The more I think about Ittle Dew the better the game seems. Created by Sweden based developers Ludosity, Ittle Dew is a game which you can either sit and enjoyably play through in nothing short of four hours – provided you liked A Link To The Past – or it’s a game which will offer you many more hours entertainment, trying to fathom out all of it’s secrets and hidden paths.
The game opens up with a near-plagiaristic scene where our heroine Ittle finds herself unconscious on a raft floating towards a mysterious island. From the get go you discover the quick humour in Ittle Dew and it’s tongue in cheek mentality – openly questioning what we normally take for granted in these types of games. For example, Tippsie, the flying fox (basically your ‘hint’ button) asking if that’s adventure he smells or a nearby swamp, and later reprimanding Ittle for eating a disembodied heart that was merely lying on the ground.
Ittle Dew centers around a castle in the middle of the game world that you are tasked with exploring, armed with only a wooden stick. Players have to traverse the castle, encountering stick-specific puzzles (whacking enemies, using your stick as a torch to light various things) until you reach a treasure room and gain a few hundred gold coins to buy the an item to help you unlock new areas. From here you proceed to collect said item and work through that items specific areas in the castle until you collect an additional item, you then rinse and repeat.
At first, the whole game feels more like a theme park ride rather than a bread and butter adventure game. All the enemies are dressed up as different animals to make them look like fantasy henchmen and when purchasing a new item you are launched by catapult to a location where that item may be found rather than simply receiving the item. Ittle Dew borrows a lot of inspiration from the early Zelda games but in a more self-referential way and never takes itself too seriously which softens the blow of it being branded as a ‘Zelda Clone’.
The whole game feels more like a self contained satirical jibe at it’s own genre and this is what helps Ittle Dew work. It’s these self-mockings that help the adventure go smoother as if Ittle Dew started taking itself seriously than the appeal of the hand drawn ‘wobbily’ graphics and cheery overworld theme would be lost. It’s the moments where Ittle get’s her tongue stuck to a magical Ice Wand whilst talking to a boss or when you realise that the giant flying enemies are actually terrified of heights that make you laugh and ease what could have easily been a tiring game.
Continuing with the Zelda theme, the game is comprised of map squares, each usually containing a locked door which requires a puzzle to be completed or a certain amount of enemies to be dispatched. Usually the puzzles will require a simple procedure of placing a push-block on a pressure pad or hitting multiple switches at once, but as you progress the puzzles thankfully become more and more devious in their implementation. If you fail a puzzle by sliding the wrong block the wrong way or get yourself stuck (both very real possibilities) then there is always the useful Reset Room option in the pause menu, an option I didn’t think I’d use half as much as I did.
The gameplay itself is easy enough with the d-pad and face buttons offering me all the aid I needed, and I hardly ever found reason to blame the controller other than when I was tired of blaming myself for getting myself stuck in a specific cave for the 30th time.
It’s probably only when you complete the game for the first time do you then start to realise how deep Ittle Dew goes. Remembering all the little staircases and dungeons that you didn’t explore the first time around, and that “Master Cave” signpost you kept ignoring when traversing the world? All of these things make you want to dive in again and see what else you can find.
For the uninitiated, Ittle Dew will be a quick blast through some colourful screens and acceptable self mocking of the adventure game genre. But dig just a little deeper and you’ll find a game carefully built to cater for the puzzle hungry gamers out there and a game meticulously designed for speedruns and collectors alike (including the achievement to complete the game in under 15 minutes). Ittle Dew is a game that not only makes light of it’s own genre but includes some of its best attributes.
Ittle Dew is out now on PC, Mac, Ouya, iOS and Android with a Wii U release in the works.