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Can't Stop Playing: Noita

Die and retry

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Noita might have come from an alternate universe: one in which we harnessed the forward progress of computer power not to render 3D polygons and open worlds, but to apply greater degrees of simulation to the pixels of a Lemmings or Worms-style 2D world. It’s a roguelike in which ‘every pixel is simulated’, which in reality means that wood burns one pixel at a time, rivers of lava and slime re-route as you blast away the ground beneath them, and enemies spray the level with their toxic innards like they’re a waterbed stuck with a fork.

It’s a game in which you might get buried under a sticky, pink ooze, until you suffocate. Much as we are all being suffocated all the time by the foamy gush of new games. Can’t Stop Playing is our monthly attempt to pick out one particularly interesting game among the flotsam and raise it above the others, and this month it’s Noita.

‘Can’t Stop Playing’ feels particularly apt a title this month, given the many late nights I’ve experienced since beginning to play. I boot it up each evening with the intention of doing just a run or two before bed, but then I try one more, and then oh go on I’ll do another, and so on. Noita is a roguelike and that means each death resets all your progress, but it’s also a game that hands you wild and interesting toys with speed and regularity. These come in two forms.

The first are wands, which are your weapons. These have stats which dictate their power, recharge rate, spell slots and so on. You start with two, find more on each level, and can buy new ones in interstitial areas between sections of the caves you’re descending through. You can also customise the selection of spells each wand fires, moving them around or entirely throwing them away if you find something better. In one minute you might be firing a pitiful, slow-moving laser bolt at an enemy, in the next you might be clearing entire species by summoning world-wrecking floods.

The second are traits, of which you select one during those same interstitial areas. These can be simple stats boosts, making you immune to fire or making health pickups more generous. They can also be game defining. On one life last night, I picked up the ‘teleportitus’ trait, which causes you to teleport away whenever you take damage. That sounded useful, til I got covered in toxic slime. Toxic slime causes a small amount of damage to your character every 3 or 4 seconds, until you can reach another fluid to wash it off. It’s hard to jump in a pond when you teleport to a completely new location before even your feet can get wet.

I keep coming back because Noita continues to tantalise with fleeting offers of power. What does the “vampirism” trait do, exactly, and would it benefit me? What are the strange scrolls you can pick up and how do you use them? I might only get a few minutes to experience each new gift before I succumb to a similarly new injury, but within minutes I’ll be in a new life, and in possession of something just as exciting and just as deadly.

Which is maybe why most of our coverage so far focuses on death. Astrid’s video above shows six of the wild ways you can die in the game, and Matt has written about five lessons he learned from deaths in Noita. Alice Bee spoke to the developers about how they made all this chaos fun back at GDC, and Alec charted his own journeys with a pre-release build in March. We’ll have more to say about the game across the month.

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Graham Smith

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