The world has settled to a state of normalcy… or at least, the closest thing to normalcy. Wayne has retired and somehow spawned a bunch of larvae of himself, so that they may grow to face threats against the world once more. And wouldn’t you know it, some cultists are out trying to revive Gibby, the villain of the first game, and it’s up to one of the new Waynes to set out and stop that!
Hylics 2 is, of course, the sequel to Mason Lindroth’s Hylics, the 2015 claymation recreational RPG experience. It released earlier this year, so this is one of the rare instances where I cover something somewhat relevant to people for this site. I did a short playthrough of it over on my YouTube, so you can check that out if a video speaks louder than words, but speaking of that, let’s get to it.
So, the narrative of this game is more straightforward than its predecessor, but it’s interesting when you think about it in relation to it. Whereas you barely know the main goal of the first Hylics, it’s easy to figure out here, with characters clearly spelling out goals and the menu giving you a reminder of what to do and where to go. And while most of the dialogue in the first game is randomly generated, much of the dialogue here is coherent (if still a bit weird). Given a late-game event, it’s heavily implied that Gibby’s mere influence was what caused the nonsense of the first game, as if he is some chaos god.
On its own, Hylics 2 is a slightly weirder version of a standard old JRPG, but combined with the first game, it’s a struggle to maintain the state of the world. Going back to my interpretation of the first game’s plot, if the first game was about transcending and eradicating the absurdism of the world, the second game is about making sure that it sticks. Wayne is essentially a god of order trying to keep the world together, while everyone else is just kinda vibing – but Wayne will try his damnedest to make sure they stay vibing.
Now, visually, Hylics 2 is just phenomenal. The first Hylics already looked great within the RPG Maker engine, but now it has taken off its weighted training weights and ascended. No longer conformed to RPG Maker’s three frame movement animations and limited directions, the player characters of Hylics 2 now have much more fluid animations, running and flying in any direction (a good comparison can be found here). Environments look to be 3D modeled instead of being parallax images, which has a stronger look and gives the better impression that you’re in this strange claymation space. Instead of being still images, the enemies are now fully animated, doing bizarre idle dances and attacking with excited fervor. Mason Lindroth’s claymation art style is already interesting, but Hylics 2 is where it’s at its most liveliest.
Instead of handling the music himself, Lindroth handed the reins to musician Chuck Salamone. Going along with the state of the game’s world, the music direction isn’t as chaotic and bizarre as its predecessor. It’s much more structured, but it still maintains Hylics‘ offbeat mood by making most of the music – regardless of situation – chill as fuck. If you’re into some funky prog rock, this is the game for you. Just listen to the main battle theme, it fucking rules.
Like really, the aesthetics of Hylics 2 all comes together when you unlock the airship, where you fly around this cool pastel space with its bizarre landmasses, all while a pretty chill airship theme plays.
So, speaking of that battle theme above, battles! Battles are surprisingly hard in this game, demanding that you use the most of your resources to get through. Each enemy has a specific moveset and most of them are actually kinda dangerous, so battles come down to figuring out who is the most dangerous enemy in that situation, taking them out, and whittling the rest of the party down from there. One of the worst enemies that you could face – and the ones that makes Hylics 2 a genuinely frustrating experience – are the Poolmen and Poolmagnes. Both are enemies that can consistently replicate themselves, and the latter is worse in that on top of having more HP, they counter every hit a bleed-like skill. Like, my enjoyment of the game just tanks whenever I’m around them.
That said, there’s a lot of handy things that makes battles feel like they’re going smoothly, even if they surprisingly drag on for a bit. Status ailments are guaranteed to hit unless the target is inflicted with an ailment that explicitly counters it, so you’re pretty much obligated to use the DOT skills – and Wayne starts out with one that also debuffs enemy attack by default. After-battle healing also isn’t a big deal, because if you strike gray lifeforms outside of battle, they recover your Flesh and Will (HP and MP). This frees you up to only use items in battle, and I’ll be honest with myself, I made really poor use of my items throughout the whole game. A lot of fights in my playthrough probably would have gone better if I wasn’t stingy about item use.
From that stuff and carry-overs from the previous game like getting to run around in the afterlife, Hylics 2 does manage to maintain its recreational RPG moniker with its friendlier mechanics, in spite of the harder battles.
Beyond the RPG gameplay, Hylics 2 also dips into platforming and first-person dungeon crawls (though I missed out on the latter). Within the former segments, you play a tiny digital Wayne jumping and shooting around surprisingly long levels. These platformer segments feels like a fully realized version of one of Mason Lindroth’s past games, Muldulamulom, a small claymation Metroidvania. In this case, while the levels are mainly linear, the money and items you collect carry into the actual main game so you’re encouraged to explore around. They’re a nice change of pace, and much like Hylics 2‘s environments, the levels in the platformer segments are lovingly crafted with a distinct look throughout; though, platforming can be somewhat wonky in areas because collision can be off in oddly sculpted bits of architecture.
Hylics 2 is everything that a fan of the original game would want and more – even if battles are somewhat of a kick in teeth this time around. This is a must have for fans, for people that like short RPG experience and people that just like interesting looking games and I wholeheartedly recommend it.
(Please nerf the Poolmen even further they are the stuff of madness.)