Woo boy.

Okay, so. Trulon: The Shadow Engine is very, very clearly inspired by JRPGs. From the chibi-pixel-art on the overworld map, to the anime-inspired character art, the whole thing feels like a labor of love built upon the passion of a few Western anime fans.

And that's not a bad thing, I want to be clear. I've got some stuff I have to talk about, but none of it is in the conceptual or creative sides. Hell, most of it isn't even in the actual core game. But, I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's roll back and talk about the good stuff.

Trulon is, like I said, clearly inspired by JRPGs and anime. Our heroine, Gladia, is a hunter of monsters, the daughter of a monster hunter in turn. When her father's injuries prevent him from helping the nearby village in their time of need, she thus goes in his stead, which leads to plot-relevant encounters and thus starts the actual story off, though I won't spoil any of the actual details. She meets some new friends, gains new enemies, and stuff happens in a fairly classic setup.

We could argue the premise is a bit well-worn, but I could say that about countless other games, so I'm not about to hold it against Trulon in particular. The one big thing that stands out about it is that the whole thing has a somewhat...passionate-amateur air to it. The story doesn't feel like someone going back to the classic tropes, but like the writer still feels like those tropes are fresh and exciting.

In many ways, the whole thing actually reminds me a bit of RWBY, the 3D webseries created by Monty Oum. They both, at least by my read, feel firmly like things created by passionate fans, by people who adore anime and JRPGs, and especially over-the-top action as seen in a decent bit of Japanese entertainment. The comparison only comes more easily to me by some key similarities: the firm use monster hunting as a profession being the big one, though something about Gladia's face continuously reminds me of RWBY's protagonist, Ruby Rose.

The question to be asking, of course, is what Trulon does with that passion. And in terms of core gameplay, what we have is a pretty straightforward JRPG with a few tweaks. The game largely does away with the Attack/Defend/Item/Special menu quartet, instead choosing to meld them together in various ways and expand where needed. Just about all of your combat actions come off of the deck, a set of actions that can be equipped to each character, and are drawn up each turn like cards from an actual deck.

These actions range from your absolute baseline attack, to wide-reaching strikes, to spells, to various types of blows that bring in buffs or debuffs as side effects, to combat healing. Most of the time, your chief resource is simply actual attacks to have on hand, since there is a decent bit of randomness in the system. Only your most potent tricks actually cost any kind of MP or other non-renewed resource; even your health resets to full after a battle, turning management into a strictly within-battle affair.

Which, honestly, feels like a good change. It means less faffing about with potions and inns, but also means that even standard monsters can hit with a solid amount of force, since they don't need to fit into as much of a larger war of attrition. The fact that all enemies in an environment also exist on the map instead of being a random encounter, and even encounters on the overmap are optional investigations (that sometimes just have cool stuff, making it a risk/reward deal) all further fuel this smoothing over of the sometimes-frustrating elements of the genre.

So all that sounds really good, actually. Here we have a game built on a love of the genre, where passion can help smooth over the troubles of possible inexperience making this sort of game, and it even does some interesting stuff to put its own spin on things. Sure, the writing can be a little rough at times, but the same is true of plenty of bigger budget, more well-known titles. So with all this good stuff, why did I need to warn that there was trouble afoot?

Simple. Porting problems.

If you've read reviews I've done on indie games in the past, you know I have a few key things that really frustrate me. One of the big ones, which Trulon messes up right out the gate, is not accounting for overscan. It's a classic mistake by devs who aren't thinking about TVs; after all, monitors are fully edge-to-edge on their resolution, willing to have a bit of black around the edges to make damn sure every single pixel is accounted for. But a fair few TVs still do make some cutoff to smooth over the little troubles, if my TV is to be used as an example.

And Trulon has cutoff from the logos on the starting screen. Which, it's not so much that logos matter to me as a player, but it shows immediately that this stuff isn't being accounted for. Things like the edges of combat tooltips and stats also being cut off, when they're clearly meant to brush up against the edge of your screen, further show things weren't taken into account.

But like I said, I've seen this plenty of times. It frustrates me, and I'm gonna keep calling games out that do it, but it's not new. It's the unique miss-steps of Trulon that are worth discussing, though. Because they ultimately boil down to one thing: The game was built for mobile first.

What this means for us is a whole array of small little quirks and flaws to the interface. The combat tooltips still refer to "dragging" move cards onto the target. The d-pad based target selector can be kind of funky if the game decides to internally order the enemies in an unusual way. The tutorials and advice are set up to fall off with any input, but still let that input through, so hitting X to skip can see you accidentally using an attack you had no intention of choosing.

It...Actually, you know what it feels like? It feels like, and I'm strictly speculating here, that the mobile version of the game has gamepad support. And then the game just got ported straight with those gamepad controls, with no specific investigation about the quirks that came from expecting a touchscreen to still be there. The tooltips still referring to a touch-based menu system, the awkward selections, the odd quirks to the pathfinding, it all makes a thousand times more sense if the actual sticks and buttons are assumed to be secondary.

It's just...you know...on a PS4, they're not.

Which brings us to the actual conclusion. The thing is, it's not that the game is all bad. There's a lot to respect here. Hell, if you're at all curious, I'd encourage you to check out the mobile version. It's cheaper, the game was clearly built with that interface first, and it's a one-and-done purchase, a rarity on smartphone platforms.

But, unfortunately, I wasn't reviewing the mobile version. I was reviewing the PS4 version. And, much as I hate to ever say this about a game...It just isn't worth what they're asking, not with the flaws inherent and with better options on the table for a similar, or even lower price. I hope these issues get patched out, I really do. I want to be able to come back to this review in a few weeks or a few months, and pop a little "hey none of this applies anymore the game's great" up there at the top.

So here's to hoping that happens. Until then...Grab the mobile version if you're hungry for what's on offer. I can't guarantee anything about it, but I highly doubt you'll be any worse off than with this. Otherwise, I gotta say Avoid.