Man, I have just been stumbling in the Game Pile lately. I have a real problem when I’m playing games that are really enjoyable, short, and rarely have anything meaningful I can say about their play experience! What am I going to write about? “I liked it, five out of five?” Ugh, shoot me. Some games bring up interesting ideas, some games do something deplorable, some games bring out some fantastic new mechanics, some games show an appalling lack of awareness of gaming history.
I’m rarely at a loss for words when it comes to videogames. This brave new world of media is often so full of people making mistakes and mis-steps. This means that there’s almost always something remarkable about a videogame, for good or for ill. Ittle Dew, on the other hand, is a game that’s almost impossible to talk about because… because it’s just… I mean, it’s just good?
Ittle Dew is the story of a shipwrecked youthful adventurer arriving on a little island full of cryptic old men, interesting puzzles and bad guys, and hitting all of the above with a stick. Oh, I’m not kidding – that is literally what the game is all about. This is a game about hitting things with sticks, and it’s done with this aggressively charming cuteness that belies a thoughtful, slick, and well-executed design underneath.
The biggest flaw Ittle Dew has is that the whole game is quite short – maybe two, three hours if you’re familiar with the style of puzzle. Even that’s not a problem, though – it’s the kind of game whose shortness works in its favour. It means the game’s jokes don’t wear themselves out. The game’s puzzles can ramp up without introducing any total bastard headscratchers, or worse, putting them back to back. It’s actually reminiscent of Portal, to me – a short puzzle game with a great sense of character and a staggered tutorial system.
It’s all very nicely paced, this lovely jumbo pizza of a game; you can eat your fill quickly, and be done with it, or you can return and consume the whole thing if you must. No matter how you cut it, Ittle Dew is an endearing indie title and one I very much recommend that you buy, if only to support the production of other fun, smart, cute indie games.
If Ittle Dew had been released in a fair world, it would be an unremarkable nothing. I’ve said it about a few games recently, but don’t you sometimes just want a videogame? Don’t you want to just enjoy yourself pushing blocks around, giggling at funny dialogue, and not thinking too hard about bad guys exploding, or dropping hearts, or why anyone would leave enormous bombs lying around in a nicely ordered grid?
Normally when videogames – especially indie games – try for ‘funny,’ they go wide of what makes me laugh. There’s always something, I feel, a bit smug in those games, something that tries to point-and-laugh at videogames with a meanspiritedness to it. Oh, some of them go well too far – Boscombe: The RPG in particular – but mostly it’s a super-simple structure of pointing out how videogames aren’t like real life, and isn’t that lol. It reminds me of the worst of webcomics.
Ittle Dew’s style of humour does occasionally step into that realm, but it does it from within the style of being a videogame. It isn’t a game that tries to sit next to you and jeer at itself, as if it’s above itself. Ittle Dew’s humour is weirdly diegetic. The comedy comes from things within the story being absurd with one another; the expectations that the user brings are subverted, but the game doesn’t set them up very hard.
It’s also a charmingly youthful game. Not childish, which has an implication of ignorance to it. Not childlike – the puzzles are too challenging to be truly aimed at children – but youthful. There’s a charm to the story that seems to remember when a videogame didn’t need to justify things like nearly-spherical platypus monsters, or ghosts that ate your head. The whole thing does not feel like a SNES game, as much as it feels like a game trying to recreate that feeling of playing a SNES game back when you were ten.
You can get Ittle Dew on Steam and on GoG. When it’s on sale on GoG it sometimes plunges down to as little as two dollars, and I cannot imagine that’s an unreasonable price to pay for something so effortlessly fun.
Buy it if:
- You want something short and sweet, like a candy statue of a Minion.
- You want to see more female protagonists being unremarkably good.
- You want to hit things with sticks, and get treasure!
Avoid it if:
- Your tolerance for deliberately silly humour is very low.
- You don’t really like sliding block puzzles.