damn, what a beautiful game! I don't have a ton of in-depth thoughts tbh but just to rattle off some shit i liked:
the way the game guides you is honestly perfect, it doesn't tell you much but gives you juuuuust enough info to see you on your way, and once you get a hang of the games' language, in terms of how it tells you where to go, it's a breeze. i got lost a couple times but not for too long and it was satisfying figuring out how to get back on track. the combat here is also EXCEPTIONAL. super slick, fast and snappy. i just thought all elements of the combat worked perfectly together, honestly no notes.
soundtrack and sound design are great here too. minimal, but effective and create a real sense of place across the whole map. it helps that this is honestly some of the best looking pixel art I've seen in a game full stop. and generally i think pixel art these days looks kinda tacky and outdated, it takes something really bold with a strong core aesthetic to get me to even play something with pixel graphics. (i generally just prefer hand-drawn when it comes to 2D).
not entiiiirely sure what the narrative was all about, and tbh the ending didn't really help with that, but i thought the way it tells it is very effective regardless. EDIT: it's been like 7 hours or something since i wrote this and in that time i've been thinking about it and also rewatched the first episode of NoClip's Hyper Light Development series (go watch it, there's only one episode so far), and i have such a different grasp on the narrative of this game. the themes of chronic illness taking over no matter how hard you try and fight it, with the protag eventually being overtaken by it at the end, and how personal that is to the Heart Machine's lead man, Alx... truly incredible and has elevated this even further.
difficulty was just right for me too. most bosses took me at least a handful of tries, but i never got too frustrated or defeated because the checkpoints are extremely generous, so you're right back into the action almost immediately. good shit!!!