Some of the indie games on the Nintendo eShop are a bit like junk mail: flashy and eye-catching, but also hardly worth your time. Cheap buzzwords and excessive hyperbole aren’t enough to sell what is an undercooked, unbalanced or simply unfun experience. Then again, you might find something like Hayfever, a decent side-scroller – developed by Pixadome and Zordix AB – that delivers a hefty number of tricky levels to traverse through.
Poor Thomas the Mailman suffers from some serious allergy problems. After sneezing away the mail he was supposed to deliver, the sniffly gent decides to put use his sensitive snout to help him journey through many dangerous environments in order to get the letters. In each of the 140 levels on offer, you’ll need to use his runny nose to your advantage, as it can help him jump higher and fly further.
Hayfever is one of those trial-and-error sorts of platformers where you’ll no doubt die many times. One hit will send you back to the nearest checkpoint, in the form of mailboxes outside of people’s homes. Thankfully, they’ll crop up quite frequently, even before some of the trickier parts of each level. Quite a lot of them are placed right near a hazard, so if you end up respawning while pressing right on the D-Pad, chances are you’ll be rushing into bees, spikes, or off the edge of a cliff.
Levels are divided into weeks, which in turn are separated via seasons of the year, respectively. You’ll come across more dangers and enemies as you progress, as well as allergens that affect Thomas in different ways. For instance, yellow clouds will fill one of three slots in his sneeze-meter, which’ll be completely emptied the next time he empties his nose. Smog makes him swell up and float, while red spores propel him in a specific direction, depending on which direction you’re moving toward.
For the most part, it’s a tough-but-fair game. During your rush to the exit (i.e. Thomas’ post van, no black-and-white cat included), most of the deaths will likely be down to simple mistakes rather than shoddy game design. That is, with exception to one particular nitpick. I noticed that I died a lot due to issues with the analogue stick, e.g. wanting to zip across at an upward angle, only to be thrusted to the right and plummet to my death. There’s no middle-zone when it comes to mid-air movements, annoyingly, so using the D-Pad is recommended (though it didn’t let me use my USB-based controllers).
Its polychromatic, pixelated visuals and peppy soundtrack give Hayfever a warm and friendly demeanour. It’s not super-detailed, and while pixel art might as well be a trope in the world of indie games these days, the main thing is that it’s done pretty darn well here. It runs well on the Switch, and the lickety-split loading times are a godsend, considering how often you’ll be automatically loading back to the nearest checkpoint.
Hayfever manages to put up a notable challenge without making you want to go postal. Despite some slight issues with the controls and movement, it’s still a perfectly viable title with a sizable amount of content, thanks to its easy-to-learn sneezing mechanic and the numerous power-ups on offer. Plus, it’s topped off with some nifty graphics and music. Overall, Hayfever is a simple, satisfying side-scroller that smells like a winner.
Review code donated by developers.