It’s easy to get caught up in the highly stylised isometric presentation of SMAC Games’ Tokyo 42. The world presentation is as fantastic as it is initially confusing. The first foe you’ll want to vanquish when you take Tokyo 42 for a spin is the camera.
Levels are presented from a static isometric angle, but you can use Q and E to rotate the camera left and right. Unfortunately, these rotations are fixed incremental points instead of a smooth 360 degrees, which means you’ll be tapping those two keyboard buttons for camera adjustments more than any other key (you also can’t hold for smooth rotation, which is a shame).
Because of this, and because it requires some mental gymnastics to determine, during the heat of battle, which way you want to move the camera to track your next move, you may even hate how the camera is handled in Tokyo 42. You also have to understand that your avatar will continue to move in the same direction you were making them move before you switched the camera, which is disorienting at first, but understandable and easy enough to adjust to once you figure it out.
But I’d argue that this hurdle, as artificial as it may be, adds a deep sense of satisfaction when you shimmy around the corner of a building, switch the view, pop off a long-range shot at an enemy, pop back behind cover, and watch the single shot nail your target. Granted, it’s frustrating when you suffer successive ‘deaths by camera’, but even that makes victory all the sweeter.
It’s a one-hit-kill kinda game, both for player, targets and the hapless NPCs that populate the game world (collateral damage actually happens quite a bit in firefights, whoops). But respawn stations can be activated nearby, which means you’re never out of the fight for long. That said, dying resets a scenario, including all baddies that you’d felled in your previous digital life, so while respawning is convenient, you can’t cheese your way through missions.
You can, however, ninja your way through missions, crouched and shifting between cover with a katana, as you cut down unsuspecting foes. Fans of stealth can even enjoy a less-punishing reset option (compared to respawning), by hitting Caps Lock to morph identities (this requires adequate charge, so it can’t be used ad infinitum). As long as nearby goons don’t see you do it, you can slink away and return to your best Beatrix “The Bride” Kiddo impersonation.
For players like me who prefer to take the loud-and-proud approach, there’s a lot of satisfaction to be found here, too. Despite an array of ballistic weapons—including sniper rifles, shotguns, assault rifles, hell, even rocket launchers—I find that I stick with the pistol. It has unlimited ammunition and ups the challenge, compared to using the other weapons, because it’s not as easy to score kills.
Still, you can still find some success by ducking in and out of corners, spamming off a few rounds, if the goons are swarming and your aim is true. It can be tricky to determine what constitutes cover when you’re crouching, but higher cover when you’re standing tall is a lot easier to spot. I like to plan an initial incursion, which usually starts out with the best stealthy incursions, before passing proceedings over to my pistol once I’m spotted.
In terms of navigating, you soon unlock teleportation points across the city, and the lack of fall damage makes platforming less punishing than the high-lethality of the combat. Missions may feel quite samey in terms of their outcome, but given the joy is in how you choose to execute a plan (and, subsequently, the target), Tokyo 42 seems to be mainly limited by how you choose to approach a scenario, and the little personal challenges you create for besting missions in different ways.