Summer Catchers

A game by FaceIT for PC, Mac, Switch, iOS, and Android, originally released in 2019.
Summer Catchers is a lighthearted endless runner-esque road trip game featuring a girl named Chu on a journey to find summer. She grew up in the north where it snows all the time and realizes that she has never seen a beach nor experienced summertime, and so she sets out to find it. As she travels the world, she encounters a colorful cast of characters who help to guide her in the right direction – after she helps them with tasks of their own – and she makes many friends along the way.
Chu’s journey takes her across eight themed areas, from the snowy tundra to windswept plains to lava-filled tunnels to the sandy dunes of a desert. She discovers that there is much more to the world than she ever expected as she meets mysterious creatures and sees strange things off in the distance, and she even faces off against giant bosses, all while puttering along in her handmade vehicle.
When the game begins, Chu awakens from beneath a snow drift and walks to a nearby woodworker’s shop (or she can discover a strange creature by heading in the opposite direction should the player so choose). There, she meets a friendly bear… well, actually he’s a wolf, but she thinks he’s a bear, and so she gives him the nickname Funny Bear. He is nice enough to provide her with a wooden vehicle that she uses to traverse the environment.
The player may select between three difficulty levels, labeled as Ride (Easy), Adventure (Normal), and Trial (Hard), although he is given no indication of how these difficulty levels affect gameplay, and he may swap between difficulties at any time during play. A short tutorial introduces the basic mechanics, which involve selecting various tools to overcome level hazards. For instance, a bumper allows the player to smash through obstacles in his path, whereas a jumper allows him to hop over dangers, and a booster allows him to fire a rocket that propels him quickly forward, allowing him to climb steep hills.
In the tutorial, the game pauses to allow the player to select the tool he needs for a given situation, but in actual gameplay, this must be done on the fly. At the start of the game, the player has only the aforementioned bumpers, jumpers, and boosters, but a couple more tools become available later in the game, such as a propeller that lets the player fly for a long distance but doesn’t take him as high as a jump. The vehicle moves on its own, rolling at a steady speed from left to right with no way for the player to speed up or slow down… at least until the brake tool is acquired.
Here’s where things get a bit tricky… the player has a limited quantity of bumpers, jumpers, and boosters, and they’re handled like a stack of cards in a deck-building game, which is to say that the player is given a random selection of three tools, each of which serves a different function. When the player encounters an obstacle, he must select one of the three tools to activate it, allowing him to smash through certain objects, jump over hazards, or boost forward. When playing with a touchscreen interface, the icon may be touched to activate it, but when using buttons, the player must select an item with the control pad/stick and then press a button to activate it, or mouse over and click when using a keyboard/mouse combo.
Since the distribution of tools is random, the player may find that he does not the proper tool available to deal with the situation at hand. However, he has the ability to swap a tool with another tool by selecting it and pressing a button. This new tool is also randomly distributed, so it’s possible that the player will not get the tool he needs, and there’s a substantial cooldown period between tool swaps, leaving the player largely helpless as he waits for the proper tool to come up, which can cause him to take unavoidable damage.
This helplessness can be maddening, especially since other auto-running games grant the player access to all of his moves at any time, and these moves are typically assigned to hotkeys. Here, the interface adds an extra layer of difficulty by requiring the player to select from a limited supply of randomly-assigned tools, and it requires that he navigate to the proper tool to activate it (rather than selecting a specific tool with a button press). That said, the frustration of the experience is lessened by the low penalty for failure, as wrecking the vehicle generally means that the player has still made some progress toward his end goal.
Every level is randomly generated, with hazards appearing in random order. However, the game's camera does help the player determine what obstacles lie ahead, as it pulls down when he nears a jump and pulls back as he nears an incline. While driving, the player passes over mushrooms, which act as the game’s currency, and collecting mushrooms allows the player to purchase new tools, as well as cosmetic character and vehicle unlockables.
The player has some control over the random nature of the tool distribution based on how many of each tool he purchases. Buying a lot of bumpers and few boosters means the player is more likely to get a bumper dealt to him during the level, and less likely to get a booster. There is some strategy to selecting the proper ratio of tools, especially as the player begins to take on additional objectives. And since the player is likely to collect more mushrooms on each run than he spends buying tools, he will slowly find himself with a surplus of shrooms as time goes on.
Each NPC that the player meets has a list of four objectives that he or she wishes to have completed before the player can face the final challenge and move on to the next area. These challenges involve collecting a certain number of items within a level, or using a challenge-specific tool to perform various tasks. Tasks may include such things as cutting down trees with an axe, melting frozen frogs from the ice, or painting white bunnies grey with a paintbrush.
