Did anyone play Ittle Dew 1? Does anyone even know what it is? Because it definitely passed under my radar. Honestly, I wish I hadn’t missed it because, if it’s even half as good as Ittle Dew 2, it’s worth playing. Of course, I can still play it. And of course I will. Ittle Dew 2 was excellent. But I feel that it would have been more excellent if I was actually looking forward to it. In a year rife with disappointments, it would have been nice to have another pleasant, expected surprise.

As it stands, I had very little background info on Ittle Dew. I didn’t know what it was about or how it worked. And it turned out that I didn’t need to. The game isn’t dense on story, plot points, or character development. Rather, it’s a straightforward, heart-warming adventure story.

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Ittle Dew – the game’s namesake and protagonist, who, in turn, is named after God knows what – and Tippsie – her dog-like companion – find themselves shipwrecked on a strange island. To escape, they have to collect eight raft pieces; however, the pieces are held in the island’s dungeons. Retrieving them means navigating these dungeons and conquering their respective bosses. Of course, on this journey players are free to roam the island and its various biomes, exploring secret dungeons and gathering an assortment of collectables.

The game handles quite well. The artwork has a very unique style, looking like it was drawn with crayons – the game itself jokes about this numerous times. Of course, the world is much more polished than any crayon drawing has ever been. You’ll play most of the game from a birds eye perspective, but certain maps will cause the camera and viewpoint to change slightly. Navigation and controls are also straightforward. Move with the left stick or the D-pad – you’d probably be better off using the latter. Right bumper lets you roll, and the A-button is basic attack. As you progress through the game you’ll gain other weapons and abilities, which will, in turn, be mapped to the remaining letter buttons.

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The design of the dungeons is incredible. The maps are intricate and wrap around themselves to reveal shortcuts and secret rooms. You’re required to solve a number of puzzles to progress through the dungeons, and while some are – admittedly – infuriating, they provide a change of pace from the hack-and-slash combat that makes all the difference, as it proves that Ittle Dew 2 can do two things exceptionally. The bosses, at first, were similarly amazing. Defeating a boss would require you to patiently use every skill and weapon the game had given you. I found myself approaching these battles not with a sense of dread (that usually precedes a boss fight), but with excitement. In short, the balance of fun and difficulty was perfect here.

Unfortunately, in latter dungeons the game simply presents the amped up versions of previous bosses. This felt cheap. To be frank, Ludosity only had to design a handful of bosses for Ittle Dew 2. In a longer game, the copy-and-pasted and buffed boss might have brought about some nostalgia, but there wasn’t enough gameplay between these bosses to make them nostalgic. They just seem lazy. This isn’t game breaking – the rehashed bosses are still fun, and they do pose a new challenge when they’re encountered. They just stand out as an obvious flaw in a game that’s otherwise so well thought out. But, maybe the developers just didn’t have enough time to think up new bosses with all the effort they put into level design.

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If that little backhanded compliment passed you by, let me reiterate: the level design is astounding. The island is broken up into a number of different environments. If you want to gather collectables and discover secrets you’ll have to explore each region meticulously. To be honest, you should do this even if you don’t care about the collectables as the environments are rewarding enough, unto themselves. I was stunned by how diverse these settings were. Each had a unique aesthetic, soundtrack and set of enemies. And these elements came together to create some truly memorable game worlds. The Wild West is a particular standout, with its gunslinger enemies and western soundtrack. Mechanically, Ittle Dew 2 is a good game, and its level design is the icing on the cake.

To answer my opening question, I’m still not sure what Ittle Dew 1 is, but I’ll be sure to play it because Ittle Dew 2 was remarkable. You’ll find so much quality content packed into a relatively simple game. The humour is quirky, yet it hits the mark. The gameplay is tight and the world design is truly spectacular. Sure, at times Ittle Dew 2 seems like it was written by a 12 year old, but it plays better than games made only for adults. There’s something for everyone here.

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