|System: PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Konjak||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Konjak||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Apr. 18, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: N/A||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Jason Lauritzen
Metal Slug, Gunstar Heroes, Viewtiful Joe - there's something truly satisfying about how those games combine 2D with non-stop action. Throwing 3D in the mix would almost take something away; the cramped quarters and constant push to the right of the screen keep the immediacy of play on the tip of your mind. By the end of the game you realize you haven't blinked in quite some time and your eyes are red - the sign of an exhausting (albeit an extremely fun) gaming session. If all the aforementioned titles could be thrown in a sizable pot, what would you end up with? You'd have in your hands one of the most impressive independent games to come along in some time. You'd have Noitu Love 2 - Devolution.
Developed by Konjak, which is a one-man development studio fronted by Joakim Sandberg, the numbering in the title might throw some gamers off. Yes, there was a previous Noitu Love game developed for the PC a while back (you can grab it for free over at konjak.org). It put you in the role of a superhero main character named Noitu Love, who battles a robot army led by Darnacus Damnation. This sequel retains the same bad guy (with a few new ones throw in), but swaps out Noitu Love for a new main character: Xoda Rap. And really, that's all there is to the story. But it's all that's really needed - you've got your motivation (defeat the evil robot army) and along you go.
You're able to forgive what little there is in the form of story because the overall gameplay is so fine-tuned. This may seem out of the ordinary for what seems like a standard action game, but let's talk about controls. The assumption would be that a standard control pad would be the perfect match or, perhaps as a fall back, simple arrow controls with the obligatory jump and attack buttons. Not here. The setup is more FPS inspired - a WASD keyboard and mouse combo may seem foreign, but it ends up being more responsive than any control pad would ever be.
Since we're talking two dimensions, A moves the character left; D, right; W allows you to jump; and S ducks. You can double tap on W, A or D to perform special attacks. This occupies your left hand and leaves your right free for mouse-specific actions. You left click to attack (you hold the button down to charge attack or grab and throw enemies) and right click to throw up an energy shield, which can block enemy attacks and stop pesky environmental obstacles (such as scorching fire vents). There is always a targeting reticule visible on the screen. Aiming with it and left clicking allows for context sensitive actions; you can grab onto hooks in a Bionic Commando-like style or simply click on enemies to zip across the screen and begin a beatdown. As you become more comfortable with the controls, you'll realize that by targeting enemies and jetting across the screen you can build massive air combos.
A proper control set means nothing if a 2D game isn't paired with inventive level design. But that's not a worry here. Each of the game's seven levels has its own unique theme (such as robot cowboys and Indians) bolstered by a set of interesting twists. One level has you stuck in an out-of-control elevator that rockets up, only to then barrel down the screen. This forces the main character onto the ceiling and floor, respectively, while still tossing an ample amount of enemies on the screen. Another gravity scenario has you jumping on arrow pads to change the pull of gravity in the room during a mini-boss fight. There's even an air combat level that plays a like a classic side scrolling shooter.