It's definitely a promising sight whenever you see a 2D platformer that implements stealth mechanics. That being said, not all games handle stealth equally. Does Canvaleon have what it takes to stand out in the genre or is it too well camouflaged for its own good?
It may come as a surprise, but the story of Canvaleon is rather tragic. Our poor protagonist was born without colour and his entire village (including his parents) shunned him until he met a chum named Doodle. Once they became friends, Doodle used Canvas as a literal canvas to create beautiful works of body art. However, things wouldn't remain simple for long since aliens destroy their village when they're on a trip gathering butterflies. Now, it's up to them to rid the land of these evil alien intruders.
Canvaleon looks fantastic. The characters are cute and Simpsons-like while their enemies appear as nefarious as their deeds. Every character (whether they're a friend or foe) is animated suitably as well. Each of the distinct environments that you work your way through look equally great with detailed and colourful backgrounds. Along your journey, the toe-tapping soundtrack that always matches your surroundings will keep you compelled to push on. The sound effects don't quite live up to the other aspects since they're generic and repetitive but at least they're not annoying. Another component that I love is the sense of humour that emerges from time to time such as when references to Mario and Metal Gear are made. It's nice to see that this game doesn't take itself completely seriously.
The gameplay is very simple yet incredibly challenging. It controls similarly to your typical 2D platformer as you run and jump, but you can also extend your tongue to gobble up unreachable butterflies and hold a button to activate your camouflage. Where the gameplay sets itself apart is that you can't rush through the stages since you'll easily be spotted and exterminated. You're forced to plan ahead because one hit will make you have to start the stage all over again.
You might be under the impression that camo is either automatic or that you equip predefined suits, but you actually draw it on Canvas yourself. Well, you can buy some readily available textures but they don't last long at all and are quite expensive, so painting Canvas is really your only option. I don't fully understand the point of allowing you to purchase the premade ones, but I digress. I should mention that paint isn't free since you have to extract pigment from collected butterflies first.
The basic flow consists of attempting a stage and when you reach a point that requires some camo that you currently don't have then you exit the stage, go to the camo creation screen and try to emulate the background of the point that you got stuck on. Although doing this can be rewarding, it's also a huge pain since you're obligated to slowly inch your way through each stage. This can get especially frustrating when you create a camo with a hue that's slightly off the background because you have to start the process all over again after being spotted. On the plus side, there is a rather expansive selection of stages with a handful available right off the bat. Experimenting which one to take on next is a large part of progression and figuring out each stage's intricacies can be fulfilling... if you have the patience.
Considering the "one hit and you're toast" approach that Canvaleon takes, you'd think that it would be a little more forgiving than it is. However, it is brutally difficult. Not only are there barely noticeable spikes scattered right in the middle of pathways and on ceilings that you have to jump under, but you can't thoroughly gauge what's coming up in many situations. Sure, you can hold up and down to try and spot what's ahead, but more often than not some danger is awaiting you right outside of your possible field of vision. This results in a difficulty that feels unfair as it basically requires you to memorize stage layouts. Luckily, if you ever reach the point where you beat a boss stage or two then you're awarded powers that can take some of the edge off, but the inherent frustration still remains.
I can think of a few ways that Canvaleon could easily improve to become a more enjoyable experience; give players the ability to create camo in the middle of a stage, implement a health meter, and remove all of the unreasonably placed spikes. In reality, since you're constantly forced to retry stages while slowly inching your way through due to being ill equipped and unfairly killed, the result is one frustrating game that only the most patient gamers could get any enjoyment from.
- + Beautiful stage artwork, character design, and animation with toe-tapping tunes
- + Painting your own camo is fairly rewarding
- + Plenty of diverse stages and environments
- - Constant mandatory trial and error will quickly make you lose patience
- - Many one-hit deaths are simply unmerited
- - Frequent inability to gauge oncoming danger