With a wry smile and referential humor, Tokyo 42-a sci-fi, isometric action game from indie developer Smac and publisher Mode 7 – borrows liberally from groundbreaking genre staples such as blade runner.
Almost all about Tokyo 42-from its vibrant minimalist look, synth soundtrack, whodunit story, elusive voiceless characters and futuristic setting-is a tribute to sci-fi greats. But it also makes its own mark with a visually colorful and tonally sinister near-future dystopia that is completely unique.
What appears to be a simple shooter with a cunning love of killing turns out to be a loose open world game. The problem is, unlike games like Hotline Miamithat guides you through its tight, precise levels at breakneck speed, Tokyo 42 let go. You are free to roam the world and free to admire the sights. It works because of the quality of the setting. But when it comes down to it to play the game, Tokyo 42 stumbles.
But that city, oh it’s brilliant. Dubbed “Micro Tokyo”, the world of Tokyo 42 feels ultra-crafted and purposefully deliberate, with a series of little secrets to be discovered, even down to subtle references that don’t give you meaningful new tools in the game, but embellish what’s a labor of love to the sci-fi genre. It’s a shame you weren’t able to zoom in on the small details, but instead looked down on the details that are clearly packed tightly on screen but the block color skyscrapers, sprite-filled streets and obscure and humorous landmarks all add an extra bit of flavor to the world. It very much establishes that Grand Theft Auto sense of world building, albeit on an indie scale.
structural, Tokyo 42 is even smarter, by taking advantage of the multiple camera angle point of view from games like Fez, in which players can change perspectives to see previously hidden parts of the isometric world. This allows hidden routes and secrets to be built into Micro Tokyo, opening up the gameplay possibilities significantly. A few taps on the shoulder button can reveal an essential path to your kill target – a flat tower quickly becomes an ascending assault track that you can maneuver up to your victim. Or you can just find a new costume. Or a quirky Easter egg. All are useful in Tokyo 42the crazy sci-fi world.
Like a game to sit and play instead of watching, Tokyo 42 isn’t that impressive. In fact, it’s a bit – and as someone who has been looking forward to the game, it pains me a lot to say this – disappointing. Tokyo 42 is never bad, but its inconsistent mechanics are never the kind of lake-like action game that excites the game and stimulates when it fails in the same way as other games. For every fun assassination mission where you have to take out a target with different weapons, there’s another one that frustrates you. Not to mention when you have to play a car chase where you have to constantly switch the camera to see where you’re going. It’s not pretty at all.
Tokyo 42 It’s not just about action though. There are stealth disguises to go unnoticed, but these are temporary powerups that need to be recharged at certain points on the map. Coupled with some rough controls, Tokyo 42 can be punishingly difficult, leading to quite a bit of teeth grinding as you plow through the 25 story missions and several dozen side objectives. They all follow a similar theme – murder – but there are subtle variations that, like the chase, are even rougher around the edges.
Tokyo 42 misses the punchy to feel of battles that would make the controlled slaughter more enjoyable and perhaps even outweigh its mechanical imperfections. Instead, combat is weightless and, in the case of melee combat, imprecise. You could get a great shot with a sniper rifle, but I rarely felt like I had dealt the deadly blow well; in a game where you mainly sneak around with dudes with katanas, or pump rounds at it with shotguns, machine guns and those aforementioned hefty sniper rifles, the limp combat fails to create a feedback loop more than enough for such repeated to play.