Wot I Think: Ittle Dew

By John Walker on July 29th, 2013 at 9:00 pm.

I like Ittle Dew a lot more now I’ve finished it than I did at various points during playing it. But then I loved it at various points during playing it. So, well, this should be helpful… Here’s wot I think I think:

My immediate reaction to Ittle Dew was to want to cuddle it. It’s so cute, funny, snarky, and silly. It manages to capture that sweet spot between the nice idea of an irreverent web comic and what irreverent web comics are actually like – so never tipping over into smug hatefulness, while being studiously aloof. And it’s a Metroidvania sort of thing, and I am genetically programmed to like those.

I was also taken immediately by the enjoyable notion of freedom. You’re limited by gained equipment, but you can wander surprisingly far in various directions from the start. You’re the titchy titular Ittle Dew, a young girl hellbent on having some adventure. Arriving at an island that looks like it should be packed with the stuff, accompanied by an uninterested fox, Tippsie, you start seeking the damned stuff out as fast as you can. Exploration makes you aware that this is a fair bit Zelda, a smidgeon Metroid, and a surprisingly big chunk of Sokoban.

So it’s an RPG, with block-pushing puzzles taking a rather large role. And that leaves me confused. Because I really rather hate block-pushing puzzles. Solving them is so much effort, that even if you immediately happen upon the solution you still have to spend ages rushing about pushing things all over, and then inevitably accidentally push something into a corner and have to restart the room. That’s true of every example of the genre, and it’s true of Ittle Dew too. But I’m enjoying it anyway. Apart from when I’m not.

Every part of its delivery is winning me over. The enemies, who are whacked with sticks and swords, are all brilliantly animated and characterised. Like the furious-faced girls wearing poorly-made frog costumes. Or the Titan de Graphiques – large, winged blocks of stone that are FREAKING OUT because they are afraid of heights and can’t stop flying. Your fox companion’s utter indifference to everything is peculiarly entertaining, especially when you catching him swigging health potions that you don’t have access to. Although that’s countered by the first time you pick up a heart dropped by a slain enemy, and Tippsie points out that EATING A HEART IS REVOLTING. Good point, Tippsie.

The thing is, on a couple of occasions it starts to lose its way as you start to lose yours. Being open is great. Being confusing is less so. And it’s often tricky to remember where you are and why you’re there. This gets worse when you buy something from the store, and are catapulted (literally) into a different area of the game, from which there’s no escape until you solve its puzzles. But I don’t want to be stuck here. I want the variety I just had. Apart from when it was too much variety. And I’m stuck on a puzzle I need to complete, and now I hate it.

And then I figure out what I wasn’t figuring out, and suddenly I love the game again. Still a bit frustrated by its lack of direction, despite its propensity of directions.

A big part of this is either due to being splendidly open to player discovery, or woefully lacking in useful information. It’s one of those two. Like, you can teleport yourself using the portal wand. There’s no hint anywhere that this is the case, and it’s counter-intuitive to try it. So is it brilliant that I had to spend a frustrating half hour learning that, or bad design? I’ve no idea. This game is too cruel-cute to let me usefully object to it, and I’ve lost all my critical faculties as a result. I’m suspicious that if the game started calling me “Mr Fatty Stupid Face” I’d awkwardly laugh and say, “Sure, that has made me cry a bit, but I suppose it’s probably my fault.”

The pattern repeats. When I’m stuck on something, I get cross with the game, and feel stupid because I know there’s a solution in front of me, but I haven’t outsmarted it yet. And then I solve it and I feel like a genius, and it’s the greatest game of the modern age. And then I’m stuck again. That’s probably true of any Sokoban variant, but it gets more weird when it’s in the centre of an RPG. The combat is mostly simplistic, albeit with some enemies requiring slightly more tricksy flapping about. Bosses are more complex, but not a great deal – they’re more about embracing the specialities of the tools that area is focusing on. But it’s all pretty incidental, something to get in your way as you move from puzzle to puzzle. In the end, it’s inescapably about block-pushing puzzles, and so the constant highs and lows they offer are ubiquitous.