In each of these instances, the player is given a limited number of the required tool (an axe, a flamethrower, or a paintbrush in the examples provided), which is placed into the bag of tools. This means the player must deal with obstacles within the level while also cycling through tools to ensure that he has the one needed to complete the given level objective. With even more tools to cycle through, this makes it less likely that the player will have the precise tool he needs to overcome a given obstacle. Progress toward objectives is persistent across runs, so if the player manages perform even one objective before being killed, that’s one less objective that he needs to complete on the next run.
The result of this design is that the game offers a fairly casual experience where the player is free to take damage and have his vehicle destroyed, with only a tiny payment required to restore it before playing again. The vehicle can sustain three hits before it falls apart, and the player is sent back to the shop. Given the random nature of the levels, the player will eventually overcome most challenges through persistence, even if he dies many unavoidable deaths along the way. However, this is not the case for the end-level challenges.
At the end of each area is a challenge that the player must complete in a single run. This often involves dealing with a large boss creature that requires the player to outlast it and travel a certain distance before his vehicle is destroyed. Boss attacks generally require the player to make use of certain tools, such as using the booster to shoot forward when being attacked from the rear. While facing these boss creatures, the player still has to deal with environmental hazards and the random selection of tools, making some of these encounters a matter of trial and error.
Sometimes the player is free to use more than one tool to deal with a given situation. For instance, obstacles that are low to the ground may be smashed with a bumper or vaulted with a jumper, or large hills may be overcome with a booster or two jumpers… but other obstacles require specific tactics. Totem poles are too high to jump and must be smashed through. Pits of spikes need to be jumped over, whereas frozen lakes and other lengthy obstacles require use of the propeller. The booster doesn’t generally see as much use (and therefore may be carried in lower quantities) but it is used to surmount hills, outrun falling trees, and dash across crumbling bridges.
An advanced tactic involves the bumper, which may be activated at any time. Unlike the other tools which must be properly timed, the bumper remains active from the moment the player uses it until he comes in contact with an obstacle. As such, the player can equip a bumper and it will be ready to go any time he runs into something to smash through. This makes navigating the limited supply of tools a bit less stressful as the player has one passive tool at his disposal and can select from the others as needed.
There are a few powerups to be found within the environment, such as a drum that causes it to rain, causing more mushrooms to grow. Another is a bubble that protects the player from a single hit of damage and can also help him overcome certain obstacles. The player can also acquire a handful of pets that can aid him on his journey, and these pets are activated by grabbing a powerup within the level.
The game’s narrative is well integrated into the experience. The player engages in dialogue with NPC’s between runs, sometimes getting gameplay hints, and occasionally interspersing a bit of humor. Each time the player’s vehicle is destroyed, Chu flies out and skids to a stop (collecting mushrooms along the way), and she always has a humorous quip before returning to town. Chu is often stunned at what is happening in the world around her as scripted events play out that draw her attention, and she often pokes fun at the situation at hand, even while barreling along in her vehicle.
Between levels, the player can use a mailbox to send letters to friends he has met on his journey, and these exchanges are quite charming. Each letter costs a certain number of mushrooms to send, and the prices go up the further away the person is, but the costs are lower than many of the optional cosmetic unlockables. The player also slowly unlocks postcards as he plays, with each area offering its own nicely-themed postcard, while others feature gameplay snapshots taken as the player completes objectives… and these reflect the player’s chosen clothing and vehicle cosmetics.
At certain points in the game, the player walks around on-foot and encounters mysterious creatures. Sometimes following a wisp can lead the player to a minigame, such as a laser-aligning puzzle or a rhythm action game. There are a few surprises as well, such as a section where the player wrecks his vehicle and then slides down a mountainside while standing on his broken car and smashing rocks with a pickaxe to clear the way forward.
The game is presented in a chunky pixelated retro style with lovely art direction and upbeat music. Interactions between the player and other characters is generally lighthearted and humorous, which sets the tone for most of the game. There are lots of silly moments and animations, and even some silly tasks - like waking up bears with huge gongs - that help to keep the experience light. As mentioned, despite the fact that overall progress relies heavily on randomness, the player is almost always making forward progress, making for an overall casual experience that is interspersed with occasional fits of frustration.

Summer Catchers was developed over the course of three years by FaceIT, a studio founded in 2009 and based in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine. The game was produced by Mikola Zadvorniy and developed by Eugene Siryk, Vasyl Romanets, Kyrylo Yakovliev, and Olexander Leontiev. Music for the game was composed by Geek Pilot Soundworks.
The game was published by Noodlecake Studios, founded in 2011 and based in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. The studio developed Super Stickman Golf and numerous other titles for mobile platforms.