In a world where AAA open world games are upping up the ante in terms of looks, size and just about everything else, smaller indie developers, thanks to their smaller budgets have to rely more on creativity in creating their games. Since the creative range is fairly limited, it's always interesting to see in what ways will the smaller devs draw us into their worlds. I personally had more fun with some indie titles than some of the big-budget titles floating around just because of this fact. Indie games delivered something completely different or something familiar but wrapped in a different and creative package.
Why am I telling you this? Because Tokyo 42 is a prime example of a game done right. It takes a familiar genre with familiar mechanics but gives them a dose of its own unique charm that makes it one of the best indie games I played.
Tokyo 42 is available for purchase on Steam for $19.99.
The story of Tokyo 42 is one of charming nonsense. It is silly enough that it becomes funny, in a good way. It doesn't feel forced and it fully embraces its quirky nature. It starts off innocent enough, with you chillaxing in your apartment watching a TV show about cats or something. Suddenly there is a breaking news report about a murder in Tokyo. The first murder of the year 2042. First murder you ask? Well, in the futuristic world of Tokyo 42, all the citizens are using nano-meds which make everyone effectively immortal.
Since you are the apparent scapegoat for the said murder and are immediately chased by the police – you set out clear your name by finding out how the person got killed and who is the mystery assassin. How do you proceed about this? Well of course, by becoming an assassin yourself and going on a killing spree that puts the first murder to shame. It's funny that you spend the game trying to clear your name when by the end of it, you probably killed a small army of goons and did all sorts of criminal acts which are far worse than the kickoff event. The beginning of the story sets the tone for the remainder of the game as things remain generally funny and quirky throughout.
To help push the story along are the supporting cast of characters such as your rescuer and handler, Tycho and various elements of the criminal underworld who recognize your value as an assassin and give you further info on the mystery assassin. Everything is presented through dialogue boxes and most characters are fairly memorable and always have a funny whip, or cultural reference or two to say. I won't spoil the story much but suffice to say that it has a few surprises in store, some of which you will see from a mile away, and others not so much.
Tokyo 42 is an isometric open-world shooter and it plays as much as you would expect. You control your character using "WASD" from an isometric top-down perspective. The camera height is fixed but the position is not, and you can freely rotate it around the player character in fixed increments. That being said, not much else is what you would expect and every segment of the game, although seen in other games has a fun little spin that makes sense in the world of Tokyo 42 and let me tell you, this version of Tokyo is a sight to behold.
The map is larger than it initially seems. You can move freely and the missions make sure to take you to every corner of the map anyway. Scattered across it are a couple of important things – coffee machines which serve as an instant respawn point for when you die. Terminals where you choose which missions to undertake. Teleporters to swiftly transport to an area already visited. Charge pads that refill your power and flying ships that are essentially weapon and upgrade shops.
Your character can run, duck and jump like you are on the moon with no fall damage. The game generously calls jumping around buildings – parkour, and although reaching some areas requires a little creativity in plotting your way around the buildings, I would hardly call it parkour, but that's a minor gripe. When a character jumps, a line is projected below to signify where he will land which is a good system as precision would be quite the problem without it, considering the perspective.
There are a couple of ways to play the game. Missions are usually assassinations but there are other where you have to escape, reach a certain point, sneak, or make factions go to war with one another. Stealth plays a big role as you can duck down behind ledges and enemy view cones to avoid them or to sneak up on them for a quick melee kill. There is also the power to change your appearance. Pressing Ctrl randomly changes your character appearance and you can use this skill to hide from enemies once they spot you for another try at the mission target. They will search for you and will sport a yellow circle around them, signifying their suspicion zone. But for when things escalate, and very often they will, there are the weapons.
You summon up the GTA 5 carbon copy of a weapon selection wheel by pressing TAB.Much like jumping, aiming also projects a line which shows the bullet pattern. Different weapons have a different range, which is in reality bullet speed. So even though you can shoot an ordinary pistol across buildings, the enemy will probably move while the slow crawling bullet reaches him. Snipers mitigate this by firing high-speed rounds that will probably hit the mark if your aim is good, even at a great distance. There are also grenades, bazookas and other weapons of mass murdering.
Overall I found the gameplay portion to be highly entertaining and addictive. Thanks to the quick respawn it doesn't take long to go and try another approach and whether you try finishing missions in sneak mode or a straight shoot out, you will always have fun doing it, as everything you do exudes style thanks to the striking visuals. My only complaint would be that besides assassinations, there isn't a whole lot to do, so some people might be repelled by the lack of variety there. This is no top-down GTA despite taking some inspiration from it.
Once you finish the pretty short single player, you can jump over to the multiplayer side of things. What awaits there is a throwback to Assassin's Creed multiplayer where player start off in incognito mode and you have to spot suspicious behavior to discern other players and put an end to them. It's a blast to play and the isometric point of view only helps with making other players harder to spot if they play along and don't start shooting as soon as they spawn. There is also a dog helper to help sniff out other players so that matches don't drag if no one is making a move.
VISUALS AND AUDIO
Probably a big draw to the game are definitely the visuals. Tokyo 42 features a cuboid clean aesthetic and even though you can rotate the camera around I rarely had problems navigating thanks to the high contrast and colorful buildings that clearly differentiate where one starts and another one begins. As I said, the game is extremely stylish, clean and looks great. Indie game developers often have to bring plenty of creativity to differentiate themselves from similar titles and Tokyo 42 hits the mark across the board as Tokyo is crowded, filled with color, neon lights and one look at the screenshots is sure to attract your attention.
On the audio side of things, I must say I expected more. The visuals invoked plenty of nostalgia ranging from 8-bit games to Syndicate, Blade Runner and GTA but the music doesn't quite follow. What is here certainly fits the retro-futuristic tone but there were maybe 2 memorable tracks while others just blend into the background while playing and offer nothing special. Outside the music, there is little in the way of sound effects besides guns, explosions and slight cues for when you are spotted by an enemy. Voice acting is non-existent, since, as I mentioned, story and dialogue is presented through the use of dialogue boxes.
|+ Fun gameplay||– No memorable music|
|+ Freedom of approach||– Lack of variety|
|+ Quirky story||– Occasional glitches|
|+ Amazing visuals|