We have Stardew Valley and Story of Seasons, so what’s the deal with this interesting little Xbox console exclusive called Alchemic Cutie? Launching for PC first, it then made its way as a timed console exclusive. Just a quick glance would suggest that this is a perfect fit for the Nintendo Switch, but for now Xbox players get to lay claim to this interesting title. It’s one thing to be interesting, but does the experience offer enough to stand out from other similar slice of life experiences?
The short version is that Alchemic Cutie feels like more of an adventure RPG than a farming simulator, and in fact offers a varied experience that brings it more in line with Stardew Valley than it does with something like Story of Seasons. With Stardew Valley being the number one addiction not called Minecraft, Alchemic Cutie can feel like a tough sell to begin with, but genre fans looking for something familiar yet somewhat distinct may enjoy what is offered here.
So, the main hook here involves jellies, creatures which kind of resemble the slime monsters in Dragon Quest XI, except they’re friendly and a lot less creepy looking. The main farming element of Alchemic Cutie involves capturing, raising, and breeding a variety of these jellies. There’s an element of building up a collection of jellies, and yet they never feel anything more meaningful than just creatures to farm. Sure, they can be utilized in mini-games and the like, but it’s far from being a standout gameplay system to draw players in. As the game’s title somewhat suggests, there are light alchemy systems too, but again not a huge gameplay draw here.
What shines about Alchemic Cutie is the slice of life experience, where the day-to-day pacing is enjoyable thanks to the island backdrop that is odd yet whimsical. Perhaps the most cathartic aspect of the experience is the series of quests and tasks you need to complete, almost like the to-do list for those of us who happen to use a daily planner. These daily tasks and quests encourage you to interact with island inhabitants, which include everything from humans to talking birds. It also takes you to various locales on the island, and each area has its vibrant presentation.
In a way, while the game lets you set your own routine and get distracted by a number of things, the long list of quests to complete is what initially creates the feedback loop which makes you want to keep playing. That is, until you realise that there’s really no point to it all. Sure there’s jellies to collect and new areas to explore, but they don’t necessarily add to a sense of achievement.
It would have been fine, except once you’ve met enough of the island residents you start to realise that much of your work involves one fetch quest after the next, and soon enough the gameplay loop inevitably becomes rather boring and pointless. Although similar games in the genre are also open ended and pointless, the difference is that they offer gameplay systems with real growth and substance. In Alchemic Cutie, all the gameplay systems are superficial at best. What you see is what you get.
The main slime rancher element is both simple and yet not quite clearly explained, in fact the game will throw a whole range of systems and tutorials at you, even though most of these are superficial and, for the most part, even unnecessary in execution. To put it simply, Alchemic Cutie tries to be an aimless slice of life and an adventure game at the same time, and yet it does neither approach with much commitment. Ultimately both aspects come together as an experience which fails to instil any motivation from the player.
The one cool thing about it all is how nicely it maps onto the Xbox controller, and better yet, how effectively and efficiently the in-game menus are presented. No doubt this is organised, and it’s easy to keep track of all your things and quests with the detailed yet succinct menu presentation and organisation.
The game uses a 2D graphical style quite similar to something like Stardew Valley. It uses a range of colours effectively to bring the island world to life, and the characters and their designs are charming, even when they ultimately ask you to go out and fetch something for them.
Alchemic Cutie on Xbox is an interesting but tough sell. It no doubt has its charms and strengths, and yet its distinguishing ideas lack real substance in execution; the experience as a whole can feel pointless for a genre that is known to champion a pointless slice of life loop in the first place. There may be some interest from those who particularly love this genre of gaming, but for most it will be hard to see why they should even invest their time.
Alchemic Cutie is available from the Xbox Store