Ittle Dew

A game by Ludosity for PC, Mac, Linux, Switch, Wii U, Ouya, iOS, and Android, originally released in 2013.
Ittle Dew is a game built upon the core structure of The Legend of Zelda, but it moves beyond that outline to create something different that stands on its own. The game focuses on a strong-hearted and somewhat surly young lady named Ittle Dew.

Ittle is out one day relaxing on her raft with her friend Tippsie, who happens to be a magical flying fox and a bit of an afternoon potion drinker. Ittle and Tippsie crash onto an island, destroying their raft in the process, which leaves them stranded. Ittle immediately sets out to remedy the situation, and also has hopes of finding a bit of adventure along the way… and perhaps a few things that need to be hit with a stick.

After a short jaunt through a tutorial cave, she discovers an item shop. The shopkeeper has a number of weapons for sale (Ittle has only a stick at the start of the game) and offers to give her a raft in trade for a certain artifact locked away in the nearby castle. And so, with adventure to be had and creatures to smite, Ittle marches her way straight to the castle.

Ittle runs around barefoot for the duration of the game. She has a somewhat stocky build and she has a direct and decidedly gruff demeanor during her various dialogue exchanges, even going so far as to poke fun at some established genre archetypes like the consumption of dropped enemy hearts to restore her life bar. Ittle is not some cutesy princess who is sitting around waiting to be saved, and she’s not a dainty lady who is afraid to sully her gown; she means business and she’s not about to let anything stand in her way.

At the start of the game, Ittle has only a stick at her disposal. The stick can be used to whack enemies, and can also be lit on fire to set off bombs and light piles of wood that act as switches. Much of the gameplay centers on the activation of switches, which can be used to open doors and lower gates that block your passage.

To that end, the game has a heavily puzzle-based nature. While there is combat – and some enemies that must be defeated in order to continue – progress is primarily made through pushing blocks, setting off bombs, and finding ways to activate the game’s numerous switches. Puzzles can be fairly challenging even in the early going, with solutions becoming ever more complex as the adventure continues.

At the start, you may be pushing a block or two to activate nearby switches, but eventually you will encounter solutions that require a half dozen precise actions, any of which could make the puzzle unsolvable if performed incorrectly. Fortunately, there is a “retry room” function in the menu that deposits you at the entrance of the room and allows you to try again. You may also leave the room and return to reset the puzzle, per genre conventions.

Movement, attacks, and puzzle solutions are entirely grid-based, requiring orthogonal movement only, with no diagonals. This plays to the game’s puzzle-based nature, as precise block movement is required for many puzzles. Oddly, backtracking is not always possible, as puzzles reset in rooms behind you as well, sometimes preventing your return. You are never actually trapped at any point, but this does oppose the game’s otherwise nonlinear design. In most games of this sort, solving a room’s puzzle will leave it permanently solved upon your return. Here, unlocked doors remain opened, but gates are raised back up, fires are re-lit, blocks are returned, and most switches are reset. Once you have collected all of the items, you’ll have no issue backtracking, but this design can make things feel more constricted in the early going.

You might be surprised at the number of puzzles the game expects you to solve, but what’s more surprising is the number of entirely optional – and generally more complex – puzzles that are offered. The overworld has numerous stairways, some of which are hidden, leading to puzzles that offer health upgrades (collect 4 sheets of paper to draw a new heart in your life bar, for a maximum of 4) or collectible cards as a reward. There’s even a Master Cave that provides a series of 12 particularly challenging puzzles for expert players, offering up the last of the 26 collectible cards to those who can solve them all… although this is primarily for bragging rights, as the cards serve no purpose other than offering some humorous background details on the various enemy types.

In addition, dungeons have various signposts spread throughout that indicate nearby shortcuts. Adept players can solve the room’s puzzles to open a passageway that may lead to a treasure chest, or even a path directly to the area boss, bypassing the rest of the dungeon entirely! In fact, expert players are invited to revisit the game for speedrunning purposes, with sequence-breaking shortcuts built in for those crafty enough to find them.

Combat is secondary to the puzzles, and it’s rare to find situations where your progress is hindered by enemies. Most enemies move slowly and can be killed in a couple of hits, and they drop health restoratives frequently. Even if you do manage to get killed, you will respawn at the room’s entrance with your health fully restored.

The shopkeeper offers a total of three items for sale, each with a different function. There is a flaming sword that is stronger than your stick and always on fire, an ice wand that can freeze things, and a portal wand “with all sorts of weird uses”. While the varying prices seem to indicate that the items must be acquired in a certain order, this is not the case. These items may be purchased in any order, and you can even bypass any one of them and still complete the game, which offers quite a bit of nonlinearity.

What’s even stranger is that the shopkeeper doesn’t really possess any of the items he is selling; rather, selecting an item launches you through the air and deposits you in the dungeon where the item can be found. In each case, the item is located near your starting position, and the dungeon’s puzzle and boss solutions are based on its use. Entering dungeons also strips you of your other items (narratively, this is because you dropped them during your skyward launch) to ensure that you have no additional advantages, and to offer the same gameplay regardless of the order in which you obtain them.

The fire sword is fairly straightforward, offering a bit of extra damage against your enemies and lighting bombs and piles of wood without requiring the player to find a fire source. The ice wand can put out fires and freeze enemies, which allows you to destroy them with one additional strike. You can also freeze floating stone enemies to cause them to crