Anodyne 2: Return to Dust

When you first set out in the world of New Theland it takes some time to get your bearings. The striking visual style combined with the seemingly obtuse character designs feel like some kind of fever dream. However, once you start to develop an understanding of the strange world and experience some of its events, Anodyne 2: Return to Dust come together for a truly memorable adventure.

Nova is a nano cleaner. She has been tasked by The Center, the creator of all, to cleanse the world of dust. Dust is infectious and the cause of harm and destruction. You are given the ability to transform some of the dust to cards, which in turn, give The Center means to expand. So you set off, brand new to the world, to fulfil your purpose. Dust is tiny, but luckily you are able to shrink yourself down and clean the infected from inside.

Anodyne 2

It takes some time to get acclimatised to the landscapes, towns, ways and personnel of New Theland. It's so alien when first exploring that it was somewhat daunting. However, after a couple of hours you begin to become accustomed to the logic of the world and start to build connections with the characters and landscapes.

After the initial tutorial area the game opens up and you are free to explore. For some reason, Nova is able to transform herself into a vehicle which removes any chore from traversing the environments. The first purpose of exploring is determining which objects are ones you can interact with and the basic laws of the world. There are a host of interesting and varied characters to speak to.

Take one of the inhabitants, Geof Agricite. You find them at the bottom of a pit, deep in their troubles. They are infected. Once you've sparked a connection and have shrunk down – the game resembles the first Anodyne in these sections – there is a series of rooms with light problem solving and enemies to fight. The need to fight enemies is usually only to reach a solution to a puzzle which is certainly preferable to killing for the hell of it.

Anodyne 2

Once you progress through the section with Geof, you learn about their experience and circumstance, their friends and family and how the dust has affected their lives. It is a touching vignette – one I wasn't expecting when I first came across the large being that is Geof – and the game is full of these. Hidden beneath the surface of the world are numerous small and personal tales.

I wasn't expecting an emotional connection to this game but there are some absolute sucker-punch moments. The first such moment occurred a few hours in. The game was enjoyable leading to this moment but I thought it more of a focused puzzle-solving adventure more than anything else. This considerably different, linear section knocked me for six and helped me see the game in a new light.

The puzzle solving aspect is logical, not too difficult but challenging enough to be satisfying. I only really got stuck on one section, and the issue there was a 'can't see the wood for the trees' moment on my part and not a reflection on the game.

Anodyne 2

The level of depth here frequently surprised me. There were sections that I was not anticipating that almost felt like their own thing. There are some 'director commentary' pop-ups that you can unlock; one in particular discussing the misdirection of having a substantial amount of content accessible by something fairly small and minor. This is how I felt about a lot of this game. As soon as I thought I had the format of the game worked out, something new would happen.

The question of blind faith doesn't come up in many games that I can think of, and I certainly didn't expect it to be brought up in Anodyne 2. The characters have moral wrangles and difficulties coming to terms with the rules of their own existence. The contradicting lifestyles to the laws of The Center that Nova encounters on her adventures blur the lines of right and wrong.

Anodyne 2: Return to Dust is bizarre and beautiful. The stories of all the inhabitants you encounter will linger and well as varied areas you visit. Above all, the story of Nova and her struggles will be what I remember the most.

And if you don't think any of the above is strange enough, there's one section where you participate in a choreographed wrestling fight.


In Short

  • + Striking PS1-style visuals but the feel of a modern game
    + Variety of gameplay styles keeps things fresh
    + Wonderful music throughout
    + The stories of the characters are satisfying to experience
    + Nova's personal narrative is a highlight


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