It’s important to note that the puzzle design is mostly really splendid. You may have solved block-pushing puzzles until you can do them in a coma, but there are lots of original ideas here. That’s elaborated when you’re freezing blocks, blowing up bombs with a fire sword, and teleporting objects around. I’ve finished the game, but I did leave a few puzzles unsolved, because I simply couldn’t do them. I hate those puzzles. But the tricky ones toward the very end that I did solve? Those proved that I’m the cleverest one there is.

The game never stops being fantastically sarcastically cute, and delivers with all its gags. The puzzle difficulty wavers, with the oddity of a lot of the final main-route rooms toward the end being far too easy, and then culminating in a boss that’s far too fiddly. But it won me over from the start, and I forgave anything else because of another exchange of jibes with an enemy and the flattering success of figuring out the next tricksy room. It’s a tenner, and you’ll likely make your way through it in six or seven hours, which seems just about right to me.

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53 Comments »

  1. Dowr says:

    I (oh, what’s the best word to display my enthusiasm without swearing… oh sod it) FUCKING love the drawings and animation.

    • Bobka says:

      Swearing is for people who don’t know how to express their thoughts. You should try the positively hyperbolic “rather” or “quite” or, if you are a colonial, “really” (shudder). If those don’t suite your desired emotional expressions, well, you are, er, wrong. Because swearing lends emotional weight to sentences that, er, civilized people don’t need anyway. Because they don’t have that much emotion. Or something. Indeed. Fuck swearing. I mean, er, I really quite disapprove.

      • Epsz says:

        “profanity and obscenity entitle people who don’t want unpleasant information to close their ears and eyes to you.”

      • Universal Quitter says:

        So if we’re colonials, do I get to call you guys limey bastards without it being considered hate-speech?

        • whollyrandom says:

          Go right ahead, nauseating foreigner.

        • frightlever says:

          I’m a paddy so WTF do I know, but I’m pretty sure “limey bastard” is worn as a badge of pride by most English, referring as it does to a nation that built an empire upon the unparalleled excellence of their navy and their disdain for marriage.

      • Superabound says:

        If using profanity is childish then why is it called “adult language”?

        That said, how the FUCK do you kill these stupid flying Easter Island heads?

  2. sgt. grumbles says:

    Am I missing any sort of link to the game?

  3. Pich says:

    I bet that in a decade there will be a ton of indie games copying Twilight Princess’ style.

  4. KDR_11k says:

    My main reason for not picking this up yet was that Evoland was crap and I suspected ID would be similar.

    • Harrington says:

      Evoland was a disappointment. Random outdoor battles argh. I’m not very far into Ittle Dew yet but it seems much more charming and complete a game. I’ll second Walker’s comments on block-slidey puzzles, though, they really are a huge part of it.

  5. brulleks says:

    Can the developers now use:

    “It’s the greatest game of the modern age” John Walker, Rock Paper Shotgun

    on their publicity material?

    • lowprices says:

      Yes, but they also have to put: “The Game started calling me “Mr. Fatty Stupid Face”" in the name of balance.

  6. Jack--Dandy says:

    “And it’s a Metroidvania sort of thing, and I am genetically programmed to like those.”

    It reminds me, how come you guys never bothered reviewing La Mulana? It really was an awesome title.

    • MykulJaxin says:

      They couldn’t finish it. No one can finish it. I think it may be impossible. But you’re right, it still deserves to be reviewed and recommended for purchase (or free, if you can still find a copy of the original freeware game) because it’s amazing.

      • strangeloup says:

        If you complete La-Mulana, a dread beast with seven mouths sings the song that ends the world.

    • botonjim says:

      La-Mulana would be (way) too much for Mr.Walker but I reckon he should try Toki Tori 2, which is cute, funny, silly, metroidvania-ish, and features no block pushing puzzles whatsoever.

