Athenian Rhapsody – Review
Follow Genre: RPG
Developer: Nico Papalia
Publisher: Top Hat Studios
Platform: PC, PS5, PS4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, Switch
Tested on: Switch

Athenian Rhapsody – Review

Site Score
Good: Surprisingly solid, if simple, gameplay mechanics
Bad: The game's kind of humour isn't for everyone
User Score
(1 votes)
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VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 10.0/10 (1 vote cast)

When we reviewed Tiny Terry’s Turbo Trip a little while ago, we mentioned having a soft spot for outlandish games. Now, there’s outlandish but there’s also outright weirdness. Compared to Athenian Rhapsody, Tiny Terry’s Turbo Trip is bland, and that’s saying something. In terms of storytelling, atmosphere, and humor, Athenian Rhapsody is the most unusual game we’ve played so far this year, and we wouldn’t be surprised if it hangs on to that crown for quite a while. ‘Is it any good though?’, we hear you wonder. Fear not, we’re here to tell you what you’ll need to know before you take the plunge into Athens.


From the get-go, Athenian Rhapsody makes it clear that the story you are about to experience is YOUR specific Rhapsody. Once you clear the game, you’re able to revisit that specific story, and you’re able to share it with the online community and see other players’ own Rhapsodies. Now, the starting point is going to be the same for each Rhapsody, but thanks to the game’s choice-driven nature, the journey is going to be very different for everyone. As for that starting point: after a quick personality test, you’ll find yourself in Athens, albeit not the Greek city. This Athens is a strange and colorful place inhabited by all sorts of bizarre creatures. Some of them are friendly to you, others are hostile, and there are also quite a few whose alignment isn’t as clear. Case in point: Richard and James are two of the first Athenians you meet. After learning you’re a human and unfamiliar with your surroundings, they decide to guide you through this world… sort of. James is chill but Richard is obsessed with gathering as much EXP as possible, something other Athenians are also motivated by. Richard has also set up a series of challenges to test your merit. This is the start of an unhinged odyssey that needs to be experienced for yourself.

The writing is the clear highlight here, although whether this will actually land with you really depends on your sense of humor. This is a game that is as likely to hurl a dark insult at you as it is to unashamedly crack a fart joke. It’s text-heavy, but we found ourselves actively seeking out NPCs, just to see what they had to say. More often than not, it was wonderful nonsense rather than something that made the plot move forward, but that’s part of Athenian Rhapsody’s charm.


Anyone who is at least somewhat familiar with Earthbound will immediately notice the visual similarities between that series and Athenian Rhapsody. Those similarities aren’t just limited to the game’s graphics, although we’ll expand on that a bit further down when we discuss Athenian Rhapsody’s gameplay. As you’d expect in a game like this, the character designs are all over the place, ranging from creepy clowns and deformed squirrels to cute little bugs and characters with photo-realistic tiger heads. For what it wants to be, Athenian Rhapsody is a great-looking game, and the retro pixel art allows for buttery smooth performance.


The logical choice to go alongside Athenian Rhapsody’s retro visuals is retro music, of course. The chiptune soundtrack is cheerful and catchy, and it perfectly fits with the chaotic atmosphere. Voice acting is notably absent, although many characters’ personalities are enhanced through sound effects instead. You’re also able to change the interface sound effects to your liking. We changed ours to duck sounds when we discovered that option.


As we mentioned earlier, Athenian Rhapsody’s core gameplay resembles that of Earthbound, albeit with a dash of WarioWare-style microgames. The game is probably best described as a top-down RPG with turn-based combat, although that makes it sound a lot more bland than it is in practice. Athenian Rhapsody is fast-paced, chaotic, and unpredictable. This is a game where one minute you’re asked to be the wingman for a dismembered cat head that lives inside of a bubble and the next you’re dodging knives being thrown at you by your so-called friend ‘as a test’. Athenian Rhapsody also takes a couple of pages out of Undertale’s book in that you can actively try to befriend enemies rather than beat them, and a pacifist run is entirely possible. The result is something that has an identity of its own, even if said identity feels like an amalgamation of things we’ve seen done before elsewhere.

It’s also a surprisingly challenging game, at least as far as combat is concerned. The game’s battle mechanics are a 50/50 mix of classic turn-based combat mechanics and those aforementioned WarioWare microgames: on your turn, you’ll stick to the classic formula of using a basic attack, an item, or a special ability. You also have the choice of interacting with an enemy in a variety of ways to raise your affinity with them in the hopes of befriending them. When an enemy attacks on their turn, you’ll then play a microgame to try and dodge the attack. These range from simple tasks like avoiding acorns that are being dropped on you by a squirrel to a DDR-styled rhythm game or a bullet hell. Athenian Rhapsody offers an easier ‘Chill Mode’ for combat, but even with this enabled, you’ll still need to pay attention to the on-screen action.

Outside of combat, Athenian Rhapsody also finds plenty of ways to break the RPG mold or lampoon conventional video game mechanics. If you go to the ‘Help’ option in the game’s menu, you’ll find an ‘I’m sad when I go to bed at night’ option, for example. It’s all tongue in cheek of course, but small touches like this make it worth exploring every nook and cranny of Athenian Rhapsody, even those you’d typically ignore. And then there’s the Munchkins option, where the game gives you the option to download so-called Munchkins directly from Elysium. This is optional, and the game tells you it will only take a moment. In practice, downloading Munchkins is a test of patience: this will take a ridiculously long time, during which you have to keep the game open and running. The game will mock you for doing so too, reminding you to go to the bathroom and telling you that you made this choice for yourself. You can’t do anything else in the game while the Munchkins are downloading. If you accidentally close the download screen, you’ll have to start all over again. And there’s also a chance that downloading Munchkins fails anyway. So naturally, we persevered and after a whopping four hours of keeping an eye on our Switch and making sure it didn’t go into sleep mode, we ended up with the Munchkin of Regality. What does it do, you ask? Well, we’re not quite sure ourselves, but at least we managed to tick that specific box of Athenian Rhapsody’s things to do.

Our first playthrough of Athenian Rhapsody took us roughly 10 hours, not counting the time spent on downloading our Munchkin. It’s not the longest game, but the choice-driven nature provides the perfect motivation to replay it several times over. That’s without even factoring in the ability to share Rhapsodies with the online community. As such, the €14.99 price point feels like immensely good value. We can imagine the game having legs too, if it successfully becomes a cult classic in the same way as Undertale did -don’t be surprised if Athenian Rhapsody ends up getting content updates down the line. That’s not to say that Athenian Rhapsody feels incomplete as is, however. At the surface level, Athenian Rhapsody may seem like a bunch of wacky nonsense, but there is an actual RPG worth playing here as well, even if it is on the basic side. Athenian Rhapsody’s sum is greater than its parts, but that is something that doesn’t become clear until you actually get to grips with it.


We didn’t expect to like Athenian Rhapsody as much as we did, but then again, we didn’t know what to expect at all with this one. Athenian Rhapsody is weird and wonderful, but it doesn’t forget that it is still a video game too. The gameplay is genuinely fun and challenging, even though the mechanics are on the basic side. Granted, Athenian Rhapsody’s blend of low-brow potty jokes and cynical dark humor isn’t going to appeal to everyone, but if it sounds up your alley, then we urge you to embark on your own Rhapsody.

VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 10.0/10 (1 vote cast)
VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
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Athenian Rhapsody - Review, 10.0 out of 10 based on 1 rating

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