So shiny! So tiny!

Tokyo 42’s cute aesthetic belies a murderous underbelly. It’s a pretty violent game, but look at all the tiny people running away.

In the new video game Tokyo 42 your character has been framed for murder, and you must delve into the criminal underbelly to find out why. Your character turns assassin to get in with the people who know the truth, taking contracts to build up their reputation, buy new gear, and uncover new information. It sounds grim, but the game is surprisingly cute.

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In the couple hours I’ve spent with the isometric shooter, contracts have included infiltrating a target’s stronghold, firing a gun to start off a turf war, sniping men in suits strolling through the park, and leading a group of angry punks into a group of murderous nudists. Tokyo 42 gives you flexibility in how you want to approach these goals, though I tend to opt for stealth because I’m that kind of guy. And then I tend to fail at stealth and start shooting everything. Many miniature firefights have ensued. All of this violence takes place in a world that looks like a tiny playset, and what should be garish shootouts and killing sprees look like adorable contests between toys in this small world.

The perfect sniping spot.

The developers at SMAC Games have set Tokyo 42 in a cyberpunk world that is bright and compelling, full of lush parks, winding staircases, and lots of neon. You navigate by rotating your camera, revealing hidden pathways and new perspectives. There’s a Monument Valley quality to this, though it’s not very puzzle-heavy. You’ll move the camera to figure out where your target is, how to get to them, and to line up the killing shot.

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I found the camera to be the least fun part of a really fun game. It’s unwieldy and slow, and it often doesn’t turn in the direction you’d think. The isometric view sometimes obscured targets or enemies and made certain firefights more frustrating than they needed to be. You can play on Xbox One or PC, and it’s coming to PS4 soon. I played on my PC with mouse and keyboard, and having to constantly tap Q and E in addition to navigating with WASD was uncomfortable, though it feels more intuitive on a controller. The camera angle is a unique choice, but it’s one that hamstrings a game that already has plenty going for it.

Doing some group exercises? It’d be a shame if someone were to run through there.

Fortunately, save points are plentiful (in the form of machines scattered around the world), restarts are quick, and contracts can be cancelled at any time. If a contract frustrated me I moved on to another, though I’ve spent most of my time just wandering around the world, jumping on things and scaring the crowds with my guns. In addition to a single-player campaign there’s also a multiplayer mode, which I haven’t explored. Tokyo 42 has been a great game to dip in and out of, and I look forward to seeing what other tiny mayhem it has to offer.