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Indie Nation #16: Noitu Love 2: Devolution

3:29 PM on 04.25.2008 // Anthony Burch

God, this game is sexy. 

I mean, I usually spooge about pretty much every game I highlight on Indie Nation to the point where it becomes almost expected, but I swear that my enthusiasm for Noitu Love 2 is completely justified. Apart from having some of the most downright gorgeous Metal Slug-esque graphics I've ever seen, it puts a twist on the traditional 2D brawler gameplay by binding all the player's attacks to the mouse.

Rather than halfheartedly smashing buttons to rack up huge combos, you'll be swinging the mouse in different directions, clicking repeatedly and gesturing quickly with a level of palpable satisfaction that'll keep you coming back for days after completing the singleplayer campaign. It's a brawler that feels like a shmup that feels like a really good Wii game; it's Noitu Love 2: Devolution, and if you don't buy it you're a child molestor.

Or, alternately, you can play the FREE demo, and/or hit the jump as I further explain what makes this game so damn sexy. 

Firstly: special thanks to David Groover, who alerted me when the game was finally released. He brought it up to the RFGO! crew as a great example of neo-retro gaming, and I couldn't agree with him more. The combo systems, the graphics, and the brawler sensibilities are all retro, but the imaginative levels and mouse control are totally modern. 

So, basically, you move around and jump with WASD, but you attack using the mouse, and the mouse alone. Clicking on an enemy automatically moves your character to them, repeated clicks result in more punching, and moving the mouse while holding right click activates a special move. Holding right click and moving the mouse to the right causes Xoda to dash-attack to the right, moving to the left causes a dash-attack to the left, and moving the mouse up while right-clicking makes her do a sort of spinny-jumpy vertical boost attack. Oh, and right-clicking onany part of the screen spawns a big blue shield which stops enemy projectiles.

It sounds deceptively simple on paper (and admittedly kind of underwhelming), but it makes for some intense, kinetic hand-to-hand fights that feel absurdly satisfying. The mouse attacks make Xoda control in a very "floaty" sort of way, but I mean that as a compliment: if you're good with the mouse attacks, you can jump into the air at the beginning of a level and fight your way to the end without landing a single time. Enemies infinitely spawn from the sides of the screen as you progress through each of the seven stages, so you can string up some massively satisfying combos once you get used to the mouse system (which takes way less time than you'd think). 

But even a great combat system is nothing without some badass levels to fight through, and thankfully Noitu Love 2 has those as well; each of the seven stages show something completely new to the player, keeping the gameplay fresh and interesting with every new level. Level one has the player fight a helicopter robot and a mechanized pirate ship, level two pits the player against android zombies and a music-themed boss, and the levels get even zanier and more clever from there. Many players will probably argue that the game is "too short," but given the unlockable content (more on that in a minute) and the fact that the levels contain not a single iota of filler, the entire game is utterly enjoyable from beginning to end. The seven stages can be run through in about an hour, but they're so fun, and the combat mechanic is so intuitive, that you will play them over and over again on escalating difficulty levels, so as to increase your skill with the fighting and achieve better level scores.

Even if you aren't the sort of person who feels like perfecting your fightin' skillz, each playthrough of the game unlocks something new. There are actually three playable characters, each of whom play in completely different ways; while Xoda, the first protagonist, uses the aforementioned brawler style, Almond the policeman uses reloadable guns and Rilo the robot acts as a hybrid between the two. Rilo even gets her own special boss fight at the end of her campaign. I'm usually not the compulsive sort of player who must unlock everything a game has to offer, but Noitu Love 2's unlockables are just too good to pass up: each of the differing protagonists put a whole new spin on the established gameplay, and I enjoy playing as all of them (though Xoda, it has to be said, is still my homegirl). Also, there's at least one hidden boss. Which is cool.

So, yeah: gorgeous neo-retro graphics, incredible mouse-driven brawler gameplay, great unlockables, and wonderfully imaginative level design? I've spent no fewer than six hours with Noitu Love 2 since I ought it this Monday, and I've enjoyed every minute. Again, you can play the demo and have a bit of fun with it, but I'd personally suggest dropping down the meagre $20 asking price for the full version. It's more than worth it, and you'll be supporting creator Joakim Sandberg and his future projects.

Buy it. Immediamente. 

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