Indie games come in all shapes and sizes. Some try to ape the AAA successes or indie darlings, while others strive to be more original. Tokyo 42 hass been on my radar for quite a while now, mostly thanks to its bizarre visual style, mixed with the setting of a futuristic Tokyo where assassins roam free.
The game begins with your character finding out that he’s been framed for the first murder of 2042, with his TV showing a live feed of his bedroom. Barely escaping with his life, you are encouraged to take on a mercenary for hire persona in order to find out who framed you for the murder – which is a big deal in 2042 because a medical company knows how to revive dead people with a single pill.
I love the premise, but the game doesn’t really go the whole hog with it and the plot soon becomes easy to unravel. I’d personally wish it had gone in a different direction with the twists and turns towards the end, but for a short main campaign it’s somewhat forgivable.
Tokyo 42’s aesthetic is not only pleasing to look at with its minimalist undertones, but is also accompanied with a soundtrack that is equal parts serene and tense. It screams of “the future” as a result, reminding me a little of other works within the same dystopian setting. Crudely pixelated faces give NPCs you talk to more personality beyond their simple avatars, but little else. It looks basic, and yet in keeping a certain design vision.
Similarities between Tokyo 42, and both Syndicate and Grand Theft Auto don’t just end with the zoomed out top-down visuals. You’re free to interact with the world as you please, rotating the camera to get a better view of the terrain that is like an optical illusion created by MC Escher. You won’t be stealing many cars though, as the bike is the only vehicle and is incidental enough to excuse the fact it handles like a tank on an ice rink.
Missions are given to you by either talking to someone or accepting them through a terminal and while some just require you to complete them, others have ranks depending on your play style. A Ronin rank essentially means you went in guns-blazing, while Ninja relies on you remaining unseen. Checkpoints are scattered throughout in the form of vending machines. Weirdly, I found it easier to Ninja my way through most missions.
Though you have plenty of guns available, the amount of enemies to fight at once when the game kicks into high gear is surprisingly difficult. Thankfully you can enter a focused mode that lets you aim at specific locations and see the arc of a thrown grenade. It did take some getting used to the controls and with the amount of enemies in certain areas I opted to sneak my way through instead.
Sneaking around is significantly easier to grasp as the main things to remember are that you shouldn’t approach enemies head on and that if all hell breaks loose, so long as you have charge, you can change your appearance if the enemy can’t currently see you. This provides you with valuable seconds to make your getaway.
At times you’ll get an indication saying that a Nemesis has spawned. They’re usually incognito and require you to sniff them out and kill them for a small monetary imbursement. You do obtain a tool for such an occasion called the “TrackaCat”, a little cat who upon activation will walk up to the NPC and blow their cover as your nemesis. When there’s a lot of people milling around, having a tool like this is a godsend.
Side missions are plentiful in Tokyo 42, asking the player to perform a range of tasks including killing targets, delivering packages by running the optimal route, and even riding a motorbike. There are also plenty of unlockables for your trench coat colour, the colour of your cat, and weapon skins, as well as a bunch of locked doors that require buttons to be pressed or shot in the correct sequence to permanently open.
On the whole the game is quite balanced, though as mentioned before it did seem easier to sneak my way around than go in firing all cylinders. Near the end however, some issues do seem to be amplified as the over-reliance on waves of enemies comes to the fore, though it normally isn’t too overwhelming with the spread of checkpoints. That said, I did hit a major brick wall with the final mission that introduces a few new things to give the game an unwelcome difficulty spike. You’ll see what I mean when you get there.
Tokyo 42 also includes a multiplayer mode that pits players against each other in five very compact maps, seeking weapons to kill your foes. You have access to all the tools from the single player: TrackaCat to find your foes, the binoculars to track them, and the skin changer which will erase any tracks on your tail. Sadly I was unable to get a game going as nobody seems to be playing online pre-release, however with enough player interest this would be a fun evening of gaming at least.
As far as debut projects go, Tokyo 42 is a great game with a fascinating sense of style and a confident swagger, let down by a handful of little things. Controlling how to shoot takes some getting used to and that sharp increase in difficulty was unwelcome to say the least, yet I had a fantastic time sneaking around and assassinating targets however I wished. A great effort.
Version Tested: PC