Noita is a hilarious, horrifying wizard death experiment where every pixel is simulated

We all know Mario wouldn't die the second he touched fire. It would crawl up his pant leg and onto his wooly red shirt before leaping onto his mustache and reducing him into a savory, acrid roast. That's the guiding principle behind Noita's fascinating, horrifying design: Every pixel is simulated. 

Nolla Games, the studio behind Noita, means it too. At first glance, it looks like an innocuous pixel-based roguelike dungeon-crawler, and it is. But all those little squares that make up every piece of the image? They're literally all simulated. That means physics and chemistry are embedded in each, and they'll react exactly how you'd expect them to and sometimes how you wouldn't, because not many of us are expert chemists.

Explosions send dirt and rock flying, fire creeps up vines and over patches of moss, and oil keeps it lit and burning the ground or oil runs out—whatever comes first. Liquids pool as expected, but beyond that, if they're heated they'll vaporize and collect at the ceiling before condensing and returning to the ground as rain. The blood of dead monsters pools if there's enough around, and can be used to douse fires if it's deep enough. Avoid the green goo, though. It's neither good for a refreshing dip (unless you want to dissolve) or putting out fires. 

To ensure you fuck up regularly and in horrible, hilarious ways, the wand system makes use of the same elemental properties of the world. While descending, you'll stumble onto new wands. One might shoot arcing buzzsaws (that bounce back, mind you). Another might summon a raincloud. The best/worst of the bunch are best-of compilations on shuffle, wands that shoot from a pool of projecticles—each with their own elemental properties and projectile type—at random.

One shot could be a floating bubble of acid, the next a short burst of flame, and the next a classic magic missile. Using these wands is asking for trouble, but given how dangerous and numerous the enemies in Noita are, you're going to be desperate enough to try anything. Some wands allow you to swap projectiles in and out. Pair the right projectiles in the right order and you can make something like a wand that shoots out globs of oil and follows up with a flame missile.

I've played Noita for an hour or so, and barely made it through the first level in that time. Most of it was spent on fire, buried in rubble, coated in blood, or as a crumpled pile of bones at the bottom on a deep shaft. I typically hate roguelikes. I don't want to prove myself to random systems again and again, but Noita skirts by on hilarity and surprise. The sheer possibilities of its cascading chemistries makes failure a fascinating science project to trace backwards. Noita is dubbed a roguelite, too, so I'm guessing Nolla Games knows players need something to hold onto over hundreds of gruesome deaths. Exactly what we'll carry over hasn't been detailed yet, but we'll know sooner or later. Noita is set to release whenever it's done.

James Davenport

James is stuck in an endless loop, playing the Dark Souls games on repeat until Elden Ring and Silksong set him free. He's a truffle pig for indie horror and weird FPS games too, seeking out games that actively hurt to play. Otherwise he's wandering Austin, identifying mushrooms and doodling grackles.