By Chris Picone, 30 May 2023
If you can look at Returns' pixel art and not immediately want to drop everything you're doing to play it, you're a stronger man than I. And after tucking into it, I was immediately hooked. Beat my first couple of bosses and had to go to bed but got up this morning and played it through to the end. Very hard to put down.
Just look at those pixels! I really love the super limited palettes, the use of negative space, and I was frequently amazed at how much could be achieved with so little. Particularly with regard to the enemies, who appear as menacing silhouettes with glowing eyes. Also, the backgrounds are much more detailed than you can see in the screenshots; there are layers of parallaxes, the whole thing's absolutely bloody glorious.
A pretty simple hack and slash, to be fair. There are guns in the game but I found the swords are pretty damn powerful and the guns a little underwhelming so I didn't use them much. Most enemies can be defeated fairly easily by dodging past their initial attack, striking them from behind, and then continuing to dodge/slash until they're dead. Most, not all. There's a fairly impressive array of enemies in Return, particularly given how short a game it is., and some are more challenging than others. Thankfully, the enemies are really just a distraction, something to interact with while you explore the world, piecing things together through some impressive visual story-telling. There are also quite a few boss fights throughout Return, each with ranging attack patterns and special effects, and some challenging enough that you'll want to explore somewhere else first and have another crack when you're a bit stronger. I found the witch the trickiest by far.
Could use a bit more balancing (I ended the game with tons of cash and unspent upgrade points, and many weapons became available after I'd already found something superior), but it's still a very solid title. Worth playing for the art alone, although I really engaged with the story (minimalist though it may be), and the boss fights were pretty damn fun.