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This retro sci-fi inspired Metroidvania game is co-op even by yourself

Anima Flux is a new co-op Metroidvania coming to Steam inspired by retro sci-fi, Hollow Knight, Dead Cells and more, as we learn at GDC.

Bringing together influences of Hollow Knight, Ori, Dead Cells, and Salt and Sanctuary, Anima Flux is a new co-op focused Metroidvania game set to make its way to Steam later this year. At GDC, PCGamesN spoke to game designer Andrei Ivancioglo from developer Anima Flux and manager Andrei Grecico of publisher JollyCo about their influences and design.

Anima Flux is set 400 years after the modern day, with the last bastion of humanity aboard a giant spaceship. “Everyone thought that this was the only city on this ship and nothing else existed around,” Grecico explains. So when an unexpected and seemingly orchestrated mutant invasion springs up, your joint protagonists, a pair of elite soldiers, are left to figure out what’s happened in this co-op Metroidvania game.

The game is heavily inspired by retro sci-fi, Ivancioglo says, along with modern Metroidvanias including “Hollow Knight, Ori, and Salt and Sanctuary.” Grecico adds that the team was also inspired by Dead Cells, although Ivancioglo describes Anima Flux more as a “slasher” than a soulslike in its combat.

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Having spent a good amount of time with the demo, one of my favorite aspects is that the two leads handle very distinctly. Roy, the swordsman, is a melee-driven character all about getting in close and hacking his way through enemies, while archer Eileen delivers ranged barrages and precision shots to take down her foes. In co-op, that means you’ll take on rather separate roles, while in single-player you can swap between the pair at will.

You’ll always have both characters with you, even as a solo player – and you’ll need to make use of them both to solve certain puzzles or deal with combat challenges. “Balancing this game was a challenge,” Ivancioglo explains, “because we needed AI to be like a real player, and we have only one difficulty for co-op and the single-player mode.”

You’ll also earn abilities and upgrades as you adventure, with the ability to use the biomaterial to unlock bonuses that range from simple utility such as an enhanced map or an auto-collection tool to snag nearby currency and items to armor that can protect you from damage in a fight. Ivancioglo says he thinks of the game more as a 2D action adventure than a fully-fledged RPG game, however.

Anima Flux - A screenshot of the two protagonists meeting an engineer.

Anima Flux is set to release on Steam in the fourth quarter of 2024. Ivancioglo estimates that the main story takes “about nine to twelve hours” to complete, although there are some secrets and other elements to discover if you venture off the beaten path. You can download a demo right now to check out the beginning of the game for yourself, with the option to play either single-player or in local co-op.

Alternatively, fight your way through the best action-adventure games to play in 2024, or discover all the best indie games right now to make sure you haven’t missed any essential entries from smaller studios.

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Additional reporting by Ed Smith for PCGamesN at GDC.