We deem Hylics 2 the weirdest game of 2020

Hylics 2 is a JRPG-style game made by Mason Lindroth and released on June 22, 2020.

Hylics 2 was probably our most-anticipated game in many, many years. The first Hylics is one of our top games of all time, and the announcement that there would be a sequel in 2018 lit a fire under us. Mason Lindroth had been posting teasers since 2016, assuredly having begun work on Hylics 2 shortly after the first game was finished, but being able to piece together that his new work was for a greater purpose showed that Hylics 2 was going to be something massive.

The game was initially given a Summer 2019 release date – a date that Mason admitted was overly optimistic – and the wait continued on. Now it’s Summer 2020, and Hylics 2 is finally in our hands. 

One of the greatest differences between the first game and its sequel is the plot: Hylics 2 has an actually coherent storyline. After Gibby’s defeat in the first game, rogue agents have arisen that seek to resurrect him. You once again play as Wayne, who is commissioned by the Big Wayne to prevent this ritual from reaching competition.

Wait, the Big Wayne? Yeah, it’s revealed in this game that Wayne is one of a whole group of Waynes, all living in the “Waynehouse” and training in some kind of weird warrior-monk monastery system. Scattered around the world are Wayne larvae, their carapaces not yet hard enough to train with the other Waynes. It’s left unclear if you’re even the same Wayne from the first game, but your allies treat you like you are… but how could they be sure? 

Waynes aside, the world of Hylics 2 is much more sensical and logical than the first game ever was. The big city is no longer randomly generated, and remains New Muldul between all games, always ruled by the kind king Blerol. There’s still a lot of randomly generated chatter from various unimportant NPCs, but the coherency makes it feel a lot more real than the first game. There’s a historical event mentioned frequently known only as the “Accretion” – it’s never detailed just what the Accretion was, but having a consistent historical touchstone the characters talk about makes it feel more alive.

We liked Hylics a lot for its ultra-simple battle system, and Hylics 2 takes it even further. The first game had eight stats with humorously obtuse names, but Hylics 2 has four: your Flesh (HP), Will (MP), Power and Speed. This is really all you need, isn’t it? Just like in the first game, you increase your Flesh by defeating foes and bringing their loose meat to the afterlife to graft onto yourself, and you increase Will by drinking water with paper cups. Even the method of increasing Will has been simplified too: there’s only one water cooler in the game, but far less cups. Instead, it’s easier to increase your max Will through equipment.

Instead of being a straight JRPG, Hylics 2 adds in a big dose of platforming elements. The levels are much more explorable and Wayne can jump, dash, and float along. The controls for this can be pretty finicky, but we really like the feeling of hopping around. The airdash, specifically, is fantastic for getting around. The addition of platforming elements means the world has changed as well: it’s now fully rendered in 3D, with plenty of exploration to be had. We were very impressed once we got the airship and could see that the world map we were walking around on was a fully rendered world to explore!

Mason’s definitely been having fun working in Blender, because the 3D artstyle of this game is a huge change from the first. Every enemy is animated, shuffling and dancing about, with tons of them having physic-simulated cloth and fur dangling from them. There’s still plenty of classic, pure clay stop-motion in the game, but a huge quantity of characters are 3D-scanned clay models puppeted around with satisfying and fluid movement. We kind of miss the “living toy” aesthetic the first game had, but Hylics 2 is so much richer without it.

As well, there’s less randomly generated content compared to the first game. A big feature of Hylics was that it did away with unnecessary chatter, and all unimportant NPC dialogue was randomly generated, as well as the names of locations. This is no longer the case! New Muldul is always going to be the city near Wayne’s house, and it will always be ruled by Blerol, and the NPCs living there will always repeat the same tidbits about the plot. This was a surprising decision to do away with something that defined the original Hylics – as a matter of fact, it’s almost the opposite, because the only times randomly generated text factors in significantly is during the plot’s most important moments!

Like, there is a lot more dialogue. All of the NPCs in the main city have things to say, and these can change over the course of the game. When you get your airship, you can move away from the piloting mode to hang out on deck and talk to your party, who will have different things to say depending on where you are in the plot. Every boss fight is begun with brief dialogues and some of them even end with chatter! The amount of coherency in this game is almost scary.

Mason added a new member to his own crew, as well. Chuck Salamone is the new composer for maybe a little over half of the soundtrack, and he’s a fantastic addition to the game. The music for Hylics was lo-fi ambient rock, with echoing, gently strummed guitars making a dissonant and airy mood. Chuck brings the funk to Hylics 2, adding in rich basslines and pounding drums reminiscent of Primus or the Flaming Lips. (Chuck himself claimed in a Youtube comment that he was inspired by White Zombie, but we don’t hear the resemblance.) The full embrace of psychedelia really suits all the other new additions made!

There are two non-RPG minigames added: a Megaman-style platformer game, and a Shin Megami Tensei-style first-person dungeon crawl. We’re going to admit, the game slows down in these parts. Both are well-made, stylish, and fun to experience, but… The controls are already a bit gluey in the main game, so it can be extremely difficult to manage jumping, shooting and dodging in the platformer sections. The dungeon crawler is a cool diversion, and comes at a highly climactic point in the game, but the puzzles involved took us forever to figure out. (Hint: try nudging the statues!) We really, really like these things in concept, but found their execution to be a speed bump. Still, the areas themselves are so stylish and engaging it was fun just to be in them!

Our favorite thing about this game, really, was its length. It took us about nine hours to beat Hylics 2, without doing all of the sidequests. The first Hylics can be beaten in its totality in about two hours, maybe one if you rush it! That’s a huge improvement on the amount of content the game offers you. Between all of the exploring, grinding, sidequesting, talking to NPCS, and plot happenings, the game feels like a fantastic bang for its buck. The price increase to around $15 from a measly $3 is well justified, and well worth the wait for release. We already can’t wait to play a second time through, this time giving the game a very thorough exploration.

Hylics 2 is the best game of 2020, without a doubt, and now sits firmly as one of our most favorite games of all time. There is no reason to buy both games – at less than $20 all together, it’s a steal.

Hylics 2 is available on itch.io and Steam.

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