Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
Having constantly seen the original come up in listings and been wanting to sit down to it, I was happy to find out that Anodyne 2: Return to Dust didn’t need any prior knowledge before jumping into it. Mixing multiple genres both visually and mechanically in a puzzle based experience, this retro inspired tale was definitely an interesting one.
For a lot of people there’s a make or break point in any title that they sit down to. Having made my way several hours in (as I figured out where to go and what I needed to get there) I had started to wonder if Anodyne 2 was going to give me anything more than it had been giving me as while interesting conceptually, I was getting bored. Up until this point our main character and protagonist Nova would literally dive into a person, remove a dust crystal, collect a card, and rinse and repeat. There was a little bit of dialogue but it was always one-sided with people talking to Nova, and while I am no stranger to a silent protagonist, as it has to be done well, it just felt empty.
Cue several rounds of card and dust collecting later and Nova is placed in a situation where people can’t “do the thinking” for her and she finally finds out that she actually has a voice. She has feelings that she’s attempting to come to terms with. She’s something real and not just an on screen avatar for you to interact with the world. Now, there was life infused to the overall experience and the rinse and repeat action didn’t feel quite so empty anymore. I really wish that this point had come long before it did because Anodyne 2 is a great experience and some people may fall off before this point without ever knowing the actual depth that it holds.
Traveling the overworld in a PS1 3D-esque era in order to cleanse beings from the dust accumulating inside of their bodies, Nova will have to shrink down to microscopic sizes to enter their bodies. Once shrunk down to these microscopic sizes the PS1 graphics get changed for that classic top-down 16-bit era Legend of Zelda Link – A Link to the Past style and for every being cleansed, Nova will receive a card. These cards, along with the dust collected, will be used to reinforce the central location’s containment unit that was previously damaged in order to re-protect everyone from the dust that had been doing them harm.
What I enjoyed about the difference between the two presented visual styles is that it gives you an idea of the type of puzzle solving that would be laid out before you. In the PS1 graphics, you’ll be running, jumping, double jumping your way through a series of obstacles in order to find the paths forward. In the 16-bit era graphics you’ll be moving from map to map in a top-down style with a vacuum cleaner like weapon that can shoot out projectiles from whatever had been sucked up.
Now while in these dungeons and while the overall format is the same which is to get from point A to B in order to collect the dust shard and the resulting card, how you do so was switched up a bit. In the first four dungeons you had to fight your way through the puzzle solving and then face off against a boss. Once these are done in the world, I was shocked to find myself not having to face off against the boss in my first outer world dungeon. What surprised me a little more than this though is that some of the puzzles weren’t exactly puzzles but storytelling sessions. there were no enemies to fight there was just somebody who needed someone to listen and once you did the gates would open after they’d told their story.
Anodyne 2 really wasn’t afraid to break the mold that so often traps a title in a rinse and repeat cycle that feels so stuffy by the end. The only issue with the chosen format is that it takes so long before Nova becomes “Nova” and not just your on screen avatar with no voice and emotions. With that one thing passed, I found myself no longer on the edge of rinse and repeat boredom but instead sitting a bit more forward and wondering what would come next as the story had finally really started.