Given a quick glance, this adventure could pass for just another entry in the increasingly popular roguelike genre. Like many other games, Noita features randomly generated levels and punishing deaths that rob you of your progress. But if you go a bit deeper into its cavernous underground, you’ll find it layers a few fresh ideas into that familiar formula. For starters, all those pixels producing Noita’s artful, retro presentation aren’t merely there to make the game look pretty. Every last one of the vibrant dots carries physical properties, meaning they can be dynamically interacted with to help or hurt you. Shoot a fireball at a seemingly static wall, for example, and the projectile could spread until the entire screen’s consumed in flames.
Toss in the ability to collect different wands -- then upgrade and outfit them with a variety of spells -- and interacting with the world and its inhabitants becomes an endless exercise in discovery. Mastering the best combinations by understanding how they interact with whatever object, obstacle, or enemy they touch is key to progressing further, ensuring each dungeon run is better than the last. When everything clicks, this loop can be very satisfying, compelling you to press on and suss out how to blast through the next set of challenges. Just as often, though, especially when you’re learning the ropes, it feels like an exhausting run on the trial-and-error treadmill. Deaths are swift and frequent and, worse, often confusing. You’ll regularly meet your demise with little knowledge of what killed you or how to avoid the same fate on your next run. Noita essentially drops the player into its world and asks them to figure everything out for themselves. While this is intentional -- which makes it more appealing to seasoned fans of these games -- it presents a steep learning curve for nearly everyone else. If you've got the patience and count yourself among the niche audience the game's aimed at, you're in for a treat.