Athenian Rhapsody Review: A Smile-tastic Adventure

Let's hold hands, cornball.
Edited by Tai Hofmann

Although I’m a huge fan of serious story-driven games that’ll cost me thousands in therapy bills, I love to dabble in absurd games that, on the surface, don’t take themselves too seriously. Not only are they a nice break from the more serious games I usually play, but they also help cut down on the aforementioned therapy bills, such as Athenian Rhapsody. This game is many things: it’s incredibly funny, it’s vibrant, but most importantly, it’s an RPG with a lot of heart.

Disclosure: We received a code for Athenian Rhapsody

Related: The World According to Girl First Impressions: Walking Into Omelas

Athens: A Vibrant, Charming but Cruel World

Rap Battle Athenian Rhapsody
Screenshot by Kristi Jimenez

You’re a human who has been thrust into Athens, a world corrupted by EXP. You see, the more EXP you get, the stronger you become. Thus, many Athenians have started to fight one another, let it be out of pure selfishness or the need to survive. What kind of impact will you have on this world? That’s for you to decide.

The world of Athens is vibrant and full of life. The game’s music is really catchy, and each track fits every occasion. The characters were also pretty great. Every NPC has something funny to say, like the Bike Store Owner in Primo telling me to get a job after learning I couldn’t afford one of his $1,000,000 bikes or Aerosol, the artist who talks a mile a minute while running on eight minutes of sleep.

Honestly, I can’t remember a single moment where I didn’t thoroughly enjoy the game’s dialogue. The writing is quippy, smart, and sometimes, can just be downright silly, which worked for me!

Athenian Rhapsody comedy
Screenshot by Kristi Jimenez

The game balances its absurdist comedy well with some serious, insightful moments about life, one’s value, friendships, wanting to protect those we love, and more. I’m a pretty sentimental person and, thus, a sucker for games that include tender scenes like these. While none of them managed to get me to shed a tear, I did audibly go, “Awww,” more times than I can count.

With all that being said, there were a few times throughout my adventure when I experienced some technical issues on the PlayStation 5 copy that I received. The first issue was a noticeable slowdown that would only happen in certain areas, like the Forest of Fortune. This bothersome bug would continue into battles, and the decline in pace took away from a lot of their intensity.

The second and third bugs I dealt with were minor visual issues. For example, after exiting a fight in the Forest of Fortune, my character’s clothing suddenly changed, and the walk animation didn’t work, although I could still move.

I left the area—hoping that would fix either issue—and then my character started to walk in place. Moving my character left, right, up, or down wouldn’t change the direction they were facing. These two bugs persisted until after the next fight when I died and respawned with the correct clothing and fixed animations.

The last bug I encountered was my “Victims” counter increasing when loading my save. I somehow went from around 7 victims to 57, even though my level remained the same. It was really strange. Thankfully, this bug didn’t have a huge effect on the story and only impacted my stats at the end, where it stated I was “neutral.”

Although these bugs didn’t ruin the game for me, they were enough to break my immersion, especially the one that impacted performance.

Experience or Friendship

Screenshot by Kristi Jimenez

To those who’ve played Undertale, you’ll feel right at home with Athenian Rhapsody’s combat system. You have two ways to approach every fight: to attack your opponent or attempt to befriend them. As one would expect, trying to be buddies with someone who wants you dead isn’t a walk in the park. You’ll need to fill up their friendship bar first before becoming friends with them.

You’ll primarily fill up this bar by “REACTING” and picking one of the three options. Some won’t have any effect until you try something else first. Sometimes, if you choose an option like “Playing Dead,” you have to stick with that plan of action until the game says you can reveal to your opponent you’re actually alive. I really enjoyed this aspect of the game’s combat because it felt like your actions had a subtle impact on how the battle unfolded.

Now, of course, you can be a heartless monster and attack everyone you bump into. By slowly depleting your enemy of their health, they’ll start to look weak and tired, as if silently asking you to show them mercy. It’s a nice and effective guilt trip!

One action you’ll be using a lot in battles is BURST. After building up your BURST meter, you can use one of your BURST actions. Each character comes with their own unique moveset, but generally, these moves can replenish your health, grant your team a buff, unleash a powerful move, or let you switch to a different party member (this particular action comes at no cost).

Minigame in Athenian Rhapsody
Screenshot by Kristi Jimenez

After attacking, reacting, or using an item, your opponent will take their turn, and you’ll be brought into a quick minigame (think a deadly version of WarioWare) where you’ll need to dodge their attacks. These minigames vary between every opponent. Sometimes, it’ll be as simple as dodging their projectiles (or the enemy themself), while other times, you may need to play “Balloon Fight” or DDR. Every minigame felt unique and made every battle feel special.

For those having a hard time with a particular fight or the game’s overall combat, you can turn on “Chill Mode.” Chill Mode allows players to gain some invincibility frames after an attack. The game doesn’t penalize you for turning this on, and you can turn it off at any time.

Plenty to Do, Plenty to See in Beautiful Ol’ Athens

Screenshot by Kristi Jimenez

If you want to take a break from befriending (or killing) monsters, you can take part in the game’s fun side quests, like finding all of Scrut’nhaus’r’s hidden Scoopies, getting your milk blessed by four Milk Fairies or bringing Thunder Goober someone’s credit card. By completing this content, you’ll either gain party members, very valuable items, or IBS. I’m not joking about that last one.

The game does allow for multiple runs, thanks to its moral dilemma of either succumbing to the norm of obtaining EXP or trying to change the way Athens and its people live. Everything you do—including if you touch poop for $100—will be recorded and then uploaded onto your online Rhapsody, a documentation of your journey that your friends can look at. I couldn’t test this feature out due to having an early copy, but it does sound intriguing!

The Verdict: Athenian Rhapsody is the Bee’s Knees

James Athenian Rhapsody
Screenshot by Kristi Jimenez

Despite some technical bugs, Athenian Rhapsody can still shine thanks to its many strengths: its colorful, eye-catching visuals, hilarious and heartwarming story, and challenging yet fun combat system. For those in need of a quirky RPG or a nice pick-me-up after a stressful week, Athenian Rhapsody is the game that’ll do the job, all the while making you smile like an absolute cornball.

Athenian Rhapsody is available for $14.99 USD on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Steam, and Nintendo Switch.

Press SPACE to jump review 8

Great

ProsCons
Fun combat systemOccasional slowdowns that bogged down gameplay
Quippy, funny dialogueStrange and distracting bugs
Catchy music
Plenty of heartfelt moments

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Kristi Jimenez
Kristi Jimenez

Kristi Jimenez is the Editorial Lead for Press SPACE to Jump. She is an indie game developer that has released multiple games on itch and Steam. Her goal as a game developer is to create diverse and engaging stories that'll make players smile.

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