Tokyo 42 is many things. Not as many as 42 things, because that’d constitute too many things for one game to be. What it is on the surface is an isometric action game inspired by the likes of the original Grand Theft Auto and Syndicate, developed by SMAC Games and published by Frozen Synapse developers Mode 7. It’s not just Grand Theft Cyber-bike, though. It’s got bits of Hitman and Assassin’s Creed chucked in there too, with large crowds, disguises, different enemy factions, and rudimentary platforming.
There’s even some bullet hell, with vast flurries of projectiles all sweeping towards you from every possible direction if you alert a gaggle of nasty gang men to your presence. Tokyo 42 gives you all these different mechanics, as well as an arsenal of weapons to fire within a gorgeous futuristic city of bold colours and clean lines, and while it can feel a bit cluttered at times, you’ll get moments where all that chaos syncs up in satisfying ways.
It would be remiss of me not to touch on the PR shambles involving fictional developer Mark Folliwill and a fabricated, 30-year-old ZX Spectrum game called Tokyo 41. The manufactured controversy that came about to promote Tokyo 42’s release on PS4 is one of the first things many will think of when the game comes up. Whatever the case with how entertaining and/or concerning that debacle was, I feel like the game itself, despite a swathe of issues, should still be given the time of day. The difficulty can feel unfairly balanced at times, and the sound design (while suiting the clean aesthetic of the game) can make you feel a bit disconnected from the world, but Tokyo 42 tries to do some really interesting things, and succeeds at some of them.
The best thing about it, though, is a free multiplayer map called Bishops Itchington 42, released alongside the “Smaceshi’s Castles” DLC. It’s based on a little village in the Stratford-upon-Avon district of Warwickshire in England. There are red brick houses and disappointing gardens, it’s constantly raining, and there’s a pub called The Meatman’s Arms. This proves quite a challenge if you’re playing the Road Trip Pub Game, wherein the number of arms and legs possessed by the subject of a pub’s name gives you that many points. How many arms does a Meatman have? You’d assume two, but the pub in-game doesn’t have a sign with a picture of the Meatman on it, so there’s ambiguity.
Disclosure: Mode 7 was co-founded by Paul Kilduff-Taylor who paid me for some trans consultancy work on a Medium article about Mortal Kombat, marketing, and morality. Paul, email me about Meatman, I must know about the arms.