Ittle Dew Review - Where's All of the Love?
Ittle Dew was quietly released on Steam last month. It was picked up by Joystiq, Giant Bomb and even Kotaku, but beyond that it seemed to get very little attention from any of the major gaming news outlets. Did the idea simply not appeal to many people? Was there a failure on the PR side of things? Is the game, in fact, even worth anyone's time? I have to admit, as someone who isn't exactly a fan of games where puzzle elements take center stage, I was pretty skeptical myself.
It doesn't take very long, however, to realize that Ludosity stumbled upon something special. Something which not only does a fine job of encouraging the player to keep going, but provides them with a profound sense of accomplishment. What more could you ask from a game which brings the player a real sense of succeeding? But before we get ahead of ourselves, however, at this point you're probably asking yourself, "What exactly IS Ittle Dew?"
Well, our story begins with Ittle, a cheerful, never-without-a-smile adventurer washing up on the shore of a mysterious island. With her comes your typical flying, sarcastic, drunken fox known as Tippsie, who will act as our infinitely less annoying Navi character for the duration of this adventure. It quickly dawns on our colorful heroes that this island may very well be the source of their greatest adventure. Though before Ittle and Tippsie begin their adventure, they must first work their way through Tutorial Cave (that's the real name of the cave, by the way) and reach the other side. It is here that they meet Itan Carver, a pirate who is willing to sell them everything that they will need to reach the Artifact. This Artifact, which is hidden deep within the castle to the north, must be found by our heroes so that Carver can, in exchange, build them a raft to escape the island.
And it is at this point where the real game begins...
This castle, which is filled with all kinds of goodies, is split up into rooms reminiscent of something like Legend of Zelda or The Binding of Issac, though the rooms here in Ittle Dew are much more complex. To unlock the door which leads to another room, you must first complete a puzzle which can be as simple as moving a block and stepping on a button or as complex as having to move a dozen blocks in a very specific order to a very specific place. If you're familiar with the game-play from the old SNES Goof Troop game, than you have a pretty good idea as to how things will work.
These puzzles, which are almost always block puzzles, are handled incredibly well. They will often stump you at first, but once you complete them you feel like you've legitimately accomplished something, especially later in the game. Very rarely will you come across a puzzle which makes you want to rage quit (since you must restart every time you irreparably move something that you shouldn't have), though when you do reach such a puzzle you soon realize that the complexity was probably a product of your over thinking the task at hand.
On top of the satisfying, well put together puzzles, Ittle Dew provides a really surprising amount of atmosphere. You wouldn't necessarily expect a game such as this to provide any sort of reasonable atmosphere, but that is exactly what you get. Between the ever fitting music, whether it be upbeat and cheerful while roaming through the woods or slow and gloomy while skulking through a cave, and the modernized take on a classic visual art style, you get something magical. You never feel out of place or detached from your environment and it makes for a damn pleasant experience. A particularly nice, subtle touch to all of this comes into play whenever you walk on different surfaces and the sound of your footsteps change to fit whatever it is you're walking on.
Getting back to the matter at hand, however, a significant portion of these puzzles within the castle require a bit more than pushing blocks around the room to their appropriate positions. Many will require the use of a certain ability which is granted to you by acquiring certain items Carvers shop. The items in question include an Ice Wand, a Portal Wand, and a Fire Sword, all of which fill a very specific role while will often come into play later in the game.
Throughout the castle you'll find chests which have a set amount of gold in them, but only enough to buy the next item in the shop, preventing you from advancing through the castle without obtaining the required items. Purchasing these items are not as easy as you'd imagine, however, since you cannot simply leave the castle, take a stroll down the road, buy the item from Carver and head back to the castle. Instead, once you accept your purchase you're flung through the sky and land in a dungeon where you must not only obtain the item yourself, but you must also work your way out by completing all of the puzzles, each of which putting a heavy emphasis on the abilities of the item you just obtained.
The sudden change in thinking which must occur once you obtain a new item is a great addition, never making the game feel monotonous. It doesn't take very long to work through all of the puzzles you can until you require a new item and once you do obtain it half of the fun comes from trying to figure out all of the interesting uses that it has. Many games implement new features throughout their duration, some spread out better than others, but Ittle Dew manages to pull it off perfectly. To be fair, it's a bit harder to screw this up considering the significantly smaller scale of Ittle Dew, but that doesn't take away from Ludosity's perfect execution.
Up to this point, I've spoken very highly of Ittle Dew, and for good reason, but no game is without its flaws. For starts, the combat is incredibly clunky. You'll quickly notice that not only is there about a second and a half delay after attacking where you cannot move, but half the time you attack an enemy the hit doesn't register despite your weapon clearly making contact with them. Now, combat is entirely secondary in this game and is really only required when you come across a room that needs you to kill everything in it, which isn't very often. You can easily write it off as a minor issue since combat itself is almost never required, but if you're going to implement a system, however scarce its use might be, it should be done right.
There's also the issue of the boss battles found at the end of item dungeons being monotonous. These battles aren't very long, not by any means, but if you miss the opening which bosses give you to attack than you're going to be waiting quite a bit until you get another go at it. This wouldn't be so bad if they just weren't so boring. It wouldn't be unreasonable to say that these boss battles don't really matter since they don't actually achieve much of anything, but much like the combat as a whole, if you're going to put something into your game, why not go all the way with it?
There is nothing worse in the world than a game not getting the attention that it deserves. Well, there's actually a LOT of things worse than that, but that's not the point...
When a game achieves everything that it sets out to achieve, it deserves some recognition. To be fair, Ittle Dew is probably not the kind of game that very many people would get into, but is that a reason to ignore it? I really don't think that is a legitimate reason. Then again, the lack of attention can be the complete fault of Ludosity rather than anyone who might write about their game. There's not really an answer to this question and Ittle Dew wasn't entirely devoid of coverage, but whatever the reason for the lack of coverage, it's really a shame.
Ittle Dew might be a bit on the pricey side, coming in at 14 bucks at the time of this writing, for a relatively short and simple game, but if you're into puzzle games than Ittle Dew might just be the game for you.