There are frankly too many roguelikes coming out these days to even keep track of. Throw in some platforming action, and you’ve got a recipe for seemingly a dozen games every month. But despite the genre’s oversaturation, once in a while a roguelike comes along that’s inventive enough to make the old genre feel new again. That’s exactly the case with Little Noah: Scion of Paradise.
Your first look at Little Noah may have came during the June 2022 Nintendo Direct, where the game was first revealed. Along with major upcoming games like Harvestella, the showcase made room for some intriguing indies, Little Noah among them. It didn’t make a huge impression sandwiched between heavy hitters Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope and Sonic Frontiers, but even there, its combat system stood out.
On the surface, Little Noah looks familiar. It’s a platforming roguelike in the vein of Dead Cells, though 2021’s more obscure Ender Lilies is a closer comparison.
Little Noah’s greatest strength is its simple, compelling gameplay loop.
In Little Noah, you play as Noah Little (yeah, it’s weird), an alchemist exploring an ancient ruin after her airship crashes nearby. Each journey into the ruins inevitably ends in your death, at which point you return to the surface and use resources you found in the depths to upgrade your base camp for various bonuses. Typical stuff for the genre.
As in most roguelikes, you make progress during runs by picking up random upgrades to build your character and fusing the grab bag of effects into a functional character. What makes Little Noah more interesting is you’re not just gathering stat bonuses and new weapons. Instead, you recruit a whole army of creatures — from sword-wielding mice to fire-breathing dragons — that do all the fighting for you.
In practice, it still plays how you’d expect a roguelike to. But rather than slashing away at enemies yourself, each press of the attack button sends one of your minions out to do the dirty work. You start with a handful of low-level Lilliputs, as they’re called, that perform basic slash attacks. Allies you find in the dungeon make things much more interesting by switching up the attacks. One might launch a grenade while another appears over enemies’ heads to drop on them like an anvil.
The Lilliputs you assign to your attack button act one after the other, so more than curating a collection of different abilities, you’re building combo chains. That makes the order you place them in just as important as which ones you select. A good starter combo could be a few quick slashes followed by a knockback attack and a ranged finisher. You’re free to get absolutely wild with these combinations, though, and build combos that continually push enemies back from even getting near Noah or lock them down by repeatedly flinging foes into the air and slamming them back to the ground.
From that system, simple in practice but with an incredible amount of flexibility, Little Noah can easily turn into a sleep-ruining compulsion. Since you pick up Lilliputs randomly, every run can feel almost like a different game. Sometimes it’s hack-and-slash action, sometimes it’s practically a platforming shooter.
There are plenty of other wrinkles to Little Noah, like unlockable costumes that give minor stat tweaks and screen-filling bosses that quickly ramp up the challenge. Between battles, a simple but charming story unfolds, following Noah and her fussy talking cat companion. All these elements feel welcome, but it’s the core combat that’ll keep you coming back for more.
Since Little Noah’s June release, it’s already had two major updates and two small DLC packs. They’re not game-changing, but they do enough to make booting up the game worthwhile even if you’ve already beaten up. The first free update adds a hardcore difficulty mode, randomly appearing mini-games, and new rooms and Lilliputs in dungeons. The second most notably adds a boss gauntlet mode, while both DLC packs add costumes and Lilliputs. For a game that’s already bargain-priced at $15, two free updates and two DLC packs for a few bucks each are already more than most players would probably expect.
Little Noah isn’t likely to make many GOTY lists, and it might not even change your mind about roguelikes if you’re not already a fan. But if you’re looking for a good action game to show you something new with a familiar genre and keep you dreaming up new strategies even once you put it down, it’s one of your best choices on the Nintendo Switch.