Solon is Ska, so more like Skalon right?
Sometimes, for any number of reasons, you’re struck by a sudden desire to go out into the world and aggressively F that S up, or at least break some cheap, fragile items you picked up from the thrift store until you’re less angry. For me, it’s not uncommon to channel that pure, unadulterated lust for chaos into video games- the side of me that mains Junkrat in Overwatch and Pyro in TF2 knows this feeling well.
Thankfully, 2016 has had a solid market for chaotic video games (with how this year has been going, I wonder why?), from the spiraling desperation of Darkest Dungeon to the all-out ridiculousness of Omnibus. However, Darkest Dungeon is more the kind of game to inflict disarray on the player rather than let them unleash it, and Omnibus suffers in how it throws all caution to the wind and abandons anything resembling reliable player control. Enter Anarcute: a destructive and adorable game where all the pieces click to become the best (and possibly only) simulator of animal-based anarchy ever released.
In Anarcute, you control a literal mob of disgustingly cute animal people rioting to take down the evil Brainwash Patrol, which has seized control over some of the world’s most important cities- Tokyo, Paris, Miami, and Reykjavik. You accomplish this by slowly waking up rioters across each level, gaining special powers as the number of recruits grows. Each level is cleared with certain objectives, such as capturing all the flags, shutting down all the transmitters, or simply beating a boss. You get a letter score based on your time, how many rioters you have at the end, and how many members of the Brainwash Patrol you beat to a pulp. Most stages also have rioters you can rescue to unlock their animal heads for future levels, including everything from raccoons to sea slugs.
Anarcute plays as an odd kind of Pikmin-esque beat-em-up, where your slowly growing mob slaps the hell out of enemies via mashing the A button to attack, and hitting the triggers to launch projectiles and explosive cars you pick up as you pass over. Your mob moves fairly slowly, but tapping the X button provides a quick dash/dodge roll to move out of danger. Once your furry minions hit higher numbers, you can pull off cooler stuff, like a super stomp at ten and the ability to take down buildings at thirty, and other neat tricks you can buy with coins from completing levels, like endless explosive projectiles and faster movement. There’s also a bar that builds up the more you wail on the Patrol members, letting you unleash a super dash or bigger stomp.
One of the biggest strengths of Anarcute is how smoothly all the gameplay elements flow together- almost everything in the game happens automatically, from enemy targeting to picking up items to use as projectiles. With the auto-targeting, it becomes a lot easier to chain together combo hits and build up your meter to unleash your next super move. It also eliminates the worry of having to wheel the camera around every time you want to launch a projectile, and throws out any need of a precise aiming mechanism. Anarcute knows you’re just here break stuff- you shouldn’t have to worry about complex mechanics to do it.
That’s really what’s fantastic about Anarcute; much like Doom, the game does a wonderful job of keeping only the necessary mechanics and applying those to a relatively fast-paced and viscerally satisfying experience, even if Anarcute doesn’t sport the same blood n’ guts aesthetic. And speaking of aesthetic, the game has a pretty solid one in how it applies the same cute looks of the lil’ animal rioters to every aspect of the game, creating a heavily stylized and simple look that’s also visually appealing. Also, the Anarcute soundtrack is surprisingly amazing, with an earworm title theme that’s been stuck in my head some time after I’ve turned the game off.
Ironically, the only problems with Anarcute surface thanks to the same aspects which make the game good. The auto-target system is great for levels with large mobs in how it can essentially help “direct traffic” towards enemies, but some of the game’s optional “challenge” levels place you with a single rioter for the entire stage. In this case, the targeting can sometimes unintentionally wrest control and slightly guide your lone furry towards an enemy, which is a real issue in a level where the focus is placed on stealth rather than mass destruction. On the flip side, larger mobs can occasionally become more difficult to control, with straggling rioters accidentally running over buttons that trigger doors and separate your mob, or moseying into the aggro range of a sweeping laser. However, the times this happened to me were relatively few, and they never broke the experience for me.
Overall, Anarcute is a solid and satisfying experience. Some people’s mileage may vary in regards to the game’s replayability, but I found myself running through the levels at least enough to unlock all the animal heads- mainly because I was curious to see what was in the game, but also because I wanted my mobs to reach maximum cute potential. Also, did I mention you can customize what animals are in your mob? You totally can. It’s adorable. The game is a rare gem in that it’s a high-concept, funny sounding game (adorable animals cause mass destruction!) that actually delivers on the premise not just visually, but with super-satisfying, fast-paced button mashing gameplay. If you’re hankering for the best anthropomorphic-animal-based slice of chaos this side of Bubsy 3D, you could definitely do worse.