Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Ittle Dew 2 (PS4)

Before I was selected to review this game I had no idea what it was about or which studio developed it. Upon learning that it was a Nicalis creation though all my fears regarding the game's sequel nature, and it's possible poor indie quality subsided. I know I was quick to judge the game before even learning about it, but thankfully I did get to discover what "Ittle Dew 2" was all about. For those of you new to the 'Ittile (ittle) Dew' series you'll be glad to know that this "Legend of Zelda" inspired action/adventure RPG can be played, and experienced as if it were a standalone release. It's a game that follows the havoc wreaking path of an unlikely female adventurer named Ittle, and her talking and flying fox sidekick Tippsie. It seems the pair got stranded on an island this time around without a way off due to the destruction of their raft. As a result of said loss it is their ultimate goal to gather raft pieces in order to move onward to their next island adventure.

Upon washing up on shore the two traveling adventurers meet up almost immediately with a grumpy town leader who tells them to basically not embark on any adventures while there. He is definitely anti-adventure in those regards. To stop them he has his fellow citizens guard the various raft pieces within dungeons in hopes of scaring the duo off. As Ittle, with the tip guidance of your companion Tippsie you'll continue forward on your adventure regardless of the given warning while harassing the local townsfolk, trashing the objects in your path Link style, and looting the place for not only raft pieces, but also for items that will help you progress throughout the sectioned off island. There are secrets aplenty, and formidable foes spread widely across the island which stand between your path of adventure, and the stranding situation you currently face.

As Ittle, the series protagonist, you'll be navigating and interacting with your island environments as well as the natives housed therein very much like you have in games such as that of "The Legend of Zelda" series (*cough*). In fact this game is heavily inspired by LoZ. More so than Nicalis's "The Binding of Isaac" or "Full Mojo Rampage". It completely loses the randomly generated dungeons, and sticks to Ittle's pursuit of the raft pieces, and the loot that is required to tackle both puzzles, and enemies. When you first start, after the run in with the grumpy town representative you'll find that your only tool to work with is a stick. With it you can bash objects, kill off enemies, and use it to complete the first tutorial dungeon's puzzles. The gameplay which grows increasingly more challenging as you play focuses on both puzzle solving elements, combat, and the main objective that is finding the loot necessary to get you a sea worthy craft.

Through the pop-up menu where Tippsie resides (L1) you'll find area specific tips regarding the game's loot including directional goals meant to steer you towards end game completion. By "area specific tips" I'm referring to the fact that the map of the island you are on, and the coinciding landscapes you travel under foot are divided into squared off sections that are distinct in theme and item inclusion. Each area houses a number of buildings/houses, and cave-like locations as well as hidden dungeons that are more secretive. As you travel to the room filled dungeons, and buildings located along your trek you will discover new tools with which to solve more complex puzzles, and increasingly difficult to defeat enemy types. Unlike previously mentioned Nicalis games said tools are not random in nature, but instead are mandatory for progress sake. The dungeons where these new tools are usually located are sectioned off by rooms. There are rooms that require keys, and some rooms that can only be accessed by completing switch based puzzles, or enemy defeat requirements among other things. At the final room of each main dungeon lies a boss which you'll have to defeat in order to gain that dungeon's raft piece. Preceding each dungeon's boss room is a pink health refill plate that once stood on will refill your health hearts while marking the place as a spawning point should you die during battle. These health plates can also be found on specific points on the outside terrain as well. The boss battles, for what they're worth are as one might expect. They have Ittle dodging the projectiles, and movement patterns of large bosses as well as boss specific melee attacks while she uses her weapons and tools to deal the damage that is necessary to defeat said adversary. Learning the patterns is of course the key to victory as is mastering the tools you collect.

At Ittle's disposal, beyond your island entry point stick/staff are things such as dynamite which is used to blow up certain blockades, and a force wand which doubles as a projectile weapon as well as a method to force moveable blocks into position during puzzles. Ittle can also perform an evasive roll (R1) with invincibility which will allow her to get past certain environmental hazards without harm. As you make your way through the various landscapes, and dungeons you not only have to mind the lesser enemies, greater enemies, and bosses, but you also have to avoid pitfalls along with various other traps or hazards.

Another key feature tied to gameplay in "Ittle Dew 2 (It Will Do, I get it now!!!)" is the map which can be brought up onscreen by pressing the controller's center touchpad. Once it's pulled up you'll see areas you have visited, key points of interest in each area that are highlighted in their own way according to significance, and the current objective that is marked by a pointing red arrow. This feature helps when you don't know where to go, and in effect keeps you on the straight and narrow. Navigating the landscape isn't always a lengthy walk though as you'll find warp portals that will take you immediately to different areas as well as health/spawn plates that will help you save your position in the game should you need a break from gameplay. Speaking of which you can press (OPTIONS), and bring up a menu that will allow you to tweak the volume, and language setting as well as save, and close the game.

As far as the visual aspect of the game goes it is borderline "Adventure Time!" in nature. The cartoon-like character designs are so oddball, and wacky it seems like such a cartoon. The environments themselves are more or less laid out like older LoZ 3DS, and DS games, but with a vividly colorful presentation that makes it all pop in a 60's sort of way. As far as area themes go you'll find that there's an odd selection of environments including an area that bases itself off of the art museum dungeon at it's center. There's that, and a lava looking wild west setting where spicy Doritos are placed firmly in rivers of lava along with jalapeno pepper plants that dot the red martian landscape. You'll even find a sandy sugar beach with sweets of all sorts lying around. Along with said stationary sweets comes serpentine candy cane enemies, and enemies that look like gumdrops with a pair of legs. The assortment of creatures, and characters in general is definitely something worth visually taking in as you move Ittle about on her journey.

When it comes to the soundtrack it is a mellow symphony of tunes that once again hints at a trippy 60's vibe. I was actually impressed with the variety of music that plays out, and changes each time you enter an new area. I should also mention that each area is named, and that the name appears briefly onscreen when you first enter it. Sadly, I cannot remember a single one as I was too focused on the visuals. If you like these sorts of features along with the provided challenging puzzles, and fun-filled gameplay I think it's safe to say that this LoZ tribute game might actually be worth the $19.99 the developer is asking for, to you.

The Verdict ...

I was pleasantly surprised with "Ittle Dew 2". Despite it being a heavy nod to LoZ it was a fun experience littered with genius puzzle elements, hidden secrets, challenging battles, and a simple story with an effective straightforward objective. I found no flaws during my playthrough, and was able to do all that I needed to do in order to progress. I think the game's real charm comes from the character design, the environmental design, the accompanying soundtrack, and the action packed adventure that comes along with it all. I highly suggest picking this game up even if you missed out on the first installment. It can be played as if it were a standalone game. Definitely don't miss it if you are a LoZ fan!

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