Well, Iris Action has been released, and it's a game many of us have been looking forward to. Of the H-games that exist today, very few meet the standards of a commercial quality game, so it's a breath of fresh air when something comes along that raises the bar for the rest of them. Iris will no doubt do exceedingly well on DLsite with it's level of quality. (It already has, unsurprisingly)
Everything aside, the adult content is fairly well done and varied, the gameplay is leagues above most action H games, and I'm sure it will more than satisfy player's of this genre. That being said, I'd like to take a closer look at the game's design.
Breakdown and critique
To summarize, Iris action is an action platformer. You have a variety of short ranged attacks, and a limited number of throwing knives to attack enemies with. It's progression is level based and linear, and with the exception of health upgrades and coins, your only objective is to make it from check point to check point, reaching the end of each stage.
With that out of the way, let's take a look at the individual elements that make up the gameplay.
Normally I'd start with the basics like movement and attacks, but so much of this game's design is effected dramatically by the view.
Quite often you'll reach blind spots where you can't really see where you're going, taking leaps of faith as a result. This is also an issue when it comes to dropping off ledges, since many of the enemies are small and low to the ground. Something like this could have been better dealt with if the view adjusted based on what part of the stage you're in, rather than staying centered all the time. If there's nothing below you, shift the player to the bottom, if there's nothing above you, shift the player the the top of the screen, etc.
Next is movement.
The player's horizontal speed is quite high, in fact in most cases you completely outpace your enemies and anything they throw at you.
Likewise, the player's jump height is also fairly modest (a little over twice your height), and along with your horizontal speed you can jump rather far. However, it's a little hard to control, as you can't really change direction in mid air so much as stop yourself somewhat before you hit the ground.
You'd expect the movement speed and jump height to give the player too much freedom, but this isn't really the case in Iris Action. Together with the view, your speed actually discourages you from bypassing enemies. It's often a bit unreliable to jump, since it's quite easy to overshoot your target, or hit an enemy by accident, and with the limited view, jumping over an obstacle is a bit of a gamble, since chances are you're going to run into something off-screen that you couldn't see. Running forward also results in getting hit by a projectile or enemy, unless you stop every few steps to check what's ahead.
This creates an environment where it's usually wise to deal with anything that's directly in front of you before attempting to progress, since everything ahead is unknown. Though it does pay off sometimes to take the gamble and do a long jump over numerous enemies
Back to jumping, another issue with the speed is running off of ledges by mistake. Iris action works like the above picture, wherein you can only jump while directly on top of the platform. Since you run so fast, it's difficult to judge where the edge actually is vs where it looks like it is, and sometimes this results in just running straight off. Repeating the same jump numerous times to try and reach a particular platform.
Many platformers compensate for this by making it so that the player can still jump a split second after they've gone off the platform. In game's where you move quickly, the player doesn't really see the difference, but they feel it. Mario is a good example of a game that does this.
You have a pretty good variety of melee attacks, some of them have distinct uses and trade-offs. For instance you have a 3-hit combo that ends with a longer ranged attack, but you can also do the long ranged attack by itself, in case you need to do it faster. You have a flip which is effective against hitting things above you, a stronger but slower attack, etc. In addition, you also have a backflip for quick dodging, and an aerial kick which hits enemies below you. Bottom line, you have a good degree of choice.
The aerial kick ends up being used a lot to avoid landing on enemies, compensating somewhat for the fact that you can't always see what's below you. It can also be used in quick succession as an attack, but it doesn't really do as much damage as well placed regular attacks, and can sometimes put you in a bit of a bad position.
On the other hand, the slide is practically useless. Against some enemies it does nothing, and sometimes using it results in the enemy dying, yet getting hit yourself. The distance is also pretty shallow. As an attack it's a little baffling as to why it's there.
That being said, with the variety of attacks, you can attack enemies coming from nearly any angle while you're on the ground. On the other hand, your aerial attack has a very limited hitbox and jumping isn't really precise, so the player is encouraged to face aerial enemies from a standing position for the most part.
The other part of combat is the throwing knives. They're more or less your "I don't think I should try dealing with that" attack. There are a few cases where using melee is a bit risky, so the knives work as a good contrast to this, and it's one of the few powerups in the game, so they help to keep things a little more interesting.
A general practice in platformers is to keep the hit boxes of everything the player wants to avoid smaller than you'd expect, and make the hit boxes of positive things larger then you'd expect. That being said, the enemy hit boxes in this game are rather unforgiving , and some enemies will even harm the player without actually touching them. Again, like with the ledges, this is more of a sense of feel than difficulty, player's like to feel that every hit was fair.
As for what they do for the rest of the game, the hit boxes push the player into being a bit more cautious, and it's part of the reason why you inch along so much, despite being able to run like the wind.
As I've mentioned, despite the ability to move quickly the gameplay is, for the most part, based around dealing with things before you progress. Many of the enemies are either static or repeat a pattern, so in a lot of cases it almost becomes almost puzzle like, forcing you to consider what you do before you do it rather than dealing with things on the fly. A lot of the enemies are more akin to traps, than things you have to actively react to. Most importantly, though almost every enemy is placed with a specific role to any given scenario, rarely does it feel like things were just thrown around randomly.
It's also important to mention, you don't get much invisibility after getting hit, and given the amount of health you have and the size of hit boxes, there's never really a situation where rushing in and flailing ideal. There's no outlasting enemies here.
Well, that's all, not gonna go too in depth.
When it comes down to it, the game has some flaws. But at the very least it's design is focused. Everything seems to limit you're quick movement and encourages you to take it slow, but the challange of going fast is always there regardless, a choice available to the player at their own risk. In addition The layout often funnels you into confrontation, and you usually need to face enemies rather than avoiding everything, but there's also a good mix of cases where the solution is more or less open to the player. Over all, it's not bad. Leagues above most other H games.
If you haven't picked up Iris Action, consider it. Hopefully the developer will continue to make platformers, improve even further, and continue to raise the bar for everyone else. Iris Action isn't perfect, but I'm interested to see where he goes from here.