Noitu Love 2: Devolution
The side-scrolling alien-basher Noitu Love 2 kicks off at Run Lola Run speed, and just gets faster. The intrepid green-clad protagonist, Xoda Rap, never stops jumping, grappling, and pummeling culture-clashed aliens, who dress in zoot suits or cactus costumes—which only makes sense because the game never gives you more than a second to think about it. The word "GO!" flashes as you keep running across the map or flying on a gunship beside a rushing train that wants to kill you so badly that it stops rolling, sprouts legs, and comes running at you.
While the hyper-catchy 8-bit music and wicked pixel art give the game charm, the key to its success is its brevity. The levels are quick and action-packed for minimum repetition and maximum punch, with a smattering of puzzles and just enough henchmen to help you hit high combo scores. You only need a handful of moves, the best of which is a kind of grapple attack that yanks you within smacking distance of any alien. But while each level only takes minutes, unlocking the Easter eggs and scoring a grade above "C" requires many tries—and you only get seven lives to take you to the end. Like the game, you have to find precision in excess.
Beyond the game: Developer Joakim Sandberg keeps a portfolio of free games at his site konjak.org, including earlier works like "Chalk."
Worth playing for: The mini-boss fights are frequent and satisfying, but the end-of-level battles are breakneck setpieces, with high-speed chases and log-rolling on a Ferris wheel.
Frustration sets in when: The first version for sale is 0.9, and you may run into bugs or crashes. Fortunately, the game makes automatic backups of your progress, just in case.
Final judgment: A study in motion, pastiche, and mayhem.