While it’s full of nostalgia, “Anodyne 2: Return to Dust” didn’t do it for me

Anodyne 2: Return to Dust is a fantastic love letter to the games of old with a mix of 3D hub worlds and 2D top-down levels. It’s clear that the two-person development team have thrown their hearts into this game, but I never felt completely engaged with title and, despite its quality, it never left me wanting more.

Pros

  • Brimming with nostalgia
  • Refreshingly unique

Cons

  • Lack of artistic consistency
  • Open, empty, spaces
  • Lacking challenge

The world has been covered in a dust-like plague that affects some of the inhabitants. You play as a humanoid named Nova who travels into the bodies of people to clear the dust and rid them of any enemies.

The hub world is reminiscent of N64 titles like Super Mario 64 and Banjo-Kazooie with some platforming to access the game’s levels. The levels themselves, however, have the appearance and gameplay of classic 2D Zelda titles.

While that might sound interesting, I found the lack of a clear artistic direction to be problematic. While I usually like weird art styles, I feel that it has to be grounded in some common theme. There are several NPCs you can talk to throughout this story and all of them look unique, but there’s no consistent art style in their designs. Their inconsistent designs made them fairly forgettable. That said, if this is your thing, the design is definitely unique.

The hub worlds are perfectly reminiscent of 90s-era 3D games with low-resolution textures that use a minimalistic colour palette stretched across blocky models. While I can’t complain about the art in these sections, I found them far too large for the amount of content you can find in them and grew tired of travelling to each level in these areas.

Even though it doesn’t take long to traverse these areas (second rather than minutes), the main issue is that I didn’t find the traversal fun. You can turn into a car to help speed up this process but it feels like this is to reduce the time spent in these areas rather than to make them more enjoyable.

As I mentioned before, visually, the levels wouldn’t look out of place in older Zelda games. In them, you have to get to the end of each level, clear out enemies, and defeat a boss to complete them. There are also some puzzles in these levels but like with the hb world, it feels like they’re there there to prop up the gameplay when it gets a bit tedious.

The combat isn’t very satisfying as it comes down to some very basic button pressing and the puzzles were rarely a challenge.

The Verdict

This isn’t a bad game; it’s just not to my tastes. It’s worth checking out if you’re after a nostalgia trip for the old but I found that it didn’t ever build or expand on these old ideas.

Anodyne 2: Return to Dust is available on PC and was developed by Analgesic Productions.

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