Nostalgia is a funny thing. Here I am with a solid gaming PC and PS5, but playing a game that looks like something that I might have played in 1997 on the original PlayStation. Anodyne 2: Return to Dust was originally released for PC in 2019, but is now available for PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch. I had an opportunity to check out the PS4 version, which took me back to the days of polygonal designs and 32-bits. Anodyne 2: Return to Dust is a weird adventure, but one that knows exactly what it’s trying to do as a hybrid 2D-3D adventure with a surprisingly emotional narrative.
Trying to describe Anodyne 2’s narrative would prove fruitless, as even after playing, I still have no real idea what’s going on. Your character, Nova, is essentially born into a world where dust has started to permeate everything, including the minds of the world’s inhabitants. Nova is tasked with cleaning up the dust thanks to her ability to shrink down to a microscopic size and enter these creatures’ minds, traveling through an intestines-like tunnel (which makes me slightly unsettled when I think about how exactly she enters someone’s body). At any rate, the story is incredibly abstract and grandiose, which are traits that generally turn me off in a story. Anodyne 2, however, avoids being artsy or overly provocative by just being weird enough to make me want to continue progressing through the story and experience more within the world.
And what a world it is. Anodyne 2’s visuals scream late-90s (with a soundtrack to match the vibe), resembling games like Final Fantasy VII (the original) and Resident Evil. In fact, there’s even a creature in the game that looks strikingly similar to the Lickers in Resident Evil 2. I think the game that Anodyne 2: Return to Dust most reminded me of, though, was Sonic Adventure. Everything from the street-level angles to the way that Nova moves while running in the open areas of the 3D world makes me feel like I’m back in Station Square controlling Sonic the Hedgehog – and that’s a good thing, as playing Sonic Adventure on the Sega Dreamcast is one of my fondest memories of that system.
The real-world levels can be fairly large, enough to be daunting to traverse on foot, despite Nova’s platforming abilities such as her double jump and slow fall. Thankfully, Nova eventually gains the ability to transform into an all-terrain vehicle allowing her to cover ground quickly.
Anodyne 2 doesn’t only feature 3D platforming though. Once Nova reaches her destination in someone’s mind, the game turns into a pixelated 2D affair with a top-down perspective that you would have found in 8-bit RPGs. Here, Nova uses a vacuum ability to suck up dust while solving puzzles and taking out enemies. The puzzles aren’t overly difficult, which is good since these sections are where you’ll be spending the majority of your time. I was a bit disappointed by this, however, as the weird real world was much more enjoyable to explore.
Anodyne 2: Return to Dust is a surreal experience, simply put. I think that it has the ability to make its players try and find the deeper meaning of the game, even if there’s not necessarily one to be found. One other nice thing about the game is that you don’t have to have played the first Anodyne to know what’s going on in Anodyne 2, this note coming directly from the developer. The game certainly doesn’t appeal to everyone, especially with its grandiose nature. But if you’re looking for a unique gaming experience this weekend, look no further than Anodyne 2: Return to Dust.
A PS4 copy of Anodyne 2: Return to Dust was provided to TheGamer for this review. Anodyne 2: Return to Dust is available now on PC, PS4, and Nintendo Switch.
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Sam has been writing for TheGamer since early 2018, earning the role as the Lead Features & Review Editor in 2019. The Denver, Colorado-native’s knack for writing has been a life-long endeavor. His time spent in corporate positions has helped shape the professional element of his creative writing passion and skills. Beyond writing, Sam is a lover of all things food and video games, which – especially on weekends – are generally mutually exclusive, as he streams his gameplay on Twitch (as well as TheGamer’s Facebook page) under the self-proclaimed, though well-deserved moniker of ChipotleSam. (Seriously…just ask him about his Chipotle burrito tattoo). You can find Sam on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook as @RealChipotleSam.
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