Iris and the Giant Review

Waking up the giant in us all.

Iris and the Giant has been available on Nintendo Switch and PC for a while. It is now available on PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series S and X. The game is a roguelike deckbuilding game similar to Slay the Spire with childlike imagination, but is it childish?

Iris and the Giant follow the story of a girl called Iris. At the start of the game, she is dropped off at a swimming pool, where the other children make fun of her. It deals with Iris’s struggle with anxiety, depression, bullying and her relationship with her father.

As Iris is interested in Greek mythology, she mixes characters and themes of that mythology with the real world. She creates a card game with levels where she battles various demons. Both of you progress upwards with more strength, and she overcomes her inner demons.

Often in card games and roguelike games, the story is an afterthought and a blanket excuse to collect cards, items and advancement through levels. In Iris and the Giant, the story is intertwined with the gameplay and feels part of the experience.

The more you play the game, the more story you get through cutscenes and by collecting memories, an object that rewards you with permanent buffs in further playthroughs.

Most people will sympathise and relate to the story of Iris and the Giant, even if it involves an imaginary world as a metaphor.

Hand-drawn scenes tell most of the story.

The game has three starting points, with only the Giant path open at the start. Once complete, the other two become available. The other two have different enemies, locations and stories, meaning three times the amount of content. The only problem is that they are hard and almost unfairly so.

Iris and the Giant follow the same formula as other roguelike card games. You start with a handful of cards, added to throughout the game. Helping you are magical powers that give you powerful boons to your cards and playstyle, buff points by collecting memories, companions, and a levelling-up mechanic.

Each time you defeat enemies, you gain Stars, and when enough are collected, you earn a trait or more cards. Here you can improve one of your traits, such as Nerve, which makes enemies tougher, but give more Stars or Imagination, which allows you to draw more cards in one turn.

Iris and the Giant cards are one use, and once you run out, it is Game Over. You need to ensure you open the gold chests to get more cards and pick up diamonds. When enough diamonds are collected, you can pick some powerful cards. There are other ways to collect cards, but chests and stealing them from enemies is the easiest.

There are a few different combinations you can make with the cards. You can use can combo Sword cards, and certain magical powers allow you to combo bows, bombs, fire cards and more. Certain cards can be used more than once, and some can be used before others. Knowing what order you should play cards will let you have an easier time getting far. You won’t get far unless you focus on only a certain few types of cards or plan a combination and playstyle.

Combat is often a puzzle between the cards and the situation.

Stopping you are cats, skeletons, demons, and Greek-inspired creatures with Cerberus and the like. All these enemies match the overall art style and theme and look lovely. Each has its own move set, the damage they do and its weaknesses. Some even have armour that must be removed before they are defeated. Like you, they can even combo attacks, so you can be overwhelmed if you aren’t paying attention.

One of the aspects that makes this game different is that enemies flood the screen on stages, and you need to take most of them out to advance. This makes each level more entertaining and longer lasting. It also makes you feel more powerful when you take out half of them with a well-placed bomb, arrow barrage or by destroying a gold chest as they explode if hit twice.

You need to check for terrain, such as rocks and traps, that will make a difference to your tactics. Often rocks hide portals to treasure rooms, challenge areas and shortcuts. They also often contain diamonds, chests and sometimes enemies.

Iris and the Giant has a children’s pop book art style with hand-drawn visuals. It all looks delightful and blends with the overall vibe of the game. A child could have easily created some of the characters and scenery.

The game uses primary colours, making it striking and eye-catching. This also means that it is clear what everything is and does. Each enemy and item also have clear silhouettes meaning you can quickly scan and know what the enemy and card do. Even when an enemy is in the background shadow, you know which one it is and can plan your strategy accordingly.

There are secret shortcuts and treasure rooms like this one.

Like the story and gameplay, the visuals fit the game and work with it to make an overall better game. It isn’t an afterthought. The game has a childlike quality, and the visuals match the gameplay and the concept of a child imagining they are using hand-drawn cards to fight cartoon-like creatures.

If the game had more realistic visuals, it wouldn’t be the same as having its current papercraft aesthetic.

The only part I don’t like is the player character. The yellow lightning nose looks weird, and the hair is crazily large.

It also makes you feel more powerful when you take out half of them with a well-placed bomb…

There aren’t many musical assortments in the game, but the few are good, not distracting, and don’t get boring or annoying.

I noticed the music would cut out on the challenge levels. The near-impossible puzzle levels. These levels give a certain amount of cards to defeat enemies without getting hit once.

The cutscenes and memos are all voiced, and Iris’s voice sounds fine. However, the dad’s voice would often not play or sound like it was recorded in a bunker. The quality didn’t match the rest of the game.

All the powers, companions, and memory points make a difference.

All the sounds related to gameplay are pleasing such as when you defeat a skeleton, it makes bone noises, and the cats make cat noises. All the weapons make noises, and there is enough audio feedback to make you want to keep the audio and music on.

It took me about ten hours and twenty playthroughs to complete the game once. Throughout all that time, I never felt that it was unfair. Even though a run can take more than an hour, I wanted to try again when I failed.

There are enough mechanics with the trait, companion, magical powers, and memory points to make each playthrough more manageable and distinctive. You feel like you are becoming better the more you play it. Even if you fail a run, you are rewarded “Gifts” depending on how many Stars you earned in the previous playthrough. These give you powers, cards and other buffs that make the next run even more painless.

As I said earlier, there are three paths, meaning while you have hours’ worth of content with the Giant path, there is even more with the other two. On top of obtaining 100% by finding all the cards, memories, demons, companions, powers, and achievements, there is plenty to do for people looking for it.

If you fail a run, you get rewards for your next game.

For the price, you are getting a lot for your money and even more so if on sale. It is a shame that the game on PC and other platforms hasn’t had more added to it over time or DLC. More could be added to make the game even better. It is commendable that the solo developer (which is impressive by itself) has made a game that is as good as it is and feels that nothing more needs to be added.

Iris and the Giant is the only roguelike deck-building game I have ever enjoyed. I have played many, and with games like Slay the Spire, they just feel pretty impossible to get far in it. They require you to remember too much.

While Iris and the Giant may be aimed at a younger audience, it also makes for a more appropriate challenge with enough options and modes to make the game harder if required. It has a fairer difficulty curve that makes you want to play more of it.

Overall I love how the game looks, and the general package of visuals, gameplay, and audio makes for a great product. Some may find it childish, but whether you are a child or an adult, you should play this game.


Developer: Louis Rigaud.

Publisher: Goblinz Publishing and Klabater.

Platform: Xbox Series X.

System: PC, Android, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S and X.

Release: 2nd March 2023.

Score: A (87/99)