As glowing green fireballs cascade around me, arcing lightning and setting monsters, gunpowder, and wooden structures ablaze, I realize that, yet again, I am about to die in Noita. Shortly after, I blow myself to smithereens with an ill-placed explosive that lands near some highly flammable substances.
Death in Noita is often brutish, quick, and frankly hilarious.
A game where “every pixel is simulated” and powered by the aptly named Falling Everything Engine, Noita looks on the outset just like another retro-styled pixel art roguelike. Once things set in motion, however, you realize that every one of those pixels is assigned a material type, each with its own distinguishing behaviors — flammable, or explosive, or heavy, or poisonous, and so on. As you progress through these simulated caverns, you’ll find an ever-changing collection of wands, each with their own attributes and quirks, whether it’s a wand that farts out globs of green goop, or a machine-gun style bringer of magical death.
Thus, each randomly-generated playthrough becomes a new fatalist exploration into a pixel art sand castle, sure to end in yet another ruined wizard’s cloak. No matter how far you get exploring the dank, dangerous caverns in Noita, there’s always this sense that your playthrough is futile. You’re going to die. And that’s okay.
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Roguelikes can often feel crushing in defeat, giving the sensation that your work has been wasted and that had you been just a bit better, you’d still be playing. But Noita is so heavily predicated on random number generation (RNG) that every time you fire the game up, it’s hard to get mad about the world killing you in any number of unexpected ways. When it happens, there’s not much you can do but sit back, laugh at your miserable attempts, and hope you get dealt a better hand next time.
That “one more go” slot-machine randomness feels like part and parcel of enjoying roguelikes. It has to be — rapid frequency of death and inherent difficulty mean you’re going to spend a lot of time staring at the game’s beginning areas. That sticky, repetitive attitude paired with an art style that falls somewhere on the positive end of “a screensaver that you can play” makes every playthrough of Noita a pleasant, messy surprise.