Sunday, November 20, 2016

Ittle Dew 2 (PS4, XB1, PC) Review

We start the week with a brand-new review. This time, we're taking a look at Ittle Dew 2 from Ludosity, which just launched this past week. The PlayStation 4 version is the one I played for this review, but the experience should be similar across all platforms. Here's the SuperPhillip Central review.

Thank goodness for shipwrecks!

The Legend of Zelda is one of my favorite video game franchises of all time. It's such a historic and progressive series that has such a delightful formula that is rather tough to nail down. It's any wonder why many developers don't even try. However, we've seen a rise in the Zelda-like thanks to various indies. One such indie, Ludosity, already has a Zelda-like quest under its belt with Ittle Dew. Now, the sequel has launched with a 3D makeover, offering an adventure that will make you laugh as much as it makes you ponder how to solve that particularly daunting next puzzle!

Marooned yet again on an island, the duo of heroes, Ittle, a strong-willed girl always ready for an adventure, and her companion, a cheeky fox-like creature named Tippsie, find themselves in uncharted territory once more. There mission is already set in stone... er... I guess wood would be a better word to use, as the two need to find eight wooden raft pieces to craft an escape from the mysterious and hazard-filled island they find themselves on.

We wouldn't have a game if that wasn't the case!
The humor is abundantly apparent within the first few minutes of Ittle Dew 2. Asking Ittle if simply cutting down a tree would be smarter in order to build a raft, Ittle simply states matter-of-factly that "rafts don't grow on trees." The constant winking, lampshading, and mocking of video game and action-adventure game tropes remains from the original Ittle Dew, and it's still as funny and chuckle-worthy as ever.

The adventure is as awesome as ever, too. Ittle Dew 2 challenges you with moving Ittle through an open overworld map connected by zones that house different locales, enemies, obstacles, and challenges. The eight raft pieces are conveniently placed in dungeons spread around the world map. A great part of Ittle Dew 2 is that you need no tackle these dungeons in any order, save for the final one that unlocks once the previous seven raft pieces have been collected. Doing this makes it so multiple playthroughs need not give you the same experience. You can shake and vary things up, which makes repeated plays of Ittle Dew 2 feel vastly different from each other.

Each zone in Ittle Dew 2 feels like its own special place.
Beating dungeons out of order isn't necessarily too big of an issue. Sure, enemies attack stronger and harder if you don't have upgraded weapons and defensive equipment, but you usually can strong-arm your way through the dungeons thanks to the generous checkpoint system and dungeon design. Losing all of Ittle's hearts in a dungeon takes you back to the beginning of the dungeon. However, because the design of dungeons never fails to have it where you're able to open up shortcuts and portals that allow quicker access to deeper parts of said dungeons.

Dungeons house the most amount of puzzles within Ittle Dew 2, and from the beginning dungeons, the puzzles are relatively elementary affairs to complete. Push a block on this switch, step on the other switch to open the door, boom! As you progress in the game and reach later dungeons (or, as I mentioned, if you just go out of order), you'll find that you'll discover truly brain-busting puzzles. What puzzles you faced earlier in your adventure that took no more than ten seconds to figure our the solution to will feature puzzles later in Ittle Dew 2 that can take you ten minutes just to wrap your head around the concept of what the developers want you to do. They're never impossible to solve or have unfair solutions. You'll never feel like you were cheated or mislead. Instead, if you think about how to use four main items you're eventually equipped with, each mapped to one face button, and how to combine their uses to solve puzzles, you'll figure out the solutions.

Stepping on four buttons in order isn't usually too taxing a challenge,
but it is when you've got enemies in your way.
The four weapons that Ittle comes across in the various dungeons of Ittle Dew 2 can also be found in special portals that take you to uncharted destinations not even on the world map. These portals usually house combat or movement challenges in order to acquire a treasure of some type. Many times you'll find one of the four weapons of the game, but if you already have the original, whether you found it in a dungeon or in a portal area first, you'll gain an upgraded version of that weapon. Both weapons as well as special defensive equipment like headbands can be upgraded up to three times through finding them in dungeons or in the wild. Thus, making the process of going out of the recommended order of dungeons much easier to accomplish.

