Promenade Review – Riding Up

Puzzle, platformer, and metroidvania are three genres that can mesh together well. Still, it’s also easy to miss the mark, resulting in a game with three disjointed gameplay loops and a perplexing experience.

Promenade, developed by Holy Cap Studio and published by Red Art Games, is a whimsical and beautiful game that merges exciting platforming movements, challenging puzzles, and meaningful metroidvania elements to create a coherent and satisfying experience.

Promenade character in a dark cave with glowing blue mushrooms
Our protagonist needed sometime to recover from their fall, so they took shelter in this cave with their new companion.

I was taken by the Promenade‘s visual design from the moment I saw the game’s promotional art. The colorful and cartoonish art style was genuinely charming, and I was hoping that it translated well into the flow of the game. I was pleasantly surprised to find out how detailed and carefully designed the visual experience was. Promenade doesn’t have any dialogue, written or otherwise. So the entirety of the story, quests, and directions are done through the design of the environment and characters.

Promenade‘s story is simple. The protagonist falls into a pit, where a small octopus-like creature saves them and joins them as a companion. Together, they now try to climb back up into their world, but a shrouded entity breaks the grand elevator, spreading its gears across the world. We now have to search and find the missing pieces to fix the elevator, and gradually make our way back to the top.

Promenade, the grand elevator with a blue sky in the background and the dark purple entity destroying the mechanisms.
Our first encounter with the dark purple figure who destroys the elevator to stop our progress.

The main story of Promenade is nothing too captivating, but there are dozens of memorable side stories, solely told through the environment design and the characters we come across. A farmer looking for his chickens, a painter looking at a blank canvas, or a scientist conducting research deep in space; these characters don’t have any major role in the story, and we never talk to them, but we do learn about them, and they give a much-needed depth to the fantastical world of the game.

But after all, it’s not the stories that kept me playing Promenade. It was the gameplay. There is nothing revolutionary about the game’s mechanics. You explore the world, solve puzzles, unlock new abilities and movements, and you go back and progress further in areas where you couldn’t go through before. It’s the classic platformer metroidvania formula, done very well.

Promenade space ship exploring the dark blue outer space.
Exploring the cosmos with the space ship was a nice surprise and a fun and unique level in the game.

The puzzles are intuitive and varied, and they do hit us with just enough dopamine once we solve them to feel giddy about how smart we are. The metroidvania aspect of Promenade is ok, but there were moments, especially when I would come back to play on another day, where I felt lost and I wouldn’t remember where I could explore with a new power that I unlocked. The game does have a journal that lets you know how many pieces you have unlocked in each area and how many are remaining, but if you don’t pay enough attention, you forget where those were.

Promenade‘s main world is open and continuous. If you fall from one of the higher levels, you might get all the way down to the first level. There are also enclosed dungeons scattered across the world with more unique and surreal settings. Exploring this world felt amazing in my first playing session, but it does feel a bit confusing when you come back to the game after a while. There’s one feature missing from the game that would solve all of this and the sometimes disjointed metroidvania loop, and that’s a map. Knowing where you have and have not yet explored, and correlating each entry in the journal with a location on the map, would be an amazing addition to Promenade.

Promenade stone structure and a pink sky in the background.
We come across these golden octopus-like creatures a few times, and saving them with unlock classic arcade mini games.

The best part of the gameplay however, is the movement. Promenade‘s controls are very responsive, and from the very beginning, running, rolling, jumping around, and platforming feels very smooth. And this only gets better once you unlock new abilities such as grappling and swinging. The movement mechanics are easy enough to learn, allowing you to solve the puzzles, but mastering them are hard. There are timed challenges in certain areas and dungeons to put your skills to test, and they are one of the most fun sections of the game.

Promenade‘s sound effects fits the visual and mechanical design of the game pretty well. The music was just ok, however I sometimes found myself being distracted from the atmosphere of the game due to the lack of a more immersive soundscape. It wasn’t bad, it was just not something I would add to my game soundtrack playlists.

Promenade golden gear piece with large thorns in the background
These gears are what we are looking for, and we can fix the elevator and access more levels once we find enough for each level.

Promenade doesen’t add anything new to the puzzle platformer genre, but it creates a great gameplay experience with what it has. Where it lacks in its story, it more than makes up for it with memorable visual design and an amazing gameplay loop.

Nima played Promenade on PlayStation 5 with a review code.

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