Enchanted Portals Enchanted Portals Review PS5 Review

Enchanted Portals Review (PS5) – Living In The Shadow Of Greatness

Enchanted Portals Review (PS5) – Enchanted Portals is a game that wears its inspiration on its sleeve, being inspired by 2017’s Cuphead in both style and substance. Enchanted Portals attempts to catch lightning in a bottle for a second time and replicate the same distinct visual style and gameplay loop that Cuphead borderline perfected.

Unfortunately, the result is a product that feels like an underbaked homage to a far better inspiration, with frustration to be found around every corner with every comparison.

Enchanted Portals (PS5) – Living In The Shadow Of Greatness

Let’s talk about the elephant in the room – Enchanted Portals is very clearly a homage to the very same 1930s rubber hose cartoons that Cuphead also draws from. For an independent studio, the animation is still massively impressive, with clear passion being put into their craft.

These visuals go beyond the 1930s aesthetic, with some moments in particular boss fights completely changing the whole art style of the game for a few moments. The effort is certainly admirable here, in that respect at the very least.

An “Inspired” Journey

Comparing a new game to an old game like this is hardly anything I would normally do for a review like this, but a game so clearly paying such a strong tribute to its source of inspiration means that these comparisons are inevitable. While the formula of Cuphead is one that absolutely works, the commitment to emulating that title in both style as well as gameplay leads to rough edges that really do stand out after playing the former.

Platformer levels are far more of an emphasis in this game when compared to Cuphead, but unfortunately, none of these levels make anywhere near as much impact as the former; where Cuphead features bespoke and intricately constructed challenges, Enchanted Portals cobbles randomly generating stages together into long hallways.

Certain enemies will require you to switch “spells” to cause damage, which presents as an inorganic-coloured cloud around each randomly placed enemy. The game also includes a double jump and block button as an addition but neither feel integral to your core movement through each level.

A general sense of sluggishness and input delay compounds these issues to create an experience that feels awkward to play from the very first screen.

Player performance in these levels feels far more down to luck in terms of enemies spawning rather than a genuine skill at learning the level designs. At times it feels borderline unfair as the game can end before you have a chance to even learn what happened, with unforgiving invincibility and random enemy placement.

Sound Design Sorrows

Unfortunately, the comparisons are far from being finished with this one. Compared to the distinct big band soundtrack that has earned Cuphead so much identity, Enchanted Portals feels exceptionally generic in comparison.

While the music fits the stages of the game, those songs are what you would expect from those areas. For the high-tech area, you have generic-sounding electronic instruments and for the jungle area, it could similarly be pulled from any other similar game.

Sound effects also present an issue, where it feels like they don’t exist where they should or are simply stock cartoon sound effects. This lends a real sense of flimsiness to the game as a whole when compared to its contemporaries.

Following Footsteps a Bit Too Closely

It’s clear that the emulation of Cuphead’s style comes from a place of admiration rather than cynicism and wanting to cut corners. A lot of work has gone into the animation here and every character shown to the player, whether enemy or background element, is designed for this game.

And in spite of some small moments where the art style changes, it’s a shame that these original characters couldn’t have pushed the boundaries slightly more than what they already do in that case. There are some fantastic ideas here that feel pared down and wasted potential in a game that already doesn’t offer a lot in terms of content.

Unique ideas are few and far between here unfortunately – you have a haunted castle, a UFO, a jungle among others and while they’re far from being bad, they’re far from being a unique flavour. There are very few twists on established concepts here.

It feels like there were still steps to be taken with the design of the levels here, and I hope that any further work from this team can offer some more interesting twists and go beyond the typical. A game about dimension hopping deserves a few more exciting set pieces.

A Rocky Road

Writing this review has been a challenge; Enchanted Portals is a game I struggle to recommend in spite of the clear effort that has been put into it. It would be misrepresentative to say that Enchanted Portals has no effort put into it.

It’s just that the aforementioned effort has gone into the wrong areas, with more focus clearly being put on creating a visual homage before creating a solid foundation. Sticking so close to inspiration is a double-edged sword; where the inspiration might provide a foundation, this means nothing without a fundamental understanding of why these foundations actually work.

In the case of Enchanted Portals, these foundations have been misunderstood completely. Stylistically, it’s admirable, but the intricate and detailed level design of Cuphead has been completely abandoned in favour of cookie-cutter levels that have no cohesion. And gameplay that feels generally less tight and constructed.

Enchanted Portals is out now for PS5, PS4, PC, Nintendo Switch, Xbox Series X/S, and Xbox One.

Review code kindly provided by publisher.



The Final Word

Enchanted Portals takes the foundations of a familiar game in both style and substance, yet fails to provide a compelling experience in either regard. There's clear effort being put into this game in terms of the art and animation, yet the gameplay feels far more unpolished than appearances would have you believe. Random level designs and frustrating enemy placement leads to a game that irritated far more than I would have hoped, with a good amount of my losses not feeling close to my fault.