Published on October 10th, 2020 | by Paul Topkok
A Drunken Perspective on Noita (Review)
Alright kids let’s sit down rock a couple rounds of Noita! What’s Noita You ask? No, it’s not a new drinking game I’ve failed to master nor is it a harry potter magical what have you…well actually funny enough kind of is but none of that now, I’ll explain as we go on and stop asking so many questions, my patience only lasts as long as this glass of rum, which is short and devoid of ice. Noita comes to us from Nolla Games, a procedurally generated side scroller that focuses on looting gold and finding better weapons or in Noita’s case wands. Too my knowledge this is their first official title and hoo boy let me just say never have my jimmies been rustled in such an enticing way before.
Taking several giant steps back, when it comes to video games one of my favorite genres are side scrollers. Growing up with a Sega Genesis I couldn’t tell you how many hours I logged into streets of rage punching pixilated punks, speeding along Green Hills Zone as sonic, how many Death Adder’s I’ve smashed rocking Golden Axe or for a more modern crowd how many boss rushes I endured playing Cuphead as my sanity slowly melted into a gooey paste. Now’s a perfectly good time to also explain I’m a button mashing masochist. The harder the game, the stronger the struggle I am on that like white on rice in a snowstorm, which is why Noita is the Yin to my alcohol abusing yang.
Noita starts you off in the dark, no in depth tutorial, no overbearing fairy that stops to ask you to listen every five circle jerking seconds just a basic here are the controls you pastry eating ninny and nothing more. You start outside of a derelict mine. It doesn’t prompt you to go in, rather it’s just their legs open with a bored expression on its face not unlike an aging gigolo waiting for the deed to be done. To sate my curiosity I avoided the mine at first and ventured left. I found myself at the base of a giant gnarled tree and instantly had flashbacks to The Great Hollow from Dark Souls. Low and behold when I found the entrance I didn’t immediately die, I only lost seventy five percent of my health swimming up a cavern of water, finding a sheet of what was essentially the Necronomicon. Unable to escape or use the provided bomb spell to escape I met my fate, game over. I was sold faster than a discount espresso machine at Costco.
Never in my lifetime did I think I would find a game with lore more layered, sparse or hidden than Dark Souls. Well if ever there was an ass beating wakeup call Noita was it. Like a drunken step father on holiday Noita kicked down my door and rushed to my bedside perfectly happy to destroy whatever dreams I had. Throughout the game world there are twelve runic messages that, you, the player could find on a whim and decipher, and once again each of these runes are well hidden in places that can get many a novice killed. Once more all twelve messages are actually written in cipher that must be decoded. Avoiding spoilers for the would be lore hunter let it be known there is an overall story but it is up to an extremely determined player to hunt down its meaning. At a glance the story itself is rooted in Finnish folktale or so I have gleamed. The aforementioned title, Noita translates to Witch, see Harry Potter reference covered but it could be bunk here in a month given how fast Rowling likes to edit the lore of her narrative.
Noita doesn’t stop with its complex lore hunting, oh no that was merely the tip of a gigantic iceberg. From its advanced alchemy mechanic to the five essences, the dreaded worm rain and that’s not even covering the fact there are alternate dimensions in game… All of these things I’ve listed off exist in the over world for you to find and experiment with. For as simple of a game it comes off as there is something for the adventurous to find. If I could compare Noita to anything a Swiss Army pocket knife would be it, having all the utilities that you need at your disposal to the point of redundancy. Yet that’s not a complaint on my end rather star stricken awe and appreciation at how much attention to detail was put into this game.
Now more onto the gameplay, as stated simple enough a side scrolling adventure where the goal is gold and weapons. There are eight levels to descend with difficulty kicking up tenfold every layer you reach. At the end of one of the procedurally generated levels sits a portal to room called the Holy Mountain. A place where you can spend gold on shiny new toys, heal and grab perks that have various effects on you, the enemy or the over world and one would think reaching such a place would be a checkpoint. A place to start fresh and tackle the current level you are on and rethink your strategy and spells used… well you’d like to think that you toe eyed cabbage but you would be as wrong as most of the answers to my high school math problems.
The saving grace here you’re not being graded or in high school…or maybe you are I don’t know who’s reading this drunken swill. The point being, the moment you die it’s over, to quote Adam Sandler “You blew it!” You start back at the beginning, with nothing, no saved over items, no wands or gold. Just you the starting wand and a dream that you may make it farther than you did before. I have many thoughts on this process; it’s a mechanic that’s been used before, it’s an engaging way to get the hardcore gamer involved like how I am going to engage my fist into this monitor as I vent my frustrations at whoever thought up the fourth level of this hell-scape game.
My major complaint with this style of gameplay you very quickly lose interest in the game when you die early or have an epic run only to be met with that all too familiar game over screen. It takes away from a potentially badass game by forcing you to redo everything you have already done but now you are righteously pissed and out of patience for the oncoming bullshit that ensues. Its own difficulty curve works against what it wants the would be player to do, try again. Whenever I peek in this game only to die to being cornered or whatever random what have you I lose interest faster than Mario when he has to rescue Peach for the umpteenth time but does it anyway cause god willing Nintendo won’t let his franchise die and needs to pay the bills somehow.
Onto audio and the OST, how to tackle this? Harshly and swift of course, the weakest part of Noita for me was the music. Very few tracks stood out, the mood was there when needed but lacked that emotional pull I need audibly when I am knee deep in demon guts and need to hear how awesome the protagonist feels as he uses spells to banish evil doers to the shadow realm. It’s more of a nitpick if anything but you will quickly find out reader I am nittiest picker of them all and will nitpick as I do at my pleasure. That said the soundtrack has this near psychedelic feel that fits with the tone and feel of the game. So it does set a mood just not the one I felt but the one Noita needed. My personal favorite track being Daddy Long Legs Surprise, whenever it popped on I was grooving like it was the sixties and was for a brief amount of time Austin Powers.
Graphic wise this game is exactly my cup of Irish coffee, simple, straight and made me nostalgic for when I was a wee lad sitting in front of a CRT television. Pixelated, pretty and very much old school this could easily be mistaken for something on the Sega Genesis or super Nintendo. It’s a niche genre ala Shovel Knight and Terraria but hot damn it does what it sets out to do, make older gamers harken back to their early days. As a fan of this simplistic style I have no complaints.
Wrapping up this review I would very much recommend at least giving this game a try. From the visuals, the difficult gameplay, hidden lore and mechanics there is something for everyone. It will test you, break you and leave you with this odd satisfaction even if you don’t clear the game. Now if you’ll excuse me there is a wall I need to smash my head against until I clear this game or have a hernia from all the odd ways I contort my body in rage trying to do so. With that said I give Noita four glasses of rum out of five.