From the start, let’s just clear a few things up. Despite the cutesy name, the game we have here is not some cutesy platformer involving a search for cookies.
No, what Cookie Cutter from Subcult Joint and Rogue Games actually is is a darker and infinitely more violent take on the future. Advertised as “an unforgettable over-the-top 2D platformer that breaks tropes and bones”, is there much to add to that description? Well, I pulled on some waders (seriously, there is a lot of blood!) and set off to find out what was occurring.
The story of Cookie Cutter is, at its core, a love story. 200 years ago, INFONET promised a utopia built on the back of androids known as Denzels, and as usual, everything was okay for a while. Then one day a Denzel creator by the name of Shinji Fallon made a Denzel called Cherry, and despite the unlikeliness of this happening, they fell in love. Of course, this wasn’t to last, and the leaders of INFONET decided that Shinji should come and work for them, whether she liked it or not. Cherry was brutally executed right in front of Shinji’s horrified eyes. Told you it was dark, didn’t I?
Anyway, fast forward to today and a mechanic called Raz has found Cherry, clinging to life by the sheer force of her will, and he has rebuilt her into an ass-kicking machine. The time has come to try and put an end to INFONET, and Cherry is just the Denzel to do it…
Honestly, the presentation of Cookie Cutter is very nice indeed, with a pleasing hand-drawn style to everything, from the enemies to the backdrops to the characters that Cherry meets on her travels. In fact, it all looks brilliant. The animation is also top notch, as is the way that Cherry can fight and leap about the place; it just feels right. I’d go as far to say that ‘feel’ is one of the hardest things to get right in a game these days, but Cookie Cutter nails it. Cherry looks great when moving, and even in death has a distressing ability to make you feel the pain of your failure, as she collapses into a bloody heap on the floor. You can then chuck in a variety of enemies, from buzzing flies through robots through to big alien looking things – the design work here is very good indeed.
The sound is also very well done, with the audio whacks of combat and the various sound effects of the levels all working perfectly. All in all, this is one game in which the presentation is great.
So, onto the meat and drink – the actual gameplay itself. It will come as no surprise to anyone to learn that Cookie Cutter is split, pretty much right down the middle, between exploring and kicking ass. Obviously, one leads on to the next, and so I’ll treat them separately.
Starting with the exploration side of things, the areas that we have to explore are a very good size, with multiple routes through them. They are also filled with many things to make the platforming action both fun and challenging. These include various traps, such as saw blades and electricity panels (both of which are funny to knock enemies into) and also various elevators and bounce pads to get us through the levels. As you’d expect, as we explore, there are various upgrades to find for Cherry, such as an upgraded punch and – best of all – a double jump! As you get stronger and gain new abilities, new areas of the levels open up, so backtracking and coming back when you have new skills is a great idea. There are also various people you can meet who want you to do things for them (generally finding something for them) and as we are supposed to be getting a group of people together to fight INFONET, helping folk out is usually a good idea.
Combat is very satisfying, especially since Cherry comes with a range of combos at her disposal. There are basic combos that can be accessed by repeatedly pressing X, and Y can be mapped to other abilities; mostly those that do more damage at the cost of Cherry’s energy. She also has a nifty line in air combos, and using Up+X to launch a foe, then combo-ing it in the air is a good tactic. Once a foe has been battered to within an inch of its life, a “Y” prompt will appear over their head, allowing Cherry to action a Brutal finisher that gets her a whole lot of energy.
Managing the energy bar will soon become very important to you, as it is also the way that Cherry heals – holding down on the D-Pad will see Cherry convert energy into health, and once this is done, she’ll then have to fight, brutalising enemies in order to fill the bar again. Trying to get enough distance to heal, while being swarmed by enemies is all part of the fun.
And fun it is. In my mind, this is the X-factor for games – trying out various tactics in fights, and then coming back having learned lessons from defeat; it is all part and parcel of the gameplay.
The only niggle I have is found in the map. It’s too difficult to decipher, and while I am more than willing to admit that that fault lies with me, I struggled to work out where I hadn’t been in order to progress. But that is the sum total of my complaints, the rest of the game is very good indeed.
It all means that if you should be in the market for a stylish platformer, you’ve found it in the shape of Cookie Cutter. It’s one of the best indie games of recent times.