Although you can't seem to walk down the street these days without tripping over a retro-revival of some sort, it's refreshing to see a game that harkens back to play styles you thought were gone or, as is probably more likely, you just simply forgot about. Noitu Love: Devolution feels like a love letter to the likes of Gunstar Heroes, Metal Slug or Contra; yet it's also a romance as per the vision of developer Konjak. While it feels like those familiar arcade romps of yore, then, this game is also decidedly its own thing; it's all the better for it.
Noitu Love: Devolution is actually a sequel, but its connections are explained in the introductory cinematic and, as you'll soon discover, it's all inconsequential in the end. What you need to know is that some smiley robots that go by the name of the Darns have returned, and it's up to a Peacekeeper named Xoda Rap to figure out why they've returned, what they are up to and how they're muddling with time lines. It's all a mcguffin that gives the developer a reason to throw the player into disparate stage themes like western areas or feudal Japanese inspired locales, and quickly forgotten once you get to the real meat of the game – the unabashed rollercoaster ride that is the gameplay.
Rather than relying on gunplay like its obvious inspirations, Noitu Love: Devolution's Xoda Rap is more of a melee girl. You're constantly rushing (or being pushed) forward, and you string together combos by dashing between enemies at a good clip. What makes it interesting is that rather than aiming with an analogue stick or pushing buttons to attack, it's all done via a reticule that appears on screen - you aim with either a stylus on the GamePad touchscreen or with the Wii Remote pointer and TV.
As you move and jump around with the left stick, all the other actions are controlled via motion or touch. If you can find a comfortable position to hold the GamePad in your lap the stylus option works well, though the game feels much more intuitive with the Wii Remote and Nunchuk combo. There's also an interesting shield you can use to help waylay shots or fire spigots, special moves that help clear the area around you and the ability to grapple hooks; these extra abilities all get used regularly as the game throws you into crazier and crazier situations.
While it won't remind you of its sources of inspiration through its control scheme, Noitu Love: Devolution's flow is straight out of a 16-bit Treasure game. Through its seven levels of pandemonium you'll be briskly trotting along, attacking Darns in huge swaths as they attempt to stop your momentum. The game also includes a bevy of mini-bosses as well as screen filling regular bosses that constantly toss up your strategies in order to bypass their defenses. The screen is constantly filled with explosions, flying debris and a barrage of smiling robots that fill your heart with excitement and joy in equal measures.
Not content with resting on its laurels, each stage is not only a change in scenery, but in its expectations of the player. You'll find something new and exhilarating around every corner, whether it's a sudden boss battle while riding a waterwheel down a steep river, a level inspired by shmups or a grinding gauntlet as you ride an elevator. If you're just looking to go from point A to point B, the game's over quickly; yet anybody with the mindset of beating high scores will find various difficulty levels and unlockable characters to whet their appetite.
Noitu Love: Devolution certainly appears to be a labour of love. It's the type of game that straddles the line between being an homage to a throwback era and reinventing the wheel with its unique pointer driven control scheme. Although originally meant for a PC audience, the transition to Wii U feels natural. The touchscreen method, while interesting, isn't as ideal as an old fashioned Wii Remote pointer. Regardless, Noitu Love: Devolution is definitely worth your time, although your time may be limited to the comfort of the control scheme you choose.