Have you ever wondered what a Zelda style adventure would be like with a sprinkling of meta-level mechanics? Well wonder no longer because Lenna’s Inception exists. As it would turn out its also pretty good.

Developer: Bytten Studio
Publisher: Bytten Studio
Release Date: Jan 17th 2020
Available on: PC (Win & Linux)

Upon booting up Lenna’s Inception for the first time Zelda comparisons become inevitable. However, don’t mistake that for criticism. Much like how Gato Roboto wears its influence proudly as a badge of honour, so does Lenna’s Inception and it’s better for it. Instead of playing the hero, you play Lenna: the village teacher who is responsible for instructing the actual hero as they begin their journey. Things don’t work out for the hero though, so Lenna has to take up the mantle and carry out the quest instead. This is one of numerous humourous nods to Lenna’s inspiration that only works because of how faithful it is.

From this point forward the game plays out as anyone who’s played this style of game before would expect. Players complete dungeons collecting a specialized tool that helps you overcome its challenges, beat a boss, and then use the new tool to explore further. It’s a tried and tested formula that has been aped by so many games because of the simple joy that comes from slowly unlocking the world. Lenna doesn’t have anything new to add to the mix, but it does manage to be another satisfying example of this style done well.

However, as players make their way further into the title, Lenna starts to come into its own. You see, the hero dying, among other events, has caused the world to become unbalanced and increasingly unstable. Visual glitches appear throughout the game world which is when the game introduces a meta-layer to its story. Residence of the world seem increasingly aware that they’re in a collapsing world due to the balance of things being upset. What’s even better is some dialogue appears to reveal that some know they’re in a video games, which, similar to the story setup, leads to a handful of jabs at Lenna’s inspiration.

The meta elements of Lenna are taken a step further in the latter half of the experience when players are given and item that allows them to break the game’s rules. This leads to some mind-bending puzzles that are intensely fun to engage with where Lenna will clip through walls and teleport all over the map. It might sound like a bit much, but trust me when I say that these segments are when the game shines brightest. This unique puzzle mechanic makes for a lot of fun exploration and puzzle moments, so much so that I almost wish the whole game had been built around it. As it stands the meta puzzles and the associated commentary give Lenna’s Inception an X factor that provides a reason to check it out aside from one’s existing disposition toward Zelda games.

You may have also noticed how there are two different art styles in the screenshots I’ve included. The game includes the option to play with 16-bit or 8-bit visuals. That’s probably not going to make or break anyone’s opinion on the experience, but I did appreciate having the choice to use the lower res style and the associated nostalgic vibes that accompanied using it.

Now, if I haven’t managed to sell you yet what if I told you that you might already own Lenna’s Inception? Yes if you are one of the eight hundred thousand people who contributed to the itch.io bundle for racial equality last year then you already own Lenna’s Inception. That being said, if I haven’t already convinced you, perhaps knowing that you already own the title will.

Lenna’s Inception may wear its inspiration proudly on its sleeve, but it manages to deliver an experience that eventually comes into its own. If you consider yourself even a fair weather Zelda fan I’m sure that on some level Lenna’s Inception will speak to you. Plus, you may already own the game! So what are you waiting for? Download Lenna’s Inception posthaste because you should play it.