Indie Spotlight — Noitu Love 2

9 May

By Nick Halme

Simple and deep, that’s how I would describe Noitu Love 2 – a glorious combination of Metal Slug and Devil May Cry. You don’t need to understand the screwball story and you don’t have to have played the first Noitu Love, all you need is twenty dollars, a mouse and keyboard, and some dexterous hands. Twenty dollars, you say, that’s preposterous for a 2D sidescroller in 2008! Well consider this: what used to take a team of game developers has been produced by one person by the name of Joakim Sandberg. If you have a soul, you will try the demo – if your soul is not blackened and seething, you will plop down twenty bucks for this gem.

So how does it play? The first character you can play as, Xoda, is fast – you move with WASD and normal attacks are done with left mouse clicks, while the UP attack (a spin) and the LEFT/RIGHT attacks (dashes) are performed directionally by holding down the right mouse button and dragging in that direction. Alternatively (and more comfortably) you can double tap your movement keys in order to perform the UP and LEFT/RIGHT attacks — holding S will cause Xoda to duck. Using right click you can deploy a small circular shield that will block certain attacks (chiefly fire) for a small amount of time; so for instance if any enemy is breathing fire at you, right click in front of him to quench it with the shield. There is also a charge attack that requires the left mouse button to be held down for a few seconds – but I didn’t use it at all — the game’s quick pace means that standing still will often expose you to getting hit.

What makes Xoda special is that she can ‘pull’ herself towards any enemy that is left-clicked – this makes her a lot faster at chewing through enemies than the second character. I’ll avoid naming the second character, which is unlocked at the end of the game, because it will ruin part of the story – but if Xoda leans towards being more Devil May Cry-ish, then the second character is decidedly Metal Slug…ish. The game uses a combo system (string together kills for a higher multiplier) which Xoda is excellent at extending by zipping around and air juggling, but this character is all about shooting. There are actual difficulty settings, but character two is very much ‘hard mode’ – no longer can you zip towards enemies, now you’re much more grounded.

But where Noitu Love 2 really shines is its character. Even though it looks like it could have been a very good looking SNES game, it has its own definitive art style and narrative spirit. It’s refreshing to see an indie game that not only hasn’t gone overboard on being ‘innovative’ and created something extremely abstract, but that it succeeds in being evolutionary in the 2D sidescroller genre while maintaining a quality art style and theme. This is a polished game, and that’s impressive; doubly so because it was created by one person.

I can’t end this without mentioning the bosses though – Sandberg has noted that he loves to create bosses, and you can really tell. Bosses don’t just mark the end of stages, they’re just about everywhere and they provide for an excellent sustained pace. As if the game’s quality and sturdy mechanics weren’t enough, the bosses don’t provide your traditional boss battles either and have clearly, at least in my mind, evolved from games like Metal Slug. The first ‘boss’ is even reminiscent of a Metal Slug 3 encounter. The schtick is that Joakim used a different methodology than is the norm – what constitutes a boss is not simply more health, stronger attacks, or phases, but in special attack patterns and environmental elements.

One of my favourite boss battles was against an enemy singing at the opera, with me on a giant piano keyboard – for the first phase he randomized between three different attacks and moved to one side of the stage in the background; it was my job to avoid that attack and zip over to the appropriate key for that side of the stage in order to mash him with a huge piano hammer. The boss was difficult at first, but after picking up his pattern he was dead meat, no harder than a swathe of normal enemies if done right. This means it’s very possible to defeat a boss with only a bit of health left – you’ll be sweating and hoping not to mess up because you know you have a chance at winning, as opposed to throwing in the towel and retrying.

The rest of the game follows suit accordingly; there are original environmental puzzles (my favourite involves ropes and guillotines) and interesting ramps in difficulty — interesting because they often involve rethinking how you use a certain mechanic (learning to use Xoda’s ‘pull’ towards enemies to make your way through gusts of wind that push you back). Sandberg also deserves credit for the impressive soundtrack, which is now part of my music list.

So give it a look, this game deserves it. And doesn’t it just seem to scream “Put me on the DS”?

 

 

 

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2 Responses to “Indie Spotlight — Noitu Love 2”

  1. Pawel July 18, 2008 at 6:44 pm #

    There are at least three things that should be mentioned:
    – the “piano boss” has four attacks in first phase – giant speaker, electric ropes, giant wheel, and swords;
    – the second character has different technique (you don’t have to be close to attack, this helps in “piano boss” phase 2 for example)
    – there’s also third character!

  2. nickhalme July 19, 2008 at 8:09 am #

    Looks like I’ll have to jump back in and see about finding the third character then 🙂

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