Anodyne 2: Return to Dust (PC) Review

By Athanasios 28.08.2019

Review for Anodyne 2: Return to Dust on PC

The original Anodyne sort of went by with not much fuss. The one writing this review is scratching his stunningly elegant head as to why that happened, as those who had experienced it talked about one of the greatest Zelda-like adventures, and one with a pretty surreal vibe and enjoyably cryptic plot. Maybe now it's the perfect opportunity for all who didn't get a chance to try the latter out to do so, as the sequel, Anodyne 2: Return to Dust, is essentially the same, but supplements the 2D puzzle-solving action with a 3D exploration bit that takes its visual cue from the PS1/N64-era, and absolutely nails it. A fun game, though?

Nova awakens in a strange land, with some strange inhabitants with whom she can talk, but don't expect to really understand what's going on here. From the story on offer, to Nova's main goal to collect 'Dust,' this can be quite the cryptic experience. Anodyne 2: Return to Dust is very good in regards to its ambiguity, but those who aren't fond of such things should probably stay away from such a title. Oh, and, by the way, while Nova has to collect Dust, don't expect her to go around the world using a vacuum cleaner or something - although that's exactly what her weapon is. Dust is more like a bizarre corruption of sorts, and Nova will be the one who'll shrink and go inside the "diseased" (eww) to deal with the problem.

Screenshot for Anodyne 2: Return to Dust on PC

This essentially swaps between the two available visual styles on offer, as the heroine will leave her 32-bit-looking overworld, and enter a small, Zelda-looking dungeon where she'll have to solve a couple of puzzles to reach the end of it. Don't expect much action when inside - there are enemies on offer, but Nova's main technique will be to throw her foes in obstacles after sucking them with her "weapon." These mini-levels have the perfect length, as well as a fantastic variety in terms of mechanics, and require lots of out-of-the-box thinking. Their design is worthy of praise too, as each dungeon is like a reflection of its "host," meaning that very few of them - if any - are alike.

Anodyne 2's new look is definitely worthy of mention. The old-school 2D style has been done to death nowadays, thus the PlayStation 1-era, aliased-filled, blocky visuals are a breath of fresh air. Plus, this isn't something that just caters to the nostalgic inside us all, but a conscious artistic choice that gives the game its unique look and atmosphere, making this adventure feel even more weird, and, at times, more unsettling, than it already is. Sadly, despite the dreamlike beauty of it all, the overworld mostly offers some basic platforming, exploration, and some pleasantly eccentric character interactions. The real action lies in the 16-bit sections, as the 3D overworld merely acts as the map where you'll have to move from dungeon to dungeon. On the bright side, you are strongly encouraged to "break" the game, and try to reach places that you aren't really "meant" to; a process that's both rewarding and fun.

Screenshot for Anodyne 2: Return to Dust on PC

Here's the thing, though. As great as all these sound, this is, without any single doubt, the epitome of niche. This simply isn't for everyone. Not even fans of the original Anodyne 2 are guaranteed to like it. It's an adventure with a very specific vibe that few will appreciate. Some will love talking with the many characters that live in this alien realm, and others will find these dialogue sequences to be nonsensical; some will love the religious undertones, and the ambiguity of the plot, and others will feel that there's no incentive to move on; some will love the, atmosphere, which is extremely hard to verbally describe, while others will simply scratch the head, wondering about "why the heck do people like such a thing?"

Screenshot for Anodyne 2: Return to Dust on PC

In the end, this is not one game that follows just one a basic idea, but a lot of different ideas blended together... and not always that elegantly, to be honest. This provides you with a lot of small, unrelated tales, with each character-dungeon offering his or her (or its) own unique storyline, and most of them are memorable for reasons that, once again, are hard to put on paper, but there's a lack of a decent connection with the "main" plot. The actual gameplay portions tends to frequently surprise you, something that keeps everything fresh, yet there are times where you'll think to yourself: "maybe this should try to be a bit less "innovative" for its own sake, and be one, rather 10 different things at the same time."

In conclusion: this is a title that's hard to recommend... or not recommend. Anodyne 2 is a unique game that really can't be compared with any other in the industry - not even the original of the "series." Anodyne 2 is a jack of all trades that is what it wants to be in any specific time; a 3D platformer from the late '90s, a 2D Zelda-esque puzzler with a GBC/GBA feel, a completely obscure adventure, an existential trip down to the subconscious, and so on and forth. If a lover of weird, give it a look. It's hard to foretell whether you'll like it or not, but it will definitely manage to stay with you for a while... and then some.

Screenshot for Anodyne 2: Return to Dust on PC

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

While just a 10 to 15-hour adventure, more crazy things happen in Anodyne 2: Return to Dust than in any other 100-hour RPG. What starts as a simple 3D explorer/platformer and Zelda-esque dungeon crawler, soon turns into a journey through a realm that is otherworldly beyond any doubt, and yet manages to feel so familiar... like a faint memory, or a place you paid a visit in your sleep. It's not a game that was designed to be experienced by everyone, yet everyone is advised to experience it, if only for its beautiful, vintage PS1 visuals.


Sean Han Tani, Marina Kittaka


Anagelsic Productions


Action Adventure



C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   


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