I don't like how often this game is compared to other games like Zelda, Castlevania, etc. Pheonotopia doesn't deserve to be compared to those games, because it is in a category all its own.
At first I didn't think too much of the game, but by the time I reached Atai I had fallen in love. Unlike many modern games, the game didn't drag you along slowly with easy challenges and brain-dead enemies; it pummeled you into the ground with insanely difficult bosses and puzzles that wrack your brain. It took me at least 20 tries to defeat any boss after the first, and while there was much swearing, the euphoric feeling you get when you finally best your opponent is definitely worth it.
Most of the low-rated reviews I've seen for this game were due to the writer giving up after facing the slightest challenge, or failing to understand that a difficult game is not a poorly designed game. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that Phoenotopia's difficulty is one of it's most defining features. Never before have I found myself swearing profusely as I raced through the last few sections of a level while being chased by what should be easily dispatched enemies, nor has my heart ever raced faster than it did when I fought the game's final bosses.
Another interesting feature was how well the game pulled off having a female protagonist. The game didn't feel it necessary to constantly bring up the fact that Gale was a girl, and whenever someone did underestimate her because of her gender, she was quick to prove them wrong. Gale's achievements were never overshadowed by those of a male counterpart, nor did she ever act like she was dependent on the help of others. By treating Gale like one would treat any protagonist, Phoenotopia sets the example for how games should treat female characters.
I want to recommend Phoenotopia to anyone who has gotten bored of the multitude of overly-easy games out there these days, and to anyone who wants an amazing, tough, cute, and expansive game that will keep you up at night trying to find every collectible. It's an amazing game and I can't wait to see what Quells does next.