When you play so many games like me, around 160 in 2020, it is hard to be surprised by game concepts or gameplay. Anodyne 2: Return to Dust did exactly that though, it surprised me in many ways. Not all of them good but the fact that developer Analgesic Production is willing to take so much risk is a refreshing thing. It makes it a bit of a weird experience, one that might scare you away but at the same time makes for an interesting time. One with a few visual flashbacks to the Playstation One era!
We played Anodyne 2 for 6 hours on Xbox Series X
What we liked!
- A story that is open for interpretation | You are Nova. You see her being born for just one simple reason, clean dust to prevent dust storms from destroying the world. It makes a surprising turn when you can shrink into other people and release them from dark thoughts or evil. Frequently these dark thoughts are recognisable and give the game some meaningful life learning or even some dark humour. Being confronted by stories from greed, anger, uncertainty and losing control can become a bit emotional but it remains open for interpretation. That’s the real power of Anodyne’s story, it opens a path for the player to really think about what is happening. A very special mystery situation that I rarely experienced in a videogame.
- Visual style | Look, we all like to play games with fancy graphics that make it hard to distinct real-life or a virtual game world. I’m not the kind of gamer who chooses to play a game because it features some kind of retro look. On the contrary, I’m not the biggest fan of old-school sprite graphics or blurry textures that make you wonder what it is supposed to be. Anodyne 2 is different here though, the visual style awoke something in me. It is so creative with colour, so creative with the world design that it is simply meant to be played in this kind of visual esthetics. Games are art and Anodyne 2 is an outstanding example of that. Most developers use this kind of visuals for nostalgia, Analgesic Production uses it to give the player feelings and atmosphere.
- Unique gameplay | The game is split up into two very different mechanics. One in a 3D environment that encourages exploration and limited platforming and 2D levels that often switch up the gameplay with all kinds of fun gimmicks. The 2D levels often reminded me about the older Zelda games. Switching up these visual styles has a third gameplay mechanic that Rhythm genre fans will absolutely love. You’ll be doing a lot of different puzzle-solving techniques, you’ll do some racing, you’ll fight enemies and think outside the box for some logical puzzles. I preferred the 2D parts, as this really opened up a lot of different gameplay elements. Important here is that the challenge was perfectly balanced for me, failing something was easily solved by going a screen back or forth. I did have some stuck moments in the 3D worlds, as it wasn’t clear for me where to go but that’s not really a negative thing.
- Music | Anodyne 2 is a straight contender for the best musical score in 2021. Many games have decent music but the sheer amount of different songs and perfect fitting with the environments is shockingly impressive. It isn’t stuck with just one genre, the entire music selection is a journey in feelings and emotions.
- While the visuals are brilliant it won’t be for everyone | I’m just placing this here as a warning that the visual style won’t be for everyone. It would be a shame that you wouldn’t try Anodyne 2 because of the old-school visuals though!
What we disliked
- Nothing | We don’t have anything bad to write!
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