I learned a lot about Greek Mythology through playing Apotheon, facts that either I didn't know at all or had long forgotten since my days at school. I wasn't aware, for example, that Phobos and Deimos were the Ancient Greek manifestations of fear and terror, or that both Helios and
Apollo were at some point worshipped as gods of the Sun. I also didn't know that, while on Mount Olympus, if you kill someone with a javelin, they'll go flying across the landscape as if hit by a cruise missile.
Apotheon's relationship to gravity is similar to that of Zebedee from the Magic Roundabout. Hit an enemy with a sword and they'll spring backwards as if they've just run into a really sharp trampoline. Sometimes I'd strike an opponent and they'd catapult off the screen completely, to return a few moments later for a second round of mythological pinball. Imagine a cross between the films Gladiator and Flubber, and you've got a general idea of what playing Apotheon is like.
This isn't to say that the slapstick undertones of Apotheon's combat make it a terrible game. In fact, for a while it's rather entertaining. But they aren't well suited to this otherwise beautiful and intelligent side-scrolling adventure. Tonally they're completely inconsistent with the nature of the action happening on screen, and are one of several problems that drag Apotheon away from glory on the battlefield.
Apotheon places you in the bloodstained sandals of Nikandreos the warrior. After bravely defending his village from a band of marauders, Nikandreos is recruited by Hera, Queen of the Gods, to cleanse Mount Olympus of its corrupt Pantheon, who have decided to abandon their vigil over humanity in order to better focus on their lives of debauchery, treachery and incest. With Hera's blessing, you head off on an epic quest to zap Zeus, pummel Poseidon, and annihilate Apollo.
It's a fantastic set-up. What's more, Alien Trap's tale of Olympian vengeance is conveyed through an incredible art style that brings Grecian paintings and pottery to life. Every character is rendered in eerie silhouette, initially set against a background of striking bronze. But on Olympus the colours shift depending on your location. The realm of Artemis, goddess of the hunt, is all floral greens and woody browns, while Poseidon's watery domain is painted with shades of pastille blue, complete with cardboard cut-out waves.
Alien Trap's artistry extends beyond the visual too. The writing is equally laced with style. The script captures the personalities of each god with pinpoint accuracy. Apollo oozes arrogance and scathing wit, while Ares, God of War, bears you a grudging warrior's respect, and rewards your bloody talents by casting you into an endless gladiatorial melee. The writing is lent weight by some decent voice acting, although a few of the performances aren't quite as commanding as such godly roles demand.