      Let Adam Smith embrace the task of WOTing La-Mulana since he vowed to do it a couple of times in the past, and now thinks we have forgotten, but we haven’t.

    • Skabooga says:

      You could fill a lake with the tears I shed on that game. Especially when it broke me and I resorted to using a walkthrough. Then I started using it with increasing regularity because I was already broken. Mean, terrible, wonderful game.

  7. Ako says:

    Zelda and Metroid with great art style? Sold!

  8. mont3core says:

    Go finish system shock 2 and stop gnashing on the soft underbelly of iphone games and calling it content. Ponce.

    • MadTinkerer says:

      And where is the Wizardry 6 review? Eh? EEEEEHHHHHH!?! In fact, not one of the Wizardry games has been reviewed on RPS! Not so shocking when you consider they haven’t reviewed any of the Might & Magic or Ultima games either. A clear bias against the eldest and most revered of RPG series in favor of games that have come out in this millenium.

      They review Ittle Dew and Shadowrun Returns but fail to even mention how they compare to Akalabeth. Are Ittle Dew or Shadowrun even available on the Apple II? And they dare to call this a “PC Game” review site? I suppose only IBM Compatibles need apply, and even then the Tandy Color Computer and PCjr must be excluded! Disgraceful.

      I shall not be dialing this BBS again.

  9. Phasma Felis says:

    Oh my, I just said “Ittle Dew” out loud. Now I get it! PUN THREAD GO

    • MadTinkerer says:

      Indeed, Dew It.

    • LennyLeonardo says:

      Ooooooh, yeah! I guess it’s slightly more punny with an American accent, or at least not in a slightly posh Southeastern UK accent, since I say “Djew”, not “doo”. That’s my excuse for not getting it.

      • SteelPriest says:

        Ahhhh. Here was me worrying about some kind of obscure undercurrent of antisemitism…

    • Kefren says:

      In Welsh Tew (which becomes Dew in some sentences) means “fat”. It’s also pronounced in a way that has no English equivalent I can think of, so I didn’t get the pun at all until this.

    • Mo6eB says:

      I can’t get it. Can someone explain it?

  10. Premium User Badge Harlander says:

    That’s probably true of any Sokoban variant, but it gets more weird when it’s in the centre of an RPG.

    Yeah, but being guaranteed either an amulet of reflection or a bag of holding makes it worth all the frustration. The luck penalties can be a little harsh, though.

    • Rivalus says:

      Ah, the allure of rewards

    • slabgar says:

      I am only logged in here to express appreciation for and say nice things about your response. Or at least say I’m going to.

  11. briktal says:

    “Like, you can teleport yourself using the portal wand. There’s no hint anywhere that this is the case, and it’s counter-intuitive to try it.”

    That was one of the 3 things about the game that made me at all angry. The other two were those ghost enemies that constantly fly towards you to kill you and some parts of the final boss fight which both forced you to speed up more than anything else in the game.

  12. kirby_freak says:

    Managed to get the game for free by being one of the first 100 people to email the developer in response to a tweet of theirs, which was awesome. :D It’s a great game, obviously harkens a lot to Zelda, but much more puzzle based than Zelda is/was. Plus, I’ve heard it was designed for speed running, and you can actually complete the game without getting all 3 tools. There’s achievements for it so it must be possible! Right…?

    • Don Reba says:

      You know, anyone can just get the GoG version of this game for free. Winning it in a contest does not cancel the fact that the developers get nothing.

  13. Moraven says:

    Direct purchase link: http://www.ittledew.com/purchase/

    Humble Store processes purchases. Includes PC/Mac + Steam Key & future Linux version.

    http://www.ittledew.com/purchase/

  14. Maret1954 says:

    what Patricia responded I didn’t know that a stay at home mom can make $6555 in one month on the internet. did you see this web site http://www.blue78.com

  15. Don Reba says:

    There is an optional “master cave” on the island, which is pretty damn hard, for those who say the game is too short and easy.