Thursday, 7 June 2012

Review: Noitu Love 2 Devolution (PC)

Noitu Love 2 Screenshot 1

When it comes to retro side-scrolling action games, I'm usually a lot more comfortable with a gamepad than a mouse and keyboard.  The pad just feels more natural for those sorts of games.  Granted I grew up playing a lot more console games than I did anything on the PC, so all those years with an NES pad have hardwired some rather rigid preconceived notions into my head as to how an old school action game "should" handle.  Noitu Love 2 is the first game to come along and challenge me on this, as it proves that these sort of games can be pretty darn fun with a mouse and keyboard if the control scheme is well thought out, and there's a good level of frantic goings on...erm...going on...

I'm a bit late to the party with the Noitu Love games.  I vaguely remember people mentioning the first one from time to time when indie games come up over the years, but for whatever reason, I never got around to playing them until now.  It's a shame, because this is a very good game.  It has a really nice retro aesthetic with its colorful, pixelated motif, and amazing bosses, with an appropriately chiptune soundtrack to go along with it.

The action itself is very fast paced with players controlling the game's protagonist, Xoda Rap,  as she rushes across the screen to punch and kick legions of robots as fast as she can.  In fact, the game encourages players to chain together as many kills as they can in rapid succession with a big counter lighting up and saying how many enemies Xoda has decimated one after another.  Players just need to click on the enemy they want to attack, and Xoda will zip over there.  Just keep clicking away to continue wailing on the baddie.  However, to keep the game from devolving into a boring click fest players have a few special moves tossed their way including a dash attack and a jumping blade kick, both performed by simple key combinations.  These hit really hard and are often necessary if you want to keep a big chain of kills going, so you'll need to know when to unload with them in order to perform well in a level.

This all plays out in a way where players will be clicking all over the screen while tapping away at their keyboard, trying to keep their kill combo going as long as possible.  As such, the combat feels a lot more satisfying than if Noitu Love 2 was just some brain dead clickfest.  A decent amount of thought needs to go into playing in order to do well, strategizing how to transition from one baddie to the next.  Should I just click on the next enemy?  Dash kick?  Leaping blade kick?  Maybe wall jumping will help out here.  These are the sorts of things I constantly find myself thinking in the heat of battle when pounding the tar out of the legions of robots being tossed at me.

As much fun as all of that is, the boss fights are even better.  Each one has their own mechanic to it like a crazy train that's chasing Xoda where you have to watch its patterns to find its weakness, a musical boss where you have to manipulate a piano in order to hurt it, or this weird TV station boss that seems to be made of energy and has a bunch of attacks it'll throw at you.  All of these bosses are a lot of fun to fight as one learns their mechanics.  Each has their own thing they do, and they add a nice level of variety to the game.

Despite all of these positives, I can see some people having an issue with how short the game is.  It only takes a couple of hours to finish Noitu Love 2, so some may be put off by that.  However, I find this difficult to fault because the game is only five bucks, and it encourages people to replay the game because it has a grading system in place for each level rewarding a letter grade type score for how well you get through the level.  It's not too difficult to get through a level, but to do a good job of it and get a good score is something else entirely, and will take time to accomplish.

Really, though, what few faults I can see in Noitu Love 2 feel more like nitpicking than anything else.  It's a fun little distraction for the price, and the game actually makes for a surprisingly satisfying "beat up some robots" experience with how it combines its control scheme on the mouse and keyboard.  It's definitely a fun action game to look into.

The Good:
- Fun action
- Nice retro aesthetic
- Great boss fights
- Decent replay value

The Bad:
- Some may be put off by the short length of the game

Score: 8.0 / 10