There used to be several flash games called Falling Sand. They weren’t true games, they were closer to toys but they were still a ton of fun. They were physics-based and usually simulated various powders, liquids and gases and their effects on each other. Wood would burn, water would put out fires but the heat would turn it to steam for example.
Noita takes that exact concept and makes an entire side-scrolling action game out of it. You play as a little witch traversing different biomes, most of which are underground. You cast spells with various randomly generated wands or ones that you customize yourself.
You pick up gold that can be spent in between stages on wands and new spells. If you die, you start from the beginning, but the levels layouts are mostly procedural. The real kicker is the aforementioned powder, liquid, and gas physics system. You can blow up most of the terrain and the physics of everything and how they interact to play a large role in the game-play.
The fact that you cast spells is slightly misleading. The overall feel is that of a twin-stick shooter rather than a magic game but in this context that isn’t a bad thing. As you explore you will encounter all manner of foes that need to be dispatched. You can and will blast them with a variety of projectiles, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
You refill your health in-between stages, but actually healing during a level is very rare. This gave me the impression that the intent of the game is to use the physics system to dispatch enemies safely. The fact that they drop double the amount of gold if killed in such a way reaffirms my stance.
I could jump down and shoot those creatures, or I could kick a boulder on their heads, ignite a pool of oil or spill toxic sludge on them. Reducing the risk to my own health, unless I accidentally catch myself in the shenanigans.
Both the player and the enemies can be affected by fire, oil, slime, water, and other substances and the effects can interact. It is almost always advantageous to be wet. It helps protect you from fire, one of the most common hazards. Furthermore jumping into a pool of water will wash away other substances that are affecting you.
Yet I learned the hard way that messing with electricity while wet is a no-no. As is firing a lightning spell while standing on a steel beam. There is a huge variety of enemies in the game and I was delighted to find they really differed in the way they behaved.
Foes also approach the spontaneous nature of the physics system intelligently. They will, for example, try to find a pool of water to wash themselves off in if they are poisoned or on fire.
In addition to spells, you can also carry flasks of water, lava, oil or magical liquids such as ones that will polymorph yourself and others into creatures. You can throw the flasks, breaking them and unleashing all their contents, or slowly spray them.
You can actually refill empty flasks or combine liquids within them. There are a lot of special interactions you can discover. I really can’t understate how much fun it is to have a physics and elemental system in action game form.
The interactions are chaotic but also strategical and there are a lot of little details that can catch you off guard. For example, smoke will gather on the ceiling from fires below, and you can actually suffocate in it as if you were underwater. It’s all brilliant.
Then you have the meta magic wand system. In between stages you can buy new wands or spells and it is here you can customize your wands. There is a ton of combinations you can cook up yourself. Different wands have different levels of fire rates, capacities, and mana. Some of them cast spells that you slot in the order you slot in them, others shuffle them.
Some spells modify projectiles, such as splitting them or giving them a fire trail. It is possible to come up with some truly wild combinations. You can also come up with ones that make it easy to wreck yourself upon firing them.
In between stages you also get a free perk that can be as simple as more health, to a set of creepy tentacles. There is a good deal of strategy involved in your perk choice alongside the wand crafting.
You will go from planning and using the environment to screaming incoherently trying to dodge three billion projectiles while firing apocalyptic death from your wand. Losing that nuance of the powders and liquids harms Noita a great deal, it cant stand on its action gameplay alone.
I highly doubt this will remain the case as the game develops through early access. There is just to much love and effort concentrated in the simulated pixel system to let it fall to the wayside in later levels.
When you die in Noita, you start all over losing your spells and perks. This is pretty standard for rogue-likes and rogue-lites. However, you start with the same two wands and a flask of water. Since you start in the same biome, this can make the early game feel a bit samey which is problematic as it’s the early game that shines the brightest.
I sank so many hours into the old falling sand games, just messing around with the various elements, effects, and chain reactions. Back then I always wished to see a true game made from the concept and Noita delivers that.
Messing with these concepts in a fully formed game world with enemies is truly an absurd amount of fun and many of my deaths were outright hilarious because they were my own fault.
The customizable spell system is very deep and you are always excited to get a new perk. The game does lose its personality in later levels but even then it isn’t a bad game as you can test the culmination of your combined spell craft and perks.
However if Nolla Games can rectify Noitas shortcomings during its early access run, it will truly take the game to the next level. I myself will be watching closely with anticipation!
If you enjoy rogue-lites, consider checking out my review of Crown Trick
- Brilliant physics and liquid simulation that matter in combat.
- Deep Spell Customization
- A large variety of enemy types
- Flasks expand the liquid simulation a great deal
- Lots of hidden neat effects and interactions
- Different enemies have different behavior patterns and how they engage with the world
- Later levels can turn into bullet hell shooting
- Starting over with no variation can feel a bit samey
- The gold that enemies drop vanishes very quickly which can be frustrating