I tip my bunnit to you.
If you’ve never heard the name CreSpirit, it might be time to familiarise yourself with their works. They’re the developers behind 2016’s cult hit Rabi-Ribi. At the tail end of 2023, they’re back with its spiritual successor, Tevi, a 2D action-adventure game with fast-paced bullet-hell combat. With elevated expectations, does Tevi find its footing, or should this little rabbit just hop along?
You play as the titular heroine, Tevi, a young engineer on the hunt for astral gears, items containing immense concentrations of mana. However, you are not the only one seeking them, as the world of Az is in recovery from a conflict decades past. Its three factions – humans (able to wield magic), beastkin (bereft of magic), and magitech (biomechanical lifeforms created by humans) – strive to live harmoniously after the war. Yet, power vacuums need filling, and the allure for power corrupts. Quickly joined by two companions, Celine, a magitech from Valhalla focused on amassing astral gears, and Sable, a demon from Tartarus with ambiguous goals even for himself, they form a fun trio by embodying Tevi’s "orbiters," the projectile-firing devices floating behind her wherever she goes.
Similar to most metroidvanias, Tevi’s skillset starts out extremely limited. Her actions are executed by jump (B), melee attacks (Y), and firing your orbiters (X). L and R swap the type of projectile you fire. Initially, Tevi's restricted movement abilities appeared as a flaw, yet it allowed me to familiarize myself with the controls and melee combat, which later became wonderfully absurd. As the game progresses, access to sigils and crafting significantly alters how you approach combat. Sigils, found or purchased, offer various effects, often increasing damage multipliers or defense, and granting access to potent debuffs like ‘vulnerable’ and ‘shred’, the former increasing damage to targets afflicted by this debuff and the latter reducing enemy armor. Crafting, another form of character upgrade, involves consuming gathered materials to enhance weapons or unlock new orbiter charge shots. The extensive customization provides a thrilling experience when discovering new sigils or unlocking crafting recipes, allowing you to perfect your Tevi build.
Tevi’s story unfolds in chapters, each presenting a series of quest markers to explore at your convenience. The game is entirely open in this regard, enabling players to tackle objectives and explore as they wish, unless gated by a specific power-up. The world of Tevi is vast, spanning several biomes and towns, even delving into this game’s version of heaven and hell. Discovering numerous secrets by detonating nooks and crannies with Tevi’s bombs and exploring further movement abilities is incredibly enjoyable. Navigation becomes relatively easy as you reveal the map, encounter save stations, and access teleport portals, facilitating quick travel across the game's overworld.
Dungeons are where Tevi truly shines. Arriving at your destination on the overworld often leads to a dungeon housing one of the game's several bosses. While challenging, these moments highlight Tevi's exceptional combat mechanics. The bullet-hell aspect intensifies when facing bosses wielding magic, presenting screen-covering projectiles that demand skillful dodging or blocking. Tevi's small hitbox allows for manoeuvring even through the tightest gaps, though it's no easy feat. Enemies, including bosses, alternate between dominant and submissive states during attacks, offering clear signals for evasion or aggression. This structured feedback system and heavily telegraphed attacks make the chaotic bullet hell surprisingly manageable. Encountering a boss screen represents an amazing experience, and the satisfaction after challenging battles outweighs earlier hardships. To mitigate failure, Tevi can utilize items for healing or buffs, albeit leaving her vulnerable for a moment during their use in battle.
Visually, Tevi is striking on the Switch OLED screen. While the chibi character aesthetics might not suit everyone, the character art during conversations is wonderfully drawn and expressive, often punctuated by fullscreen art in critical moments. The 2D pixel work in characters, enemies, and the environment is stunning, especially in later levels, affirming the game's aesthetic excellence. Tevi also boasts stellar music, ranging from calming melodies in the woods to nearly full-blown electronicore, encapsulating the game's breadth of intensity from visuals to gameplay. Some tunes are definitely worth adding to a Spotify playlist. Not too surprisingly, given its 2D nature, the game flawlessly runs on the Switch.
Though I have minor gripes, mostly concerning the early hours of my experience, such as some environments feeling basic or less enjoyable and the initial slower pace affecting combat, persisting through reveals the absolute gem that is Tevi. I had such a good time that I’m eager for a second playthrough, despite its lengthy runtime, taking dozens of hours to complete. After experiencing a metroidvania like Tevi, I wouldn’t rabbit any other way.