Capsule Review: Noitu Love & The Army of Grinning Darns

A 2D retro-styled platformer and brawler. Navigate through six large levels over the course of an hour or so, beating up a robot army and using “evomatic” machines to change forms and gain new powers used both for combat and platforming puzzles. There is a story, but it doesn’t matter much.

Your default form has only a few abilities - running, jumping, and a three-hit combo of short-range attacks that can slow your descent if used in midair (plus a fairly-weak point-blank attack triggered by hitting the jump and attack buttons simultaneously that is rarely worth using). The platforming is serviceable, with fast movement and high jumps that keep the pace up. The different evomatic forms (such as a high-jumping monkey) also provide some variety, though you can only use these in specific places and the cumulative effect still feels fairly standard. Levels are mostly linear with a few side paths that have extra collectibles that can grant 1-ups.

Non-boss combat is a bit tedious due to the enemies which, while pleasingly varied, are a little too numerous and take a few too many hits for your limited options to stay interesting. Boss fights fare much better, since each one is unique and clever and you spend time avoiding attacks or figuring out how to damage the boss instead of just spamming your attack combo. These can test you on a variety of mechanics - one fight requires you to switch to a monkey and do some platforming to make the boss vulnerable and then switch back to your normal form to actually damage it.

The level of polish is higher than you’d expect for a freeware game made entirely by one person and which is in fact his first finished game, but it’s not perfect. Enemy telegraphs are sometimes unclear and the controls (arrow keys plus Shift and Control) are slightly awkward and not remappable.

The boss fights are the only part that really rise above mediocre, but the other content is never outright bad. Konjak’s later games are inarguably better, but Noitu Love can still be an enjoyable diversion, especially as a free download.

I Stopped Playing When: I finished two of the six levels, then got frustrated by a miniboss early in the third level who was difficult due mainly to poor telegraphs. I went online to find a Let’s Play to see how to deal with the miniboss, and ended up just watching the rest of the game to see the boss fights without dealing with the other combat and platforming challenges.

Docprof's Rating:

Two Stars: Meh. The game has some merit - it probably held my attention for at least an hour or I came back to it for more than one play session. But there wasn't enough draw for me to stick with it for the long haul.

You can get it or learn more here.