Noitu Love: Devolution, a 2D, sprite-based beat ’em up launching today for the 3DS and Wii U, is a game out of time and place. Not only because it’s a throwback to the 16-bit brawlers and shooters of old, but also because of the way it approaches basic game design like a Nintendo DS launch game from 2004. Regardless of how you feel about the game’s big gimmick—more on that in a minute!— there’s no denying it stands proudly alongside the games that inspired it. The fact that it’s one of very few games in its genre on the 3DS is a bit of a head scratcher, but hey: all the more reason to give it a shot.

Originally conceived as a PC game and released on Windows in 2008 (a planned WiiWare release was scuttled after insurmountable publishing hurdles), Noitu Love: Devolution puts players in control of Xoda Rap, an agile ass-kicker whose singular goal is to wipe out as many enemy robots as possible. In keeping with its cartoony aesthetic, the story is a whole bunch of nonsense, but I think purposely so; it provides just enough setup to justify the game’s change in scenery from level to level. Victorian London, Edo Japan, and futuristic cities are all awesome things that shouldn’t exist together, but they do here, and why not? Each new level is a wild departure from the one that preceded it, and that not only gives one-man developer Konjak a way to show off his considerable talents as a pixel artist, but gives players a reason to keep playing despite the fact that it can get repetitive quickly. Of course, that’s pretty much the nature of the beast, and you’ll probably be too caught up in all the action to really care.


Yeah, so those bosses are awesome.

So, about that gimmick. See, rather than use simple button presses to initiate attacks, Noitu Love: Devolution has you utilizing the touch screen to pull off most actions. Tapping for standard attacks;  holding and sliding to grapple and throw; combining the touch screen with d-pad input for shields; it all takes a slight bit of mental adjustment, especially as you’re still using your left hand to move and jump. but once you’re used to it, it feels natural enough… fun, even. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t wish for a standard button-based control scheme. Aside from the fact that holding the stylus over the screen constantly obscures all that beautiful sprite work, I haven’t tapped and rubbed a screen this furiously since Feel The Magic: XY/XX, and sometimes that worries me. On the other hand, the game’s a whole lotta fun, and the 3DS is Nintendo Tough, so if you’re not a maniac with the stylus, you shouldn’t have any problems.