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Video Game / Anodyne Two Return To Dust

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Nova, preparing to heal an infected

Anodyne 2: Return to Dust is a hybrid 3D-2D Action-Adventure game by Analgesic Productions. It is the sequel to Anodyne, though connections between the two games are not readily apparent.

Nano Dust infects the islanders of New Theland, distorting their emotions and desires. You play as Nova, a Nano Cleaner who must explore the island, seeking out the sick and shrinking inside their bodies to suction up the Dust.


The game provides examples of:

  • Added Alliterative Appeal: Central Cenote City. This gets drawn attention to later one as an "omen" when Nova rolls a C on one of the dice that Palisade left her.
  • Art Evolution: The 2D areas are far more detailed than comparable areas in Anodyne, and often have more colorful palettes as well.
  • Assimilation Plot: What "The Anodyne" truly is.
  • Brick Joke: At the beginning of the game, Nova's narration initially identifies Palisade and C Psalmist as "Mommies???", and at the end of the Confrontation ending Nova's narration identifies her as Zera's "Mommy" in turn.
  • The Cameo: Shesez of Boundary Break and James Lewell of NitroRad can be found in the game by glitching.
  • The Chosen One: As the Nano Cleaner, Nova is the only one who can solve the Dust crisis plaguing New Theland, and was specifically created by the Center for this role. Subverted; the Nano Cleaner is just a role that the Center is fully capable of replacing, and Nova isn't even the first one. In the Confrontation ending, she even witnesses her successor, Zera being given the same speech she was at the beginning of the game.
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  • Cyborg: Not explicitly drawn attention to, as very few residents of New Theeland are recognizably human at all, but Nova's "visor" is actually part of her body, as Zera retains these features even when reverting to an infant made her drop out of her other clothes.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: Nano Dust, as it turns out, heightens emotion and self-will - all emotion and self-will, including positive ones. One of the climatic moments of the game is encountering Dustbound Village, a society of people who live in harmony with the Dust and come off as being perfectly normal, the only real odd bit is the ability to turn invisible by channeling Dust.
  • Easter Egg: There are plenty of hidden collectibles and references to YouTube personalities behind invisible walls that the player is encouraged to glitch through.
  • Exploiting the Fourth Wall: There's one character in New Theland that appears to not be fully coded. Trying to use Nova's Spark on it will forcibly pull Nova through a seemingly unbeatable dive sequence, followed by a look at the life of Nora, who attempts to leave the safety of her computer, only to encounter a monster that stops chasing her when she escapes back into the role of Nova.
  • Faking the Dead: Nova, realizing her own Glandilock Seed will always keep her in the Center's control on the Good End path, uses Dustbound Village's invisibility technique to fake dying. The Center makes a replacement, Zera, who Nova then Sparks to remove their seed and grant them free will.
  • Fountain of Youth: Nova's replacement Zera, once her empowering Glandilock Seed is removed, regresses from a fully-grown person to their true age of a recently-created infant.
  • Gameplay and Story Integration: A few areas do not require a dive sequence before Nova enters them because these places do not have Dust built up at all.
  • Go Mad from the Isolation: Look hard enough, and it's possible to visit the original Theland, where Sage desperately looked for an exit of their own after Young left, glitching up everything in the process.
  • Has Two Mommies: Invoked with Nova's relationship to C Psalmist and Palisade, as her internal narration initial identifies them as "Mommies???" before correcting to "Guardians and Caretakers". While Palisade does quickly gravitate towards treating Nova as a child, and Nova views her as a mother figure, it's only in the wake of Palisade's disappearance that C Pslamist overcomes her awkwardness around children to have a similar relationship with Nova.
  • Heel: Nova plays one in the Dustbound Village's weekly wrestling matches, as the "Weedoran Witch", and gets pretty into it. The attempt to promote a Heel–Face Turn against a true Heel in The Center ends up backfiring and sending her running from the village.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Psalmist dissolves her body into Dust crystals to attack and destroy Visonary in the Good Ending after he tries to go One-Winged Angel.
  • Hero of Another Story: There was at least one Nano Cleaner before Nova, who did something so rebellious that it mandated the introduction of the Glandilock Seed protocol. But whatever any previous Nano Cleaners did is left unstated.
  • Lighter and Softer: Despite having nightmarish moments, the sequel's tone is nowhere near as dark and disturbing compared to its predecessor.
