Looking far into the future, the goal for mankind is to find a habitable planet for when it is done and dusted with Earth. But then, when we leave, have you ever wondered what will happen to the other species calling our current planet home? Well, in Space Otter Charlie we find that out as we join a group of otters who have taken it upon themselves to follow man to galaxies far far away, saving not just the otter world, but animalkind as a whole, from an inhospitable Earth. Their mission is to head to the stars, travelling from planet to planet in the hope that they can follow in the footsteps of mankind and find a land that they can call home. But it won’t be easy.
Space Otter Charlie comes from the development team at Wayward Distractions and those at The Quantum Astrophysicists Guild (The Bridge, #FUNTIME, Roundguard) to provide a fun romp through space, all in a simple, yet effectively joyous Metroidvania way. With you taking charge of Charlie, a space otter with whom all hopes lie, you’ll be found blasting from planet to planet, picking up parts and items, dodging debris, working teleporters and moving your way past numerous obstacles in the hope that you can find a place in which animalkind can survive. Egged on by a small crew of friends who help point you in the right direction, whether otter life can flourish elsewhere will all depend on you and your zero gravity and weapon shooting skills.
Seeing Charlie thrown into the action with just a basic spacesuit, Space Otter Charlie tasks you with helping him work through numerous stages and planets in the hope that you can recover the parts required to power your ship to further planets. It isn’t long before you can go about creating weaponry too, with a Lazor pistol your first form of defence against the evil ARES – Anti Rodent Elimination System; an alien AI system that is trying to put a stop to your endeavours. From there, and as progression is made and multiple parts are picked up, new weapons come to the fore, as do new spacesuits, each of which not only allow Charlie to look ever more delightful, but bring their own unique shooters to the table.
Blasting off and utilising a limited jetpack is the key to your success in Space Otter Charlie, and this will see you effectively swimming through zero gravity holds. The mechanics here work really well with you most definitely getting a feel of what it must be like to be an otter in water, diving this way and that, staying safe as you do so. It’s the mastering of this movement that is the utter key to everything found in game, and when you include magnetic space boots that magically attach you to structures, allowing you to either plant yourself to precision shoot, to ride moving platforms or to utilise a RT press to let you slide through enemies and to safety, all is good in how Charlie makes his way through space.
It will however mean getting a grip with the maze-like stages that each of the dozen or so planets plays out as. A map can be found for each of these and once in place will allow you the chance to easily see how to best navigate what is in front of you. You may need a key to open a specific teleportation portal, or you may need to backtrack numerous times to hit specific switches. But it’s all pretty straightforward stuff, complimented well by the relatively small size of each planet. There is nothing here that will tax your mind in order to find a route through – basically go here, head there, press that and the space-faring job is a good ‘un.
There are however plenty of foes and obstacles to get in your way. The ARES system is one that is looking to take down any oblivious otter and there are all manner of enemies you’ll need to go up against. Again there is nothing here that is going to require you to bring all your gaming skills to the table; simple shooting and negotiating past the smaller robot millipedes, space cats, and others that are trying to stop you in your tracks is easily done. Hell, it doesn’t even get too tricky when the bigger bosses come into play, and when you combine this with easy-to-handle checkpoints, Space Otter Charlie is a simple affair.
It’s all made the easier thanks to numerous space suits and upgrades that you can craft. Whilst your base ship is the place for you to take in new missions and to learn a bit of humorous backstory, it is also home to your Build Bot – throw in enough gathered resources and you’ll be able to create suits with better shields, upgrade your weaponry or even switch up your garments altogether. The likes of the Shark Suit, the NASA suit and more all provide a variety of their own unique weapons. You’ll also find these guys kicking around on the various planets too, so it’s not long into this little otter’s adventures before you find yourself toting homing missiles, disc guns, star shooters and Reflector Rays, with the latter helpfully allowing bullets to ping off structures, rebounding and ricocheting forevermore. The trickshots you can pull off with this are really helpful in hitting switches found in latter levels too.
For the most part Space Otter Charlie provides a fun romp through Otter Space, with well-designed levels, some clever ideas and plenty of exploration opportunities always at the fore. However there are a few things that don’t quite come off as planned, and whilst it’s hard to knock the game too much for these, they do need a mention.
Firstly, despite the magnetic boots that our heroic space traveller wears working well, they do mean that swimming through the Zero-G worlds occasionally get a bit picky. This is especially apparent when navigating Charlie through tight tunnels, with his boots constantly looking for a sticky source even when you don’t want it. The inclusion of a moonwalking slide has obviously been put in to compensate for this, but in all honesty I’ve felt the need to utilise that a handful of times throughout my playthrough, and it doesn’t particularly help matters when you are caught off guard by the constant and strong magnetic pull.
Secondly, for a game that tracks completion of levels in percentage points, it’s weird to see that completion of Charlie’s adventures in full, taking home 100% rewards for each level and stage, isn’t quite all it cracks up to be. You see, you can be left short in the collectible secrets and fun ‘Otter Facts’, totally unaware of which stage plays host to the final few that are needed for true completion. Surely if a 100% badge is attached to a stage, but you haven’t actually got everything found within, the two totally contradict each other?
And then thirdly, Space Otter Charlie has multiplayer elements included; multiplayer elements that just seem to be tacked on to appease a crowd. Playing out in 4-player arenas, this will allow you to gain bragging rights over local friends by partaking in either the Furry Fury Deathmatch option (winners dictated by either scores or times), and the So Urchin mode that will have you trying to smash open space urchins quicker than your mates. They are both absolutely fine to have, but once you’ve played them once or twice, you will no doubt forget that they have ever existed. I’d have much preferred the teams at The Quantum Astrophysicists Guild and Wayward Distractions to have instead put the effort into bulking out the brilliant single player campaign some more; a few more levels would have been massively appreciated.
Don’t let those couple of issues put you off of considering helping Space Otter Charlie from searching for that new planet to call home though. The single player campaign may be short, but it’s great fun and more than capable of filling an evening or two for anyone looking for fun, furry frolics. When you then throw in the opportunity to learn more about otters – perhaps not in the same way as we learnt about the deep blue in Beyond Blue, but still, fun little otter facts are appreciated – and to also bring together some other animal friends on your journey, all is good aboard this ship.
At the end of the day, some decent mechanics, cleverly designed stages, tons of humour and plenty of exploration opportunities mean that Space Otter Charlie on Xbox is one fun and furry little space adventure you’ll want to take in.