Sunday, November 12, 2017

Review: Ittle Dew 2+


When you set your sights on creating a game experience that is inspired by classic masterpieces it is a mixed blessing. You want to create something of your own, with some unique aspects that help differentiate your offering, but at the same time you want and need to capture some of the spirit of the original. Ittle Dew 2+ is an obvious love letter of a game inspired by the classic top-down adventures perfected by The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, and it does a superb job of inspiring nostalgic feels while firmly establishing itself as a unique and worthwhile game in its own right.


In one of the more unusual opening stories I think I’ve ever seen Ittle ends up “marooned” on an island with her somewhat snarky companion, Tipsy. Be prepared, this game pokes fun at classic genre tropes and situations throughout, and that is one of its most entertaining and endearing qualities. With that in mind, in order to get off the island they’ll need to construct themselves a new raft, the pieces of which just happen to be strewn about in 8 dungeons spread across the map in differently-themed areas. In the video game world this makes perfect sense so off you’ll go! What is somewhat unique is that, generally, you’ll be able to ignore the game’s suggested direction and explore in whatever direction you’d like.

As expected, doing so is much more likely to get you killed, and without more powerful weapons the road may be much more complicated, but it absolutely is possible and that’s a refreshing change. It can sometimes make the dungeons a bit more puzzling too, though, since not all puzzles will be necessary to complete as some items will allow you to bypass certain paths. This means you’ll have to be mindful of what gear you have and that you potentially won’t be able to solve specific rooms with the equipment you have. It’s a real double-edged sword at times. But speaking of dungeons, if you were a bit disappointed that Breath of the Wild or titles like Yono weren’t sufficiently challenging in the puzzle department Ittle Dew 2+ completely has your back! Through the 8 base dungeons and the additional Dream World challenge dungeons put in the game (making it 2+ instead of just 2) I was consistently pushed to experiment and ponder over how to find the solutions to some major head-scratchers. You will be challenged, and it will be aggravating, but since it has been a while since we’ve had some great dungeon puzzles this definitely is a positive note.


Combat, on the other hand, is more of a mixed bag on the whole. Even with the right equipment the overworld is a consistent source of danger through many areas. You’ll need to pretty quickly figure out which zones you can handle confrontations in and which you’ll need to simply try to survive in until you can trigger a checkpoint so you won’t lose progress. If you hunt down all of the secret dungeons and go in every door you can find (be sure to refer to your map often as some doors are sneaky and hidden by the environment) you’ll generally be better prepared with more health and upgrades to your base weapons, but even fully powered up you can have problems. The biggest issue has to do with aim and angles when firing with your wand. This is a critical component in a few boss fights where you’ll need to deflect their shots with yours and while they can be conquered there’s no doubt your aim can be aggravatingly hard to get right. I actually would switch between the analog stick and the digital controls at times to try to help when I wanted to fire in straight lines in some cases and in odd angles at others, it was just a weird thing that was impossible not to notice.

Thankfully, in the end the elements that don’t work as well are greatly outnumbered by what Itte Dew 2+ gets right. Its dungeons are absolutely a loving answer to the call put out by classic Zelda fans who’ve been itching for some cleverly-constructed puzzles in the classic vein. The length is also worth the price of admission (and if you get it physically it comes with a great classic manual and a map as well), including the base 8 dungeon experience as well as a host of additional dungeons you can complete for collector’s cards in the added Dream World that will push your skills even further. Overall, Ittle Dew 2+ was a very pleasant surprise and is, without a doubt, the best homage to classic Zelda gaming on the Switch!


Score: 8.5

Pros:
  • The base of a terrific top-down adventure in the classic Zelda style
  • A very self-aware sense of humor
  • Tremendous and challenging dungeon puzzle design
  • The content added past the base 8 superb dungeons amps up the challenge even further

Cons:
  • The open-ended nature of how you can hit dungeons in any order can be a blessing and a curse
  • A few key concepts, like blocks being able to be moved diagonally, weren’t well-explained in the game
  • Combat and aiming can be aggravating at times for the wrong reasons


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