by Diego Beltrami
It’s cute. That’s probably the first thing that comes to everyone’s mind when talking about this game. A game with childish glee that looks lovely.
This game, much like Papo & Yo deals with children’s fantasies but unlike the heavy themed game this one deals with imagination in a much more lightweight and direct way. It’s not about wonderment and surrealism. The children’s imagination here is very much grounded in reality and in the popular fantasies. It doesn’t take them much further. But to criticise that would be unfair. It’s not what it’s looking for. It picks its theme and general feel and goes with it. And in that realization is flawless. Art style matches perfectly the naivety of the theme and story and, as with almost anything that comes from Double Fine, it oozes charm.
The game is based on exploration of small hubs with turn based combat in the style of traditional JRPGs. Problem is that it starts simple and stays simple thorough the whole game. It doesn’t change things and only adds a few variables to the mix. So combat for the most part will end up being a chore to play, while the exploration and interaction part keeps on being entertaining by world building alone.
I wonder if there could be a more “hardcore” game with the same aesthetic and theme. Could there be a hard and complex game with a cute feeling? Or is cute too strongly associated to easy and accessible to avoid creating a dissonance between the aesthetic and complexity? As it is, the gameplay doesn’t remain interesting enough to keep the game entertaining for all of its duration. A shame as maybe a few changes and additions to the formula after changing hub would’ve shaken things a bit. Still I’m pretty sure I’m not the game’s target audience as my inner child has to deal with a daily heavy dose of cynicism, perhaps someone younger and light-hearted could find hours and hours of fun in the game.