Capsule Review: Noitu Love 2: Devolution

(A note on versions - this game’s original PC release is titled Noitu Love 2: Devolution. Its later release on 3DS and Wii U, where the first Noitu Love was never available, drops the numeral and is titled Noitu Love: Devolution.)

A fast-paced 2D retro-styled brawler. While there are a couple of minor platforming puzzles and one hidden path to a secret boss, the focus is squarely on combat. There is a story that does serve as a sequel to the first Noitu Love, but that game is not at all a prerequisite to understanding or enjoying this one. The game’s biggest selling points are its excellent boss design and its unusual pointer-heavy control scheme - on PC, you must play using keyboard and mouse; on 3DS and Wii U, it’s buttons and stylus or Wiimote and nunchuck. The three playable characters use the pointer in different ways, but it’s always core to their combat mechanics and often their traversal abilities as well.

The default player character, Xoda, has the most interesting and unusual way to use the pointer - clicking or tapping on an enemy (or a weak spot, for large enemies) will jump her directly to that target, where she can then use melee attacks. While she can also walk, jump, crouch, and use a few directional special attacks, jumping to targets is the core of her combat system and often important for her traversal as well. Beating the game with Xoda (which takes about 45 minutes if you don’t die much) unlocks a second character who lacks the target-jumping and uses the pointer as an aiming reticle for a medium-range gun. Beating the game with this character unlocks the third who can’t directly attack at all and uses the pointer like the reticle in a light gun shooter. These are less unusual play styles but can provide fresh ways to experience the game’s levels and battles.

While the non-boss enemies are important at first to give the player a chance to get used to their abilities and unusual control scheme, they become uninteresting in later levels or repeat playthroughs. The few platforming segments found in some levels aren’t too difficult, but they drag down the game’s pace. Once I was confident in my ability to control my character effectively, I found myself racing through levels as fast as possible to get to the interesting set pieces and boss fights which are the star of the show. Distinctive and memorable, each boss fight tests your abilities in different and satisfying ways with a lot of entertaining spectacle. My personal favorite fight is The Grinning 4, a four-piece band on a rotating stage who tag in and out and each have different attacks.

While unusual and entertaining, the combat system unfortunately does mean a lot of rapid clicking or tapping which can be rough on the wrist - so it’s probably a good thing the game is fairly short. The additional player characters and a couple of extra bosses add some replay value, along with multiple difficulty modes and a score system that encourages perfecting the game’s mechanics. There isn’t much other reason to stick around - it’s a blast to play through, but the spectacle and control scheme lose novelty after a few playthroughs and there isn’t much story, characterization, or world-building to back it up.

I Stopped Playing When: I beat the game as Xoda on normal difficulty. I tried playing as the next character, but lost interest partway through that playthrough.

Docprof's Rating:

Three Stars: Good. I liked the game enough to finish it (or just play it a bunch, for games that don't end). I recommend it to most genre fans.

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