I didn’t think at my current age that I would play a game where my character wakes up, and the first thing my “parents” tell me to do is clean. That’s right, Anodyne 2: Return to Dust is an action-puzzle adventure with a focus on cleaning…but not the cleaning you would imagine. The original Anodyne is a pixel-art action-adventure game in the vein of the 2D Zelda series. On the other hand, the sequel blends various art styles and genres in a way that prevents it from being as easily described as the first. It still has elements from the first game. Still, Anodyne 2 also includes low-poly, low-resolution 3D open-world exploration reminiscent of playing through the first PlayStation’s roster of games. It is available on PC (Steam), PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Nintendo Switch, Xbox Series X, and Xbox One. Let’s take a look at its release on the Nintendo Switch.
Although this is stated at the beginning of the game, you do not have to play Anodyne to understand the sequel. It contains a new story with its own elements. In Anodyne 2, you play as a “Nano Cleaner” who can shrink down in size and go inside of the minds of people to cleanse them of a corrupting force known as “Dust.” Dust is essentially an accumulation within people that results in them performing “negative” behaviors. The accumulation of “Dust” can manifest as an affliction representing issues people face in reality or an inner conflict. The game’s strange nature and its narrative somehow drew me into wanting to learn more about each character and the world I explored.
Anodyne 2 uniquely mixes 2D and 3D elements that add to its peculiarity as an indie title. The 2D sections feature retro-style music and visual designs when you explore the mindscapes (dungeons). Meanwhile, the 3D sections contain the music and visual designs of a PlayStation 1 game. You also get the added-on element of a rhythm game as you explore different mindscapes. Even though Anodyne 2 swaps between 2D and 3D elements, I didn’t experience any framerate issues. I also did not come across any game-breaking or odd glitches throughout my gameplay of the Switch version. Loading screens can feel like a chore in some games, but these short loading screens appear after completing a short DDR-esque minigame. You also aren’t going back and forth between the 2D and 3D worlds often enough to sit through many loading screens. I did find the soundtrack and visuals to be more memorable. Anodyne 2 is a visually suggestive game that allowed my imagination to run wild as not one place looked or felt the same in 2D or 3D. I adored the pixel art sections in 2D that are reminiscent of the Atari and the PlayStation 1 aesthetic of the 3D worlds.
The music matches the worlds you explore in Anodyne 2. The 2D worlds are accompanied by 8-bit music reminiscent of RPGs from the 90s but in Anodyne 2’s style. The soundtrack has a distorted sound that fits the ethereal aesthetic of the game. Varying from upbeat melodies to melancholic tones, I never found myself disappointed with the music that accompanied my strange journey of cleansing the minds of the people I encountered.
The unique style of this game is covered even in the writing of the characters and plot. The mindscapes (dungeons) you enter are from different people with their own styles and problems. This expands into the split paths for the ending, which is completely up to the player based on the game’s ideas. I can’t say whether this fits into the game style or was a part of the puzzles in the game, but I found the map to be unreliable. Each place felt like a maze sometimes, but not as difficult as some of the puzzles you encounter in the Zelda series. Unfortunately, it took making the right guess to make my way through the dungeons because I couldn’t trust the map.
Although this title has plenty of options for accessibility, it’s difficult to recommend this game. It’s also difficult not to recommend this game. If you are looking for a unique game that cannot be compared with any other game titles, including the original of the “series,” Anodyne 2 might be right for you. I, personally, enjoyed my journey of the game, transforming from a 3D platformer to a 2D Zelda-esque puzzler with an adventure that puts clearing the subconscious at the forefront. A strange game that is enjoyable to play is worth looking at because it will stay with you for a while.