These four weapons in Ittle Dew 2 come in the form of a standard stick that can eventually launch fireballs from its tip regardless of Ittle's health. There's also a wand that shoots balls of magic that can interact with faraway objects and trigger mechanisms like crystals that open doors in dungeons. Then there's dynamite which serves as Ittle Dew 2's version of The Legend of Zelda's generic bombs. Finally, there's an ice ring that can freeze enemies and create one ice block that can be slid across the ground. This is great for summoning an ice block to hold down a button while Ittle stands on the other, successfully unlocking a door in the process.

I don't know what is more dangerous to Ittle here-- the skeletons or the bitter cold!
Ittle Dew 2's puzzles don't just hang out in the eight dungeons of the game. No, the entire world map is littered in the greatest sense of the word with secret caverns and hidden areas. Some are as simple to access as striking a peculiar object or section of wall while others require some deeper thought. Whether it's standing still by a barrel for a few seconds to reveal a hole, hitting a series of pillars in a certain order, or escorting a ghostly spirit to its resting place, there are many clever solutions to uncovering caves. Thankfully, a lot of these secrets have NPCs within the world that don't mind sparing a hint towards them. Additionally, many of the secret caves can become marked on your map by finding special scrolls that reveal some of the caverns' locations. These secret areas are worth investigating, too, as many house the aforementioned portals leading to helpful treasure, to health-boosting Crayon Boxes, and even special shards that when many have been collected, open up three of hidden dungeons across the world map.

Most caves house a short but sweet puzzle to solve to make you really earn your reward.
These hidden dungeons reward you with Forbidden Keys upon clearing them. You also get the fourth and final key through beating the final boss of the game. The four Forbidden Keys can then be used to open up the door to the ultimate dungeon, optional, yes, but very worthwhile. It's full of the hardest enemies, most ingenious puzzles, and greatest dangers, all concluding with a seriously challenging boss.

To see everything within Ittle Dew 2 took me about ten hours of playtime. This includes getting all ten trophies (again, I played the PS4 version), maxing out Ittle's health by finding all of the Crayon Boxes, upgrading all possible equipment to max, beating all eight regular dungeons and the four optional ones, and reaching the end of the game. I can very much see myself replaying Ittle Dew 2, despite having done everything even trophy-wise because it was such a rewarding experience, especially as a big-time Zelda fan.

Ittle Dew 2 isn't without its faults, however. The frame-rate did struggle in more action-intense areas, particularly some boss battles, which cost me precious health when trying to avoid their attacks. The bosses themselves are recycled throughout the main dungeons, only differing in what attacks they add each time. So be prepared to see the same three bosses in the initial seven dungeons multiple times. Even though the developers lampshade this with dialogue even making fun of things like "development costs" as to why the same bosses are being battled, which is very funny, but at the same time, it's still not optimal. In addition to these issues, there is the small one of doorways in dungeons and indoor areas being a bit too easy to be hit back into. It sucks when you're trying to take down an enemy that takes a fair amount of time to beat and it knocks you back into a door, causing you to leave the room. When you return, the enemy obviously has its health back.

Then there's the biggest problem: The price point. Generally I equate massive games with a $20 price point, which something like Ittle Dew 2 really isn't. When you can get a game like Dead Rising on PS4 or Xbox One, which is a much larger game for the same price, it can be hard to recommend Ittle Dew 2 at its current price. However, if you really dig quality Zelda-like experiences, I believe you won't feel TOO much sticker shock with the price.

Hmm. Don't I recognize you from somewhere? Why, yes, that OTHER dungeon. My mistake!
Despite these issue minor and a little more major, Ittle Dew 2 is a satisfying adventure. Finding hidden areas and dungeons, not knowing what hazards, puzzles, and treasures await, makes for a very fulfilling quest. Solving particularly challenging puzzles after taking minutes to comprehend what exactly it is the designers had in mind for you to do is especially gratifying and feels great. Ittle Dew 2 is a worthy adventure that uses its inspiration from Nintendo's Legend of Zelda series wonderfully, packing in its own brand of self-referential humor to make it a delightful game from start to finish, and for repeated plays.

[SPC Says: B+]

Review code provided by Ludosity.

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