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Hylics 2 feels like a long-lost RPG from the 1970s

(Image credit: Mason Lindroth)

Hylics 2 starts as most RPGs do: You play as yet another crescent-headed Wayne tasked with assembling an elite team of claymation warriors who can put a stop to Gibby's minions as they attempt to reconstitute their master. 

Honestly, I'm an hour in and have no clue what I'm doing. But that's OK, because Hylics 2 is definitely operating on a plane of logic I haven't reached yet.

I'm still piecing together the Wayne hierarchy and reproduction system. There are a lot of Waynes. There's Big Wayne who is god, I think, and then there are the bipedal Waynes that look like my player character, and below them, in the grub stage, are Wayne-shaped creatures that poot around on the floor. Yeah, I don't know either. 

Hylics 2 isn't disturbing in the sense that it'll trouble my thoughts and keep me up at night, but in the sense that it's a constantly moving target, impossible to pin down and make sense of. It shuffles around in a familiar turn-based JRPG form, but shine a light on it and it shines brighter back, a swirling mess of color and light and acid rock. I can't look away. I don't want to look away. 

Because it's beautiful, maaaan, an amazing collage of 3D-scanned clay models and animation that evoke the work of Bruce Bickford, the psychedelic dream logic and color palette of Fantastic Planet, and a fuzzy guitar score that sounds like Frank Zappa at a quiet coffee house show. You don't need to know about any of that stuff to appreciate it though. There's almost nothing like it in games, except the first Hylics, I suppose (but you don't need to play it before this one according to the Steam description). 

Whether you dig Hylics 2 or not depends on how much psychedelia you can stomach and how much patience you have for learning one bizarre proper noun after another, but I'm firmly hooked already. So rather than try to make sense of it on your behalf, let's just look at some of the wild stuff I saw in my first hour of play. You'll know if it's for you or not. 

The title screen

I'm loving the pure DIY-ness Hylics 2 opens with. Games often feel so artificial that you lose the sense individual people made them, but you can see actual hands and fingerprint impressions everywhere in Hylics 2.  

 Big Wayne explains the situation

You're the lone Wayne capable of preventing Gibby's agents from reconstituting their master. And that's all you have to go on from the start. Is it enough motive? Have we properly established stakes and character?  

How to level up / Meat processing 

Like most RPGs, you level up by butchering the writhing, desiccated corpse of a fellow Wayne and place the resulting meat into a meat processor.  

Death 

When your flesh (HP) hits zero, it melts. So does reality. 

#Relatable 

Always be trimming your fronds, because even though they're valuable, you might as well make sure you don't get any poolmen! 

How to eat a banana 

I'd open it from the other end with the pinch method, but this checks out otherwise.  

The overworld 

It's extremely Final Fantasy. You can even get an airship. But Hylics 2's overworld is almost parodically serene, with incessant ambient tones vying for presence. And I love how the geography is so hard to focus on, always transitioning between melty lumps and swirls to abstract, finely textured shapes. And the ocean just a flat, static tile pattern. It's good.

Can you pet the Wayne? 

 Yes, you can pet the Wayne.  

Slap bugs, gain flesh

They're high in protein.  

A quick dip 

Who needs ride-sharing apps when drowning in a yogurt pool does the trick? 

 Hello, computer 

Now this is PC gaming! 

James is PC Gamer’s bad boy, staying up late to cover Fortnite while cooking up radical ideas for the weekly livestream. He can still kickflip and swears a lot. You’ll find him somewhere in the west growing mushrooms and playing Dark Souls.