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Glorious pixel physics rule in Noita

Salt, fat, acid, heat.

If this is mud that's falling from the cavern above, having pooled in divots and then lapped and slopped over the edges, then why does it settle on top of the water in this beautiful subterranean lake? And why is that guy with flames for hands and feet and flames for a head walking towards me?

Oh, it's not mud at all. It must be oil. Because now everything is ablaze, fire arcing over the surface of the lake, boiling the lake dry, racing upwards to the cavern above and the overflowing divots. Now I'm on fire. Now the ground's giving way. Now I'm landing in fresh green water. Except it's acid rather than water. At least I'm not on fire anymore!

At least I'm not on fire anymore. Noita - I think it's a Finnish word for 'witch' - is the kind of game that has you counting your blessings, however small. It's a 2D procedural exploration game in which you play a robed adventurer heading deep underground with a bundle of magic wands for company. You can aim in any direction and you can levitate for a bit and you can kick things around if they're light enough. Secrets and enemies lurk all about.

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But the special ingredient is the world itself, rendered in grainy, gritty, twitching detail by glorious pixel art. Each pixel is part of a deeply simulated physics environment. Water falls and pools and extinguishes fire. Acid eats through rock. Oil goes up in a brisk flash and flames spread before you know it. If you like the kind of game that remembers when your magical robes are wet because you stepped in a puddle a few minutes ago, this is the game for you.

It's thrilling when it all kicks off, when a bomb explodes and clears a little circle of ground, the earth falling away in sizzling scatterings of light. It's thrilling when you shoot an acid monster with your standard wand and they hit the ground hard, their body rupturing and sending acid chewing down into the cavern below. It's thrilling when you first venture down and boot a minecart out of the way only to have it tumble and tumble and eventually fetch up against a pile of what looks like coal. More than anything, it's thrilling when you are minding your own business, a moment or two of uneasy calm, and you hear explosions in the deep because the world is alive and chaotic and filled with its own clumsy agency.

Noita's a rogue-lite by nature, and it's filled with all that rogue-lite stuff: enemies with their own behaviours, new wands and potions to uncover, procedural areas to work through. It's from the people behind Crayon Physics Deluxe, The Swapper and Baba is You, and it'll be out, I gather, "when it's done". I wonder what that looks like, the process of taking a game as wild and willful as Noita to the point where it's done. I don't wonder very much, of course, because I'm on fire, and I'm falling, and I'm being eaten away with acid.

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