety of tools and weapons in the overworld, Ajna can slide, wall jump, and bust her way through obstacles to find tons of hidden treasures. There are a lot of clever and intuitive platform challenges to be had as your skills expand. But be prepared for a lot of trial and error.
In my experience playing thus far, some of the platforming was more than a little aggravating. While it can be really fun to scale up walls with your axe and create platforms out of monsters, I found myself punished by tiny miscalculations. More often than not, I knew exactly how to get somewhere and what to press to make my way there. If I was a millisecond late with my button presses or took one extra step off course, I’d either get stopped in my tracks or lurch off the edge of a cliff and back to square one. Being an action platformer, I'm willing to accept the game will demand a lot from your reflexes and Ajna's growing traversal abilities. I’ve had similar run-ins with arduous platforming in other classic indie titles like Shovel Knight and Guacamelee. It takes time to hone your reflexes and stick your landings, and knowing how to manipulate each of your abilities is an acquired skill. I've gotten plenty angry at the game, but with as far as I've gotten, time and patience will pay off.
Combat, of course, is a whole different beast. Indivisible features a ton of strange and unique enemies that you’ll fight using Ajna’s growing powers and the abilities of your diverse teammates. Your party members’ techniques vary widely between attacks, buffs, and healing, with each of your actions in battle coming with a cooldown. If you time it wisely, you’ll be able to keep enemies at bay and take them down with flashy, stylish combos.
While you’re waiting for your abilities to recharge, you’ll be wide open against enemy attacks. This is where blocking, one of the most crucial elements of the game, comes into play. With proper timing, you’ll be able to reduce the damage done to you, and if you’re absolutely perfect, you’ll even recover some health instead of taking hits at all. Of course, every enemy requires different timing, so you’ll have to be flexible with your combat.
Indivisible’s combat mechanics are pretty engaging. Battles are quick-paced and keep you on your toes, and often encourage you to try out different characters and play styles to see which one suits you best. You can either have a full team of attackers or have a healthy mix of offense, defense, and sweet tricks in battle. And the best part is that everyone’s stats are tied to Ajna’s, even when they’re not in your party. That means that everyone levels up together, which mitigates a lot of level grinding.
While battles can be fun and exciting, though, multiple enemies may prove a bit overwhelming. When you’re on the defense against several opponents at once, it can be difficult to keep track of who needs to block and what timing you’ll have to employ. It’s especially annoying when you run into a tiny enemy who deals a disproportionately-large amount of damage if you don’t block precisely. But like the platforming, practice makes perfect. If you embrace the learning curve, you’ll definitely start to improve and take on enemies more readily. Just be prepared for some blood, sweat, and tears along the way.
On its own, the gameplay of Indivisible provides a fun, if not a bit steep, experience as you progress. But it’s all wrapped up in a dazzling hand-drawn anime style. The overarching world takes remarkable notes various cultures and presents it in a visually stylish manner. It also helps that some of the landmark cutscenes in the game are beautifully animated by Studio TRIGGER of Kill La Kill and Little Witch Academia fame as well as Titmouse Animation! It’s a shame that they’re not all as stunning, as other key scenes boil down to dynamic pans of static images. Though as an IndieGogo project a few years in the making, it’d be pretty unreasonable for me to ask for everything to have that Studio TRIGGER look.
But even with challenging gameplay and pretty visuals, we haven’t even gotten to my favorite part about Indivisible! As you sidescroll through various cities and landscapes, Ajna will encounter lively and colorful characters, some of whom will join you on your quest. And if I had to choose one thing that Indivisible absolutely nailed in their game, it’s the people that fill the world (in more ways than one).
Even with more than 20 characters at your disposal at launch, many of them have compelling and even entertaining camaraderie with each other through snappy dialogue and surprisingly-funny jokes. Each of them even have unique and thoughtful character designs with none of them ever feeling too out of place within the enormous world. When not in battle or speaking with others, your party members are housed in Ajna’s Inner Realm, her psyche given form. Here, you can speak with each new comrade and companion, upgrade your stats, and more.
As Ajna’s comrades grow in number, each of them brings their own depth and weight to the group, not just in terms of gameplay but in a genuine sense of companionship. It also helps that a lot of the English voice-acting is fresh and exciting. Not every voice is pitch perfect, but I absolutely adore listening to everyone speak with each other and chime in on your quest every now and then. Among all the things I like about Indivisible, the thing I look forward to the most is finding new friends to add to my party.
Overall, Indivisible is a tough love indie title wrapped up in a gorgeous anime package. As an action platformer, it’s certainly challenging and rewarding enough for me to want to improve at it. I’ve grinded my teeth and hissed at my TV a number of times when trying to tackle the many obstacles, but a little pushback can be helpful in getting better. And to me at least, all that effort is worth it just to see Ajna and her buddies interact some more. It’s an age-old anime cliche, the idea of your friends being your power. Indivisible takes that classic trope and has made it into an enjoyable ride!
+ Gorgeous anime style
+ Fun characters with great voice acting and wonderful designs
+ Compelling story
+/- Combat is engaging and challenging, though may overwhelm some at first
+/- Platforming mechanics are unique, but are unforgiving if you're not careful
- Some of the more important cutscenes ltend to be a bit static
- Some odd sound mixing makes certain characters too loud or hard to hear
Will you be picking up Indivisible? Getting any Skullgirls vibes from the art style? Which character is your favorite so far? Let us know and comment below!
Carlos is a freelance features writer for Crunchyroll. Their favorite genres range from magical girls to over-the-top robot action, yet their favorite characters are always the obscure ones. Check out some of their satirical work on The Hard Times.