If you’re looking for a cyberpunk action game with some platforming and hack ‘n slash elements, then this might be the game for you! ANNO: Mutationem developed by ThinkingStars and published by Lightning Games has a demo available right now.
ANNO: Mutationem follows the story of Ann, as she explores the metropolis she calls home, trying to find a disease that plagues her while also seeking to find her missing brother, who appears to have gotten himself mixed up in some sort of trouble. And so, with the help of her excitable hacker friend Ayane, Ann must make her way through the city to find answers.
On the technical side of things, ANNO: Mutationem is a rather ambitious blend of pixel art and 3D, giving depth and detail to the game’s environments. Overall the game operates in a 2.5D setting, staying largely to a horizontal plane, though there will be times when you’ll need to do some platforming. Not much, the most intensive bit of platforming in the demo is, amusingly, in the tutorial. But still, there is some to be done.
There’s a couple of combat sections in the demo, and they perform rather well. The basis of the combat is Ann’s sword, which moves fairly quickly and has a decent range, with an emphasis on combos, as well as a rather impressive (if repetitive) finishing move. She has a pistol as well, though oddly the combat tutorial doesn’t actually ever acknowledge it. It has good range and punch though, so is rather useful. The Steam page also mentions grenades and ground-pounding, though I never actually found the former or used the latter in my playthrough. I don’t know if that was me not exploring well enough though or if they’re actually not present in the demo.
Outside of combat, ANNO: Mutationem has a lot to explore. It’s largely detail work in the demo, mostly just giving life to the setting and helping to flesh it out. There’s a lot of conversations to overhear, as well as posters, ads, and books to read. And of course, loot. Most of it’s just junk you can sell to the guy who runs the antique shop in the demo, but still, it’s there, and worth looking out for while exploring. Or, if you’d rather just get on with it, the game’s rather good at providing you with objective markers to help guide you towards where you need to go.
From a story perspective, this is just a demo, and ANNO: Mutationem plays its cards fairly close to the chest. We know that Ann has some siblings, and that she has a mysterious sci-fi disease, and that her brother got caught up in something shady. And that’s about it. Which honestly is perfectly fine. There’s enough to build interest, it walks the tightrope between being intriguing and being obscure quite well. The occasional cutscenes of…something happening to Ann in the past, helps build questions as well, while not being so frequent as to get annoying.
The character’s are fairly simple and standard-Ann’s a more serious and straightforward type, Ayane is your perky, cheerful girl, and Ann’s got a quirky, slightly shady doctor/scientist friend. But tropes aren’t bad, and what matters more is that they’re executed well. And while this demo didn’t get me to want to put anyone on a ‘Top 10 Video Game Characters’ list, it certainly didn’t turn me off either. Ann is a likable protagonist, and Ayane is charming. Once again, the game strikes a good balance. And it’s worth noting that there’s opportunities to find out more, as the game uses a Mass Effect style dialogue wheel for the more important conversations and NPCs.
Visually, ANNO: Mutationem is simple, but stunning, joining Chinatown Detective Agency and The Sundew in the category of ‘gorgeous Cyberpunk pixel art games due out in 2021’.
The balance between 2D pixelated art and 3D is truly stunning, and one of the best features of this game.
And, for a limited time, the demo is available to download again on Steam. So, if this caught your interest and you want to give it a try for yourself, you can!
Images Provided by ThinkingStars and Lightning Games
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