In a year full of satisfying time loops, Returnal is usually the longest and most tormenting. But every time Selene’s ship hits the wet and foggy enclave of Atrobos, it is another opportunity to chase the mysterious white noise. Another challenge is a constantly changing landscape full of deadly horrors. Once again, I found that Selena had been trying to figure out why she would make a futile attempt on this bleak planet in the first place.
Housemarque’s greatest achievement is how incredible it feels to play Returnal. Rush from room to room, jump and sprint, and eliminate the horror of the tentacle in every corner; every action is fast and smooth. You always feel like you are in control of what Selena does. Although the control scheme is not complicated, it is structured in a way that welcomes you to visit the game again in a few days or even weeks, and it feels like you just set up the controller a few minutes ago. Drawing lessons from previous shooting games (ie Super Stardust HD and Resogun), Housemarque perfectly realized the bullet hell concept in the 3D space of Returnal. Incorporating an uninterrupted salvo of projectiles into the attack mode of most enemies means that death may result from careless actions or misjudgment.
The risk/reward nature of creative weapons and malfunctioning collectibles makes every run feel very different. You might find a powerful carbine that has solid alternating firepower and incredible benefits from parasites, ensuring that groups of enemies will dissipate before you gain new power. Or you may have to survive on your teeth, put together a miraculous run with a stuck, underpowered shotgun, and hope to get the best from the next item maker you may or may not find The results. Either way, usually, the mystery of the world will become clearer, or you will become better at survival, making almost every run a worthwhile adventure.
Supporting the ruthless battle is the equally terrifying and beautiful biome of Atropos. Hidden in overgrown ruins, sandy waste, and more diverse areas are strange vegetation, desolate buildings and ancient technologies, such as portals that you can use. Along the way, you will learn to read alien languages, and stumble across mausoleums and museum-like areas that tell the history of people who once lived on this planet, or you may unfortunately enjoy the fun of fighting to the end. Selene will also learn about her situation through a run-in with an impossible house or a disturbing visit by an astronaut. These interesting moments prompt us to gather more information and figure out what Selene’s ultimate goal is.
Housemarque’s first 3A adventure showed the studio’s promise of what can be done with deeper pockets. Whether it’s gorgeous visual effects, first-class audio design, shocking action, or a mysterious story and background, “Return” is worth repeating. This is a journey of sensory pleasure and excitement, and you want to jump back immediately after you leave. | Our review