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By Paul Meekin
When my father gave me this place years ago, I used to dream about these girls. Every night, dreams, all kinds of dreams about ’em….And I’d look at them and I noticed, they don’t stay like this. None of ’em…They put on years and pounds…and I got one of those at home, and we can talk to each other. – Jimmy Merino – Solitary Man
Here’s a poorly kept secret about game and film review; traditionally you need to ask for the privilege. Unless you work for a major outlet like Entertainment Weekly, IGN, or Kotaku, you need to reach out to press companies and state your case.
Which is to say that to want to review a game as a freelancer you have to already be excited for it enough to reach out.
Which brings us to Tokyo 42; a techno thriller with a beautiful aesthetic design that feels like The Fifth Element and your grade school diorama had a baby. It was such a beautiful aesthetic I e-mailed four people trying to get an access code to the game. And I got it.
Now, weeks, later, my excitement for surface level beauty has mutated into tepidness regarding gameplay. I almost feel guilty.
See, Tokyo 42 is an action game; it finds you taking on various missions, be it assassination, infiltration, or vehicular mayhem. As the game goes on you amass new weapons, new abilities, and unlock new and unique areas. The problem is that after a few of these, it feels like you’ve seen what the game has got, and what it’s got is amazing visual design and not a whole lot of substance or cohesion.
In part due to the beauty of the game’s aesthetics and its pulled-out camera, the action rarely feels visceral, exciting or strategic. Tokyo 42 has been compared to the original Grand Theft Auto in terms of its gameplay, and I see why, but the difference is Grand Theft Auto gave you dozens of cars, rocket launchers, cops, a sense of speed and visceral unmitigated chaos.
Tokyo42’s got the camera angle, weapons, and violence, but it all feels sanitized. Even in the hail of a mass of gunfire, the distance of it all not only makes it hard to dodge those bullets, but also hard to care. It’s often trial and error, which is not what you want from a skill-based assassination game.
But this could just be me. I don’t find beauty in paintings. I tend to find it in people who achieve incredible things, the mechanizations of the Apollo program, and abstract sculpture; I like to be challenged and amazed by the amazing things humans and mother nature are capable of.
Tokyo42 is beautiful like a painting; it’s striking, lovely, bright, and unique as all hell. It just doesn’t do much…Much like the capital building and people inside of it.
Part of the ‘trade’ when it comes to requesting a review is you get something out about it. Personally I try to be fair and kind and admit it when a game may appeal to people that aren’t me.
In this case, perhaps a game like Tokyo42 is for you. You have an Xbox or a PS4 or a PC and find the visuals so damn appealing you just have to see it for yourself. And those visuals deliver in spades. That the gameplay doesn’t quite match it is a shame, but it’s still fun and occasionally challenging – it’s a cool ‘art game’ for casual players. Just not…meaty.
IGN gave the game a 6.5, which sounds about right. But on the official Libertarian Republic Rating System, on a scale of Karl Marx to Ron Paul, Tokyo 42 gets a Rick Perry. I not sure what it’s going for, it does…some things right, but it’s such a god damn handsome sonofabitch I’m willing to forgive it for just about anything.