Death Noodle Delivery Header
Screenshot by Destructoid

Review: Death Noodle Delivery

Let me have my toaster, and my TV, and my steel-belted radio.

I dream of noodles. They’re the most frequent imagery in my dreams, even moreso than the test I didn’t study for, or the homework that’s 20 years late, or all my teeth falling out. I don’t fully dig dream interpretation, but they’re generally a comforting presence. Warmth in the cold.

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I also associate them with the cyberpunk genre. Cyberpunk used to be the pessimistic vision of the future, showing one of the worst-case scenarios for human advancement. And yet, most of what works in the genre depicted is somehow way better than where we are now. At best, a work in the cyberpunk aesthetic may have predicted what we’re dealing with now, and at worst, it was overly optimistic about how we’d apply our technological endeavors.

Death Noodle Delivery fixes that. It utilizes its cyberpunk aesthetic to show a world that is at least as bad as what we’re dealing with in reality. At least.

Death Noodle Delivery highway sequence.
Screenshot by Destructoid

Death Noodle Delivery (PC [Reviewed])
Developer: Stupidi Pixel, Tiny Pixel
Publisher: Troglobytes Games

Released: April 4, 2024
MSRP: $4.99

I’m not sure the developer of Paperboy intended the game to be as satirical as it turned out to be in retrospect. In it, you’d play as a hapless youth delivering newspapers with the pressure of keeping or losing subscribers as they ride their route. Newspaper delivery was, for a lot of generations, sort of the bottom-most of bottom rungs. It was done by children who couldn’t yet work at companies or elderly people whose pensions didn’t cover the bills.

But in Paperboy your main objective is to survive a single week. Your route is populated by increasingly more deadly obstacles. Sometimes it’s runaway baby carriages or children playing in their driveway, but it escalates until the Grim Reaper – Castlevania villain and death incarnate – is chasing you down the street. All for enough money to maybe rent a game for the weekend.

Death Noodle Delivery takes the concept further. You play as Jimmy, who is struggling to make ends meet. The world is turning to shit around him, he can’t afford his own method of escapism, and the people around him can’t help because they’re largely in the same situation he is. Finally, the temp agency he’s signed up with lands him a job as a noodle delivery boy, and if he can survive until the end of the week, he’ll finally get paid. Maybe then he’ll be able to buy more drugs to cope with the pain of existence.

Surviving until the end of the week is a tall order. That’s not only because noodle delivery is a thankless, hazardous job, but also because the world is heaving out the last few drops of vomit before it will roll over and die an embarrassing death on the bathroom floor. War, a financial crisis, disease, a robot uprising; each day everything gets worse and worse.

But Jimmy’s only option is to keep making ends meet.

While the core gameplay of Death Noodle Delivery is an isometric-ish Paperboy-esque delivery route where you hurl packages of noodles at glowing customers on the street, it’s less about the noodle delivery and more about the struggles of Jimmy’s life. It’s more of a narrative game than an arcade-like title.

Each day, beaten and exhausted, Jimmy returns home. And each day, he finds his toilet broken, stolen, or otherwise out of commission, and no one will lend him theirs. What seems on the surface like it’s just some juvenile potty humor actually hammers home a point: Jimmy is so far down in society that he’s robbed of even basic human dignity. Indeed, there are some amusing moments in Death Noodle Delivery, but while it looks like a quirky, weird title, it is, in truth, extremely depressing.

It’s depressing because it’s so easy to see yourself in Jimmy’s shoes. Each year that goes by, the world becomes more and more difficult to merely exist in. Employers will pay the bare minimum for even experienced workers, and it’s not enough to meet the rising costs of life, which seem to be hastening at an alarming rate. Your only way out is to have been born fortunate enough to have had a chance at an education, and even then, you’re often not valued unless you already were provided access to certain social circles. What’s worse is that the people who are where they are, simply because they were born into specific circumstances, will look down on you.

And each year that goes by, the world seems to fall apart a bit more. Social upheaval, wealth inequality, war, unfettered technological advances; it’s hard to stay optimistic, especially when we’ve trained ourselves to constantly be plugged. We’ve built our own Hell.

Death Noodle Delivery dialogue with Joystick.
Screenshot by Destructoid

If there’s one silver lining to this, it’s that Death Noodle Delivery is so effective at capturing this Hell. Each loading screen depicts some uncomfortable creation of photo manipulation underscored by an often nihilistic quote. The environment around Jimmy feels so inhuman, showing a world more comfortable for technology than the humans that created it. You can tangibly feel the weight on Jimmy’s shoulder as he returns home.

Unfortunately, this swells to a punctuation point that is equally as nihilistic as the game itself. It doesn’t have a hopeful message at the end, perhaps because, like most of us, the creators don’t have an answer to the problems depicted. Without spoiling anything, the conclusion feels as though it was carefully built toward, but it is also, perhaps, a step too far.

I could have done without it, but what really soured the ending for me was the hellish sequence that caps everything off. I nearly played through Death Noodle Delivery in one sitting before hitting the wall at its end. The difficulty suddenly leaps into the air, and what was once a narrative game with light Paperboy elements becomes a brutal gauntlet. Maybe there’s a message behind even that. I don’t know. I was too enraged to really take it all in.

Death Noodle Delivery old Max Headroom looking guy.
Screenshot by Destructoid

Death Noodle Delivery is a weird game to have to recommend. The actual game within it – which is to say, the Paperboy sequences – are such a miniscule part of its appeal. If that’s what interests you, then don’t bother. Those sequences are not the core of the experience; rather, they’re here to support the narrative.

The narrative itself is nihilistic and depressing. For all its fantastical elements, strange abstractions, and other weirdness, it does not tell a happy story. It’s not mired in melancholic prose, but it’s an extremely pessimistic representation of the difficult world we live in.

Yet, with that in mind, it’s worth a look for being so effective at delivering its perspective. Death Noodle Delivery is sympathetic, but it has no answers for you. It may remind you that you’re not alone in your struggles, but rarely have I found that sentiment to be helpful. Instead, we can only be like Jimmy and hope that by continuing to put one foot in front of the other, we’ll eventually get somewhere better. At least there are noodles to comfort us in the meantime.

[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]

7.5
Good
Solid and definitely has an audience. There could be some hard-to-ignore faults, but the experience is fun.
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Author
Zoey Handley
Staff Writer - Zoey is a gaming gadabout. She got her start blogging with the community in 2018 and hit the front page soon after. Normally found exploring indie experiments and retro libraries, she does her best to remain chronically uncool.