Monday, January 19, 2015

New Sauce #53: Squirreltopia

I was recently given the opportunity to play a game about a squirrel, and I jumped at the chance!

True to the games that inspired it, Squirreltopia does not fuck about with long winded narratives to set up its hoppin' and boppin'. Don't get me wrong, I would pay top dollar for a game with a multi-layered plot filled with betrayal and intrigue starring rodents, but "bad squirrel steals shiny things" works just as well in the right circumstances.

Though it does feature lots of grey-squirrel morality.

With that motivation in mind, you have everything you need to start your adventure. You begin in the game's hub level, inside a decidedly not-squirrel-sized home. What this says or doesn't say about the state of the human race is a matter of debate.

I'm sure it's totally normal for the squirrels to watch off the air TV stations in the middle of abandoned houses. Yes, totally normal.

In this hub are a handful of doors leading to stages, some locked behind doors that you must return to later. So it's practically a Metroidvania!*

The gameplay itself is very simple. Your squirrel can move, and your squirrel can jump. Using this pro moveset, you must navigate the game's gauntlet of pits and spikes. It's nothing groundbreaking, but what is here is actually pretty well designed. Levels can be tough, but in a totally manageable way that inspires persistence. And they are designed in a way that encourages speed running. I've never been one to try to get the fastest time on anything, but I felt like with some trial and error I could do it in this game.

Something may have gone wrong here...
Hidden throughout some levels are collectible acorns and minigame-unlocking cartridges. Getting these can require some tricky moves or a new way of thinking, and getting them is fun rather than bothersome.

Beating enough levels in the world (and you don't have to beat them all) will allow you to fight the boss before moving on to the next world. Again, pretty basic stuff.

The graphics are pretty simple. Some parts, like the squirrel characters themselves, are very nice and expressive looking, but the environments are a mix of minimalist but nice looking and minimalist but plain.

The sound is likewise just mostly gettin' the job done. There seems to be one song per world, and the effects are sparse.

The game isn't without personality. There's a lot of cool touches. When you die, you burst in a very Mega Man-esque explosion, and when you restart you begin as a different squirrel. And the main menu is filled with squirrel trivia. Squirrel trivia. If that doesn't sell you on the game, then nothing will.

This one's free, the rest will cost you.

Squirreltopia is not reinventing the wheel, but damn it, the wheel does what the wheel needs to do. Who the hell says we need a new wheel? Fuck you. The wheel is fine.