I didn’t have much of an idea as to what to expect going in to Ittle Dew. From what little I’ve seen of it, it seemed like “Zelda clone” could have been appropriate. After playing and experiencing all it had to offer, “Zelda clone” would be doing it a great disservice. Ittle Dew ultimately crafts a unique and charming adventure that often made me laugh and definitely made me sad when it ended a handful of hours later.
The game starts out with our hero Ittle and her fairy/weasel companion, Tippsie, adrift on their raft. They eventually crash on a mysterious island that seems ripe with adventure. After working their way through the tutorial cave, they arrive at a store ran by Itan Carver, who cuts them a deal: find the Artifact in the nearby castle and he’ll supply them with a new raft to escape the island.
The story is very simple, but thankfully, the characters are brought to life with humorous dialogue and great animations. The chemistry between Ittle and Tippsie made me laugh out loud more than once and Tippsie himself is probably the most passive aggressive support character I have ever encountered. Going one step further, some of the enemies in the game have a brief conversation with Ittle upon her first time meeting them; every enemy a hidden collectible card that details their personality, likes, and dislikes. It’s just a neat way making the game and characters more lively compared to other adventure games.
The icing on top of the cake is the great art style. It is simple, but the vibrant colours with thick black outlines truly pop and the different environments really stand out. All the areas have their own distinct look that never duplicates another. It’s an example of “less is more” and this game has a timeless look that will still look good in ten years. The character design is another highlight, with each character sporting their own look and attitude. Some are more grounded in reality, like girls dressed up in costumes, and others are far out there, such as the pancakes that eats bombs or the frostbitten ghosts. Their animations makes them memorable, charming, and sometimes scary. It all comes together beautifully.
The gameplay is almost just as strong, albeit with a few minor stumbles that fortunately don’t damper the experience in any meaningful way. Ittle’s adventure starts off with only a stick, which is used for lighting fires and hitting enemies. Featured in Itan’s shop are other items that will eventually be bought to help solve later puzzles. When the items are purchased, Ittle is sent to a cave — which acts as a tutorial dungeon to get the player used to said object — where the item is to be collected. One item is a fire sword; the puzzles that revolve around this show the player multiple ways in which the fire sword can be used. Another item, the Portal Wand, will form a block wherever Ittle is standing and sends out a beam that can transport enemies, bombs, and even Ittle herself to wherever the block is. Items can be used together, so for example, the block can be frozen with the Ice Wand to be moved over spikes or destroyed with the Fire Sword. There is a lot that can be done with these items and the game is always encouraging creative thinking.
Each of these dungeons is relatively short, but each end with a fun boss encounter to test what you learned. After the fight, it’s back to the outdoors and, while there are some hidden chests to find and puzzles to solve, it’s not an extensive overworld like Hyrule. The meat of the game — and where it truly shines the most — is the Castle. Here, puzzles can be solved in multiple ways or bypassed altogether. The game is designed with speedrunners in mind, so it’s up to you to find out which puzzles are needed to be solved to get to the final boss room the quickest. For people who don’t care about speed-running and just want to see the end credits, they may be a bit disappointed to know that it took me four hours to beat the game — and I took my time finding all the collectibles and solving all puzzles. Still, I loved every minute I had with it and it is fun to replay, even if you don’t care about the quickest time.
My biggest issue with Ittle Dew is the combat, but it isn’t even that big a problem. When attacking, Ittle will swing her sword in an arc, much like Link in most 2D games. The issue is that enemies on your side won’t get hit, even if it seems like they should. Ittle has to be in front of the enemies to land a hit; there is a little leeway here, so it’s not like playing the original Zelda on NES. Another thing people may have trouble with is the variety of the puzzles themselves. Most puzzles involve hitting switches, lighting fires, or moving blocks. It’s not as dynamic as some other adventure games out there, but what is here is polished and makes you stop and think. It has that classic feeling of satisfaction when a problem is solved and, while the desire to look up a walk-through may be strong at times, solving it without them is a great feeling.
The reason I don’t mind the lack of variety in the puzzle types is because the items you get to play around with offer a ton of fun in solving them. Sometimes, I had the feeling that a puzzle was supposed to be harder than what it was, simply because I didn’t go this route until after I gathered all the items. So what may have been a brain teaser for other people was breezed through, due to me solving it another way with another item. If you and a friend play, it’s entirely possible to have different experiences at some later parts in the game, depending on how much you played or which way you went towards certain goals.
Despite it being rather short and the minor blemish on the combat, Ittle Dew still manages to get high praise from me with its charm, humour, and intelligently designed puzzles. It doesn’t reinvent the top-down adventure genre, but it doesn’t aim to. It simply offers a tight experience worth your time. The characters and setting are well realized that it reminded me of childhood; exploring the woods with a walking stick and creating an adventure with our imagination that was ruined long ago. Ittle Dew is a welcomed addition to the eShop and I would love to see this world continued in a sequel. The world deserves more Ittle.
Low Score: 6 / 10
- Lack of variety in puzzle types
- Combat is a bit stiff
High Score: 9.5 / 10
- Expertly designed
- Charming and humorous
- High replay value