Ittle Dew 2+ (Switch) Review – A Little bit of Everything
Platforms: PC, Nintendo Switch (reviewed), PS4, Xbox One
Release: 15th November 2016 / 14th November 2017 (Switch)
Price: 19.99 / 29.99 (Switch)
Around a year after its original release, Ittle Dew 2+ finally makes its way onto the Switch. Packed with an extra little campaign and promises to deliver a worthy 2D Zelda experience, Nicalis’ latest published game sets out to conquer our hearts and brain cells at the same time. Unfortunately, not everything is as great as its design.
As many other 2D Zelda games, Ittle Dew 2+ doesn´t follow a huge storyline. Ittle and her talking, flying fox Tippsie are stranded on an island once again. In order to build a raft they need to find and solve all 8 dungeons, each containing a valuable raft piece. Throughout the game they´ll meet all kinds of crazy people, either charmingly bizarre or just silly ones. Where Ittle Dew 1 already exceeded whas the writing of the 4th wall breaking main duo in combination with the dry characters. The second entry is no exception. Through legitimate funny dialogues, like an argument between Ittle and a safety officer about the dangers lurking in those nasty dungeons, which are able to mix the seemingly cliché characters or ideas into a mix of smartly played punchlines, it´s able to offer one of those rare, very enjoyable silly experiences.
Sadly, the game also steps into common traps of such an sarcastical approach, joking about bad design while doing it at the same time. Fighting the same boss 2 times with only slight variation for example isn´t going to get better if you make jokes about it.
The additional 5 dream dungeons in the “+ Edition” are also wrapped into a little story but compared to the main one, it´s rather forgettable.
Another big part of its charm are the visuals. Being heavily inspired by cartoon series, Ittle Dew 2+´s artworks, character portraits or world itself look like they´re directly ripped from one of them. Especially the silly designs of the island inhabitants or Tippsie truly stand out. On the other hand, the in-game graphics are more of a double-edged sword, due to the fact it´s 3D with a stripped on comic look. The problem is, that the models in particular but the terrain as well simply lack so much detail.
In order to offer the same minimalism seen in the artworks, most things look like a geometrical form painted with a few colours. Surely some people may find it charming and personally, I got used to it fairly quickly, it´s just not a stunning looking game at first glance. A classic 2D approach would´ve been way better. The whole game also “wabbles” all the time, to mimic classic cartoon sketches, it can be quite annoying. Nonetheless the soundtrack is still a very beautiful thing to underline the sometimes fantastic designed worlds.
Speaking of the world design, as most 2D Zelda´s, Ittle Dew 2+ features quite a big open world. Divided into around a dozen little biotopes, each with their own theme, atmosphere, enemies and of course, dungeons. Since the eight main dungeons get marked on the map one by one, leading to a redundant obstacle run, having a compelling open world is crucial. On the one hand, the dozens of explorable houses, which offer everything from little conversations to little side dungeons, let the world seem alive. On the other hand, every area offers at least 1-2 optional little dungeons, shortcuts to other areas or other neat side stuff. Additionally, everything about the world is crafted with a huge love to detail, citizens react to you destroying their furniture for example and much more.
Yet, there isn´t much to actually obtain through exploring because important life-extending items can all be found in the main dungeons. Optional dungeons burst so-called secret shard with which it´s possible to unlock new tiny dungeons if enough are collected, it´s a big hassle and often doesn´t seem worth the price.
Luckily, Ittle Dew 2+ can absolutely nail its puzzle design. Separated into rooms, every dungeon is basically an exact copy of every other 2D Zelda or similar game. However, where most failed to reproduce a steady learning and difficulty curve, Ludosity comes damn close to their idol. Every dungeon is built in the same way, introducing a new mechanic at the beginning, practicing it for 2-3 rooms before giving the player a whole new upgrade or item.
The game will then continue anew with its difficulty curve, showing off individual functions or use cases of the new item before fully implementing it during the next dungeon. Despite the majority of puzzles being made out of different blocks and their various ways to move them, Ittle Dew 2+ features a rich variety of tools, like a push-wand or burning sword to destroy ice. Learning the different mechanics feels challenging but rewarding and fair in all the right ways.
Last but definitely not least, the combat, an utterly disappointing aspect. In theory it´s about dodging attacks with the roll, hit the enemy and redo the process, a fast combat. Unfortunately, the animation priority transforms a good idea into a slow, frustrating, unfitting mess. Ittle has to complete an attack before reacting to new inputs but due to her slow animations, while enemies are fast and can´t be interrupted, lead to an experience full of clunkiness. Personally, I never saw a game where the player character bounces back after each attack instead of the enemy, which felt rather strange, at least for me. In combination with the heavy hitting, unpredictable bosses, every encounter reminded me once again how much potential Ludosity gave away.
Is Ittle Dew 2+ the best possible 2D action puzzler out there? No, definitely not, but with it´s super cute dialogues, great presentation and big open world, it´s a pretty good game. If it wouldn´t suffer from a messy combat or somewhat unrewarding exploration, the great puzzle design, dungeons and progression packed into a beautifully written world would´ve surely made a lovely game. As it is now, it´s a decent one with too many flaws on too many edges to be wholeheartedly recommendable for 29.99.
[A Review Code was provided by Nicalis]