Tokyo 42 was announced a while ago now, and ever since it has been highly anticipated. The heavily inspired by Grand Theft Auto and Syndicate indie game, released on May 31 on PC and Xbox. From a new development team, SMAC Games, and published by another team, more than likely known for their work with Frozen Synapse/Cortex. Tokyo 42 is a little different to their other games. The top-down, highly stylized title didn’t come as a huge surprise for being a well polished title.
The game starts out with the main character doing as well all do, slouching in their chair watching his shows. When the broadcast gets interrupted by a news broadcast about a murderer on the run. It becomes clear a few moments later that you are in fact being framed for this murder and you are being sent on the run from a local gang, who wants your blood. I found it very hard to grow any sort of affinity towards any of the characters throughout the game, dialog between the characters is limited, which leaves little room for character relationships to develop.
The story is not the most fleshed out plot, and if you aren’t really bothered about any narrative, you really shouldn’t lose any sleep over skipping the story portion all together. The story is there purely for a backdrop for the carnage you are about to wreak on your targets.
The first thing that pops out to you about Tokyo 42 is the highly stylized, gorgeous graphics. Whilst the game’s world is also minimalistic, it still comes across as being an extremely detailed game. Each texture has been beautifully created to add extra depth to the world. Character models are again, minimalistic, but they are able to portray different emotions quite easily through some well thought out animation tricks. The world that the game is set in, is a bustling metropolis, and each area of the city has a different theme, as you often find in actual cities. There is plenty for the player to explore, whether it be finding hidden staircases, checking out a beautiful sky-high skyscraper, or the cool flying cars, there is always something of interest to look at.
Sadly the sound department of the game is more or less forgettable. The game does feature some rather tense electronic musical tracks, which speed up and slow down depending on the actions in game, but that’s about it. The sound effects that characters make as a replacement for actual voice acting can be a bit annoying at times though. An otherwise very highly polished production value product had the sound department feeling a little abandoned sadly.
A good way of describing Tokyo 42’s gameplay is a combination of the original GTAs, with a dash of Hotline Miami. You will be given objectives which usually require you to kill a target. How you kill those targets is almost always up to you, unless otherwise stated. You can either chose the all guns blazing route, or maybe you fancy yourself a bit of a stealth aficionado. At the start of the game you have very basic weapons, but within the first hour you are soon equipped with a multitude of different weapons, all for you to choose which is your favorite. The controls are fairly standard twin-stick shooter bindings. The game can be played with a controller, and I thought which would be my prefered choice as it usually is for twin-sticks, but it just felt very clunky and unresponsive when using a Xbox control. Upon switching to keyboard/mouse, I found I was able to navigate the game world, and target enemies much more easily. Maybe it was user error, but it felt much more natural on a keyboard and mouse.
The gameplay’s core mechanic is taking out enemies using your weapons, but a small element of parkour comes in when you are fleeing the scene of the crime after you’ve successfully taken out your target. I particularly enjoyed this part of the game as it can lead to some rather creative moments. After you turn a corner out of sight of your pursuers, you won’t go completely undetected, but that will be your last known location to the enemy. This gives the player the chance to escape further away, or use one of the game's other mechanics, changing your disguise. You can change your appearance on the fly a couple of times, this can lead to you essentially losing all previous attention brought onto you, letting you either escape freely, or return to the scene of the crime and mop up any left overs.
Whilst this is a mechanic which usually leads to a huge advantage to the player, it sometimes came across as a little odd, and showed off some of the flaws of the game’s AI. When turning a corner which obviously had a dead end, yet it left enemies baffled as to where I had gone.
The game as a whole will probably only take most players five to six hours to complete. With an assortment of optional and repeatable side missions available for you to also undertake if you wanted to flesh out that time a little further. You can replay almost any side mission more than once, but they won’t garner you any additional award for doing so.
Tokyo 42 may be a little tough for an entry level game for those new to the genre. You can only take one hit from a bullet before you die, and more often than not, even a veteran of the genre will die multiple times on any given mission before finally cracking the combination. This gameplay style reminded me heavily of Hotline Miami, especially with the quick restart mechanic also playing a huge part in the pick up and play feel the game has.
Tokyo 42 was a hugely enjoyable title. Whilst it may not be the longest game in the world, it did grip from beginning to end. The fast paced action orientated gameplay puts Tokyo 42 near the top of the pile in the twin-stick shooter genre. The lackluster story and sound department are the only things preventing it from being one of the best indie games to come out this year.