  • Measuring the Marigolds: In the wake of her grief at Palisade disappearing, Nova interprets Palisade's gift to her as some sort of ritual she has to execute to bring Palisade back, instead of the simple toys that they were; even getting mad at Ashe Beatty when she has fun with the "sacred tools"
  • Mental World: Many inhabitants in New Theland have one, which Nova must cleanse of Dust, though some later game areas have Dust built up in settlements or buildings which are also people.
  • Mind Screw: The "Nora" segment.
  • Minus World: Intentionally invoked as was done in Anodyne; it's possible to get out of bounds via careful platforming or glitches in numerous areas, allowing the player to explore the quite substantial out of bounds terrain and often find unique scenery, collectibles, and NPCs that can't otherwise be interacted with. It even has narrative justification and implication, as New Theland was directly created by The Center and Nova finding the boundaries aren't always consistent or explained fits in with the Dustbound Village outright viewing the Center as a villain.
  • More Than Mind Control: A secret purpose of the Glandilock Seeds, inundating their host with intrusive thoughts which mimic self-loathing and depression, in order to make them more amenable to the Center's purpose. You get a taste of this in the Good Ending, when actually removing the lid of the Dust container so Nova can hide in it runs into a bunch of outright bullying text prompts as the Seed fights Nova for control.
  • Multiple Endings: Depending on whether Nova completes her mission, or rebels against the Center after visiting Dustbound Village.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Nova has this reaction to Zera seemingly dying after her Glandilock Seed is removed.
  • Mystical Pregnancy: Elegy Beatty initially takes a Dust growth to be a sign that she's going to die soon, only for it to be detached and become a child, Ashe.
  • Nostalgia Level: The original Theland and the Nexus both show up in this game, with the former featuring the aftereffects of the overuse of the swap tool, with misplaced tiles and a generally buggy look to it.
  • Palette Swap: Played for Drama. Zera has the same model as Nova, just altered to have darker skin, a golden visor instead of a silver one, and a red half-skirt instead of a green one
  • Precocious Crush: Nova almost immediately becomes infatuated with Elegy Beatty when they first meet. Elegy for her part seems to view Nova as a friend in need of guidance, and it's only after Nova has matured through the Confrontation ending that she seems to reciprocate Nova's affection.
  • Rapid Aging: A rare instance of being done in terms of mental development and not necessarily physical. Despite being physically mature at the instant of her creation, Nova is still very new to the world, and throughout the first and second acts, Palisade treats her as a small child. In the third act, after Palisade is destroyed by the Center and Nova finds the Dustbound Village, she acts much more like a teenager, with very raw emotions. In the finale, she has matured into a young adult, weighing the consequences of her decisions and actions, and in the confrontation ending, even becomes a surrogate mother to Zera.
  • Silent Protagonist: Nova. However, people in Dustbound Village trying to converse with her make her realize she can talk, but never had to before then because it wasn't necessary for her assigned mission.
  • Size Shifter: In order to cleanse Dust from New Theland's inhabitants, Nova shrinks herself down with her Spark, transitioning from her 3D world to an infected's 2D Mental World. And can further shrink down into a 2D person's 8-bit world.
  • Spiritual Successor: To Anodyne. It's even stated by the developers once the player starts the game that Anodyne 2 is somewhat of a spiritual successor rather than a sequel. Emphasis on "somewhat" since the player can visit the original Theland, fully corrupted after the events of the first game.
  • Title Drop: "The Anodyne" is an event the Center plans to instigate, to cleanse the world of dust. And emotion.
  • Treacherous Advisor: Nova's creators and parental figures want to use the collected Dust to attempt an Assimilation Plot. Downplayed, in that only one (Visionary) is actually happy about this, and the other two (Palisade and Psalmist, her actual nannies) eventually rebel in some ways.
  • The Unfought: Visionary, who wants to instigate "The Anodyne", gets taken out by Psalmist's Heroic Sacrifice in the good ending.
  • Wham Episode: Those infected with Dust in Central Cenote City have troubles that are largely solved by Nova cleaning them of Nanodust, but in when she travels to Blue Vale, she finds that Mayor Georg Agricite's town and family are all dead from Dust related fungus, and can only help him come to terms with it. Except, they're not. They all just left for other areas, including his husband and daughter, and Georg is delusional that digging out their fields will save them. Purging him of nanodust only strengthens his convictions rather than bringing him to his senses, and he ends up lying down afterwards and remains unresponsive.

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