Anodyne 2: Return to Dust (Switch) – Review
Follow Genre: Adventure, Action, RPG
Developer: Analgesic Productions
Publisher: Ratalaika Games
Platform: Switch, PS4, PS5, PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S
Tested on: Switch

Anodyne 2: Return to Dust (Switch) – Review

Site Score
6.8
Good: Intriguing story that makes players think
Bad: 3D overworld feels empty
User Score
5.0
(2 votes)
Click to vote
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 5.0/10 (2 votes cast)

Once in a while, a title comes along that is just intriguing enough to warrant a closer look, purely based on its concept. Anodyne 2: Return to Dust is one of those titles. A sequel to 2013’s Anodyne, this game from Analgesic Productions promises old school gameplay from the PS1/N64 era combined with 2D dungeons that attempt to emulate the old school Zelda titles. Add an interesting story that explores philosophical themes and unique aesthetics and you’ve got a very ambitious package. Does Anodyne 2 deliver or did Analgesic Productions bite off more than they could chew?

Story

The game opens with a title card that explains that you don’t need to play the original Anodyne from 2013 to fully enjoy Anodyne 2. While we can’t fault the developer for clarifying this to any newcomers, it does feel like a bit of an odd choice to have this message appear as a part of the game’s opening scenes. After this message, we are introduced to two characters, Palisade and C. Psalmist. These characters serve as the de facto parents of Nova, as well as the game’s narrators. Nova is Anodyne 2’s protagonist character, and she has been purposefully created by Palisade and C. Psalmist in order to rid the world of the substance known as Dust, which is corrupting the inhabitants. Through this setup, Anodyne 2 takes the classic creation myth and explores it, with the game not afraid to tackle philosophical themes and explore ideas about one’s place in the universe.

The writing is definitely one of Anodyne 2’s highlights. Palisade and C. Psalmist take the lead here, and both are completely different characters but are endearing in their own way. Nova herself is a bit of a blank canvas, with the game starting right when she is created, and she serves as somewhat of a vessel for the player to insert themselves into the world. A lot of the game’s excellent writing comes from the way Nova interacts with the creatures she encounters on her journey as well. We won’t delve into spoiler territory here, but as you progress through the game, Nova’s clear-cut path of being a Nano Cleaner tasked with ridding the world of Dust shifts into a grey area and successfully makes the player question their choices made in the game’s early stages.

Graphics

Anodyne 2’s meshing of two distinct graphical styles is exemplary of the way the game blends two gameplay styles together. You could put screenshots from either style next to one another and you could fool most people into thinking these are completely separate games. Of the two styles, the top-down pixel art style is perhaps the most appealing. Here bright colors and beautiful sprite work are the norm. While Anodyne 2 attempts to capture the spirit of the N64 era with its overall concept, the graphics in these top-down segments emulate the style of the Nintendo DS more than that of the N64’s generational counterpart, the Game Boy Color. The N64 spirit is very much present in the overworld setting, however, which comprises a semi-open world environment with more subdued colors and deliberately low poly models that accurately reflect the aesthetics seen in the late ’90s.

Because of the game’s reliance on old-school visuals, the graphics don’t push the Switch to its limits, resulting in a more than satisfactory performance with a stable frame rate. From a design point of view, the various characters Nova encounters range from cute to outright weird. Anodyne 2’s world is visually distinctive and unlike most games we’ve ever played, at times feeling a bit trippy.

Sound

For fans of old-school RPGs, there is a lot to love about Anodyne 2’s soundtrack. The music is clearly influenced by classic titles of the ’90s, albeit with a bit of a spin put on them. It’s hard to describe without hearing them but although the music sounds familiar, there is also an element here that makes the OST unique. The music feels somewhat otherworldly, which emphasizes the theme of the game. There is an enormous variety present here, with some of the music offering catchy beats and other tracks feeling almost like a piece of religious music. You can give composer Sean Han Tani’s original soundtrack a listen over on Analgesic Productions’ YouTube page so you can experience it for yourself before you dive into the actual game. The game features no voice acting and the sound effects don’t really stand out, with the game’s music being the only audio highlight, albeit a really interesting one.

Gameplay

As we mentioned in the graphics part of the review, Anodyne 2 blends two very different genres to deliver an experience that is difficult to explain to the fullest extent. Players step into the shoes of Nova, a purposely created Nano Cleaner, whose task it is to rid the inhabitants of the world of Dust, a substance that corrupts them. In order to do so, Nova is able to shrink down to a microscopic level and enter the Dust-corrupted creatures. Once inside, the game shifts from a low-poly 3D perspective to a top-down 2D view, and Nova must solve dungeon-like puzzles, clearing enemy Dust particles.

It is in these 2D dungeons that the game really shines. Each one is a delight to solve, with some requiring some real thought to figure out. The game never holds your hand here either, and it’s up to you to figure out how everything works. This can lead to some confusion in the early stages of the game as you attempt to figure out which of the creatures that inhabit the dungeons are enemies and which ones are friendly, and how to beat them. Defeating enemies involves vacuum mechanics. You’ll need to either suck up objects and blast them at enemies, or suck up enemies and shoot them, preferably hitting other enemies on their way out. As you progress through the dungeons, you’ll run into boss-battles as well. Developer Analgesic Productions openly said that Anodyne 2 was inspired by Zelda titles and these dungeon segments do feel like old school Zelda titles gameplay wise.

Contrasting with the 2D dungeons is the 3D overworld. Here, Nova is free to roam around as she seeks out creatures that are infected by Dust. Unfortunately, the 3D overworld is where the game falls flat. Not only does the world itself feel very empty, but navigating the various levels feels tedious. A fast travel option is conspicuously absent and although the world isn’t overly large, having this option would be tremendously helpful, if only to avoid having to use the elevator, which is incredibly slow and tedious. It’s a bit of a shame that the 3D overworld sections of the game are such a letdown given the rest of the game’s overall quality, and the game would’ve easily scored higher had these been tackled just a tad better.

Conclusion

Anodyne 2 explores interesting themes and blends them with unique aesthetics and fun gameplay, when it comes to its 2D sections at least. Gameplay falls flat in the 3D sections of the game, becoming slow and tedious and with an empty overworld. These sections probably could have used some more time in the oven. Thankfully, everything else is good enough to give Anodyne 2 our recommendation, especially if you’re looking for a title that successfully manages to make you think about one’s place in the universe.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 5.0/10 (2 votes cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: -1 (from 1 vote)
Anodyne 2: Return to Dust (Switch) - Review, 5.0 out of 10 based on 2 ratings
SebastiaanRaats


No Comments

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.