Tokyo 42 Review: Isometric Hitman Action!

By Jason Parker (Ragachak)

I did not know I was going to love Tokyo 42 when I first saw a trailer for it. When I heard the name, with no information other than that, I had some kind of PTSD flashbacks to Action 52. I did not want to play Cheetahman again. Luckily, that’s not what it is! It feels very much like the early GTA and Farcry 3: Blood Dragon games, with that top-down style and ludicrous humor. The look is incredibly retro, and like GTA, when you’re causing problems, the cops show up and try to do you in with bullets. Then Tokyo 42 becomes a horrific bullet hell, and doing this on a keyboard can be infuriating at times. I would absolutely love to play this with a controller, but I do feel like that could take a lot of the challenge out of the title. I’ll go into that in just a little bit [but it IS on console, so bonus for you guys!] So, what’s Tokyo 42? Imagine the world where people no longer die. Where you can take a pill and continue living a normal life! However, bullets, swords, grenades still definitely take people’s’ lives. Here in Micro Tokyo, life is boring, complacent.  Through a strange series of events, you are now an assassin. That’s right, now you are a contract killer, out to deduce who has come after you.

Tokyo 42 - Story Mission Screenshot

This is a cubists dream: a microcosm of Tokyo, all brightly colored, with strange, cat smiling faces. They’re a mixture of the Cheshire Cat and Japanese Anime, which is absolutely terrific in its own frightening way. You start off with just a pistol and your wits, but you can come across floating gunships. Literal gunships mind, where you buy your weapons, grenades, and the various implements of destruction that you need for your missions. There’s of course the main story, but also side missions, guard posts to take down, and collectibles! You can set up a variety of looks for your character, which doesn’t mean much but really go well with the retro/colorful style of the game.

However, death is not an issue for you in this world. If you should die, you go back to your last save point, which resurrects you. There are piles of them, usually in the middle of where you have to be for your mission. But take caution – one hit and you’re dead [unless you’re using the shield mechanic]. This means that one hit and your enemies are dead too. It’s pretty realistic like that. Combat’s easy too. You have a line from each gun that shows where the bullet will travel, but you also have to take into account walls, height of buildings, etc. If the line goes red, your bullet will not get to the mark, due to terrain. 

Tokyo 42 - Bullet Hell Time Screenshot

So, how do these contracts work? You’ll go to a terminal or something similar and you’ll learn about the next person who is in need of justice. And by justice, I mean they have to die in a pretty gruesome manner. Some of these are simple, such as “pop them with a bullet however you can,” but sometimes, you have to prove yourself.  One of the missions I undertook was to sneak onto restricted territory and prove that nobody is beyond the reach of the mysterious woman that is giving me my orders. This man had to die, but he had to die via katana. So I had to sneak in, and chop him to bits via the convenient katana left for me. However, his other guards did not need to take a sword to the face, so they took sniper rifle rounds from as far away as I could.

That’s one of the other ways that this game really shines. You don’t always have to just run in and kill people. In fact, that seldom works! You have an incredibly floaty jump that you can use to get from place to place, as well as crouch, disguise yourself, and hide around corners, killing people when they aren’t looking. This is where the game became challenging though. You aim with the mouse, RMB to draw or sheath your weapon, left click to attack. Q and E rotate your camera by a few degrees, and each time you rotate the camera it can be incredibly hard to see something. I do not recommend rotating it in the middle of a fight. Most of my deaths came from trying to rotate the camera, doing it in the wrong direction, and getting killed. Thankfully you don’t have to run across the whole map all of the time. As long as you are not being pursued, there are a variety of teleport points you can unlock to get to a contract a lot faster than running. This city is bigger than you think, and though you can swap from walk to run, teleporting is much faster.

Tokyo 42 - Go Ahead Jump Screenshot

I eventually figured out how to bind my controller to this game, but it was a chore because of Steam. However, at some point, the game becomes absolutely infuriating. Mind bogglingly frustrating. The motorbike/motorcycle mission is unforgiving, teeth-yankingly difficult, and I’ve still yet to complete it. One of the downsides to this game is how challenging it can be at times. Other than the motorbike though, I have had an absolute blast trying to figure out how to effectively accomplish each of the missions. There are so many of them, and most of the ones I’ve completed there are different ways to go about your business. You can toss grenades to get people moving around and then pick them off with a sniper rifle from a rooftop. Though people are going to chase you across Micro Tokyo until you kill them all, or use your ability to change and look like a random citizen of the city.  Hell, I’ve accidentally accomplished missions! Jumping from area to area, running around, flipping the camera, when I accidentally found the person I’m to kill. That doesn’t happen often. Usually, they’re fortified in a nice big area that you have to stealth around and navigate. But it does happen regardless!

Tokyo 42 - How to Escape Screenshot

Megatokyo in a Tiny Package: 3/5

Tokyo 42 does have multiplayer [deathmatch] but I haven’t been able to find a match. The trailer I’ve seen showcases incredible weapons and insane action in multiplayer, though. The goal is to kill the other characters, who will gain some manner of identification when close by. Mastering the basic skills of the game like being able to drop, rotate the camera and keep moving so you’re hidden are crucial. I’m not good at some of those yet, and they can feel frustrating on a keyboard/mouse, but they will give you a greater chance of survival. One of the few drawbacks to this game is that it feels it will lose replay value once you’ve completed all the missions – so unless there will be missions made by the community or a lot of fun multiplayer stuff to counteract this, that is the only serious detriment. The synthetic music is addictive and catchy, the graphics for this 8-bit style stealth/puzzle game are incredible. It’s what drew me in in the first place.

And that’s what Tokyo 42 is. It’s more than a weird story, it’s a puzzle game. It’s about strategy, finding your way to do what must be done to ensure your survival. It’s not about saving the world, it’s about saving yourself. Be selfish. Equip the Fat Shotpistol and fire a wave of shotgun shells from your pistol. Run and slash people down with your katana. Pick people off from vast distances with a sniper rifle. Do what feels right. But do it with style; that’s the name of the game.

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