Tokyo 42 is a game that wears its inspirations on its sleeve. The art direction is reminiscent of Monument Valley, while its open-world and interactions are derived from earlier Grand Theft Auto games, and its combat has a lot in common with Hotline Miami. However the end result is greater than the sum of its parts.
In Tokyo 42, you’re wanted for a murder you didn’t commit. To clear your name, you become an assassin and murder a huge number of people. Video game logic at its finest.
Nonetheless, the irony does little to take away from the gameplay. Tokyo 42’s core loop has you traipsing across a densely layered isometric cityscape replete with neon hues, and civilians going about their routine. You’ll pick out targets assigned to you, kill them, and then proceed to a specified location on the map to complete a mission.
Regardless of your play style, you’re treated to responsive controls and a reactive world that strikes back as hard as you hit it. With weapons ranging from silent kill katanas, to noisy rocket launchers, how you deal with a mission is entirely up to you.
Fire fights evolve into intricate ballets of bullet hell madness akin to R-Type, or Ikaruga, and death is usually instant, with a single hit being enough to have you starting a mission again. Thanks to a wealth of checkpoints disguised as coffee vending machines, you’re never too far from where you left off.
While trying to complete an objective with outright violence rewards agile reflexes, playing Tokyo 42 stealthily demands patience. You’ll learn enemy patterns, how to avoid them, and tip-toe behind your target to land a killing blow. Get spotted by a foe? Just change your skin with the tap of a button, and move to another location.
It sounds simple enough, particularly when you consider that other titles such as Hitman and Dishonored have a similar premise. In fact, it should be downright boring - but it’s not.
The art style may be akin to Monument Valley, but the sheer burst of colours give this interpretation of Tokyo a look of its own. Taking down targets is similar to Hotline Miami, and it never feels frustrating thanks to the game giving you ample opportunities to complete a mission in stealth or guns blazing, while its music has a calming impact on the proceedings. So much so that despite dying multiple times, we never felt anything close to rage. Quite the opposite really, wherein starting where we left off was refreshing, rather than the mental toll other isometric action titles with a high difficulty tend to be.
Throw in pun-laden dialogue and references to the likes of Die Hard, and Blade Runner, and Tokyo 42 is an entertaining romp. The single-player campaign clocks in at five hours, and there’s multiplayer to look forward to as well. This ends up being an elaborate game of cat and mouse, having players build up their arsenal before being spotted by others - throw in the Trackacat - a recon robot trained to sniff out assassins - and you have just the right amount of depth to it across five different maps ranging from crowded marketplaces to open-air surroundings.
It’s hard to believe that Tokyo 42 is the debut title from developer SMAC as its an extremely polished and enjoyable. At $20 on Steam and Xbox Live (approximately Rs. 1,290), it’s well worth a purchase.
Rating (out of 10): 9
We played a review copy of Tokyo 42 on PC. The game is available on the PC and Xbox One for $20 (around Rs. 1,290). It will be available on the PS4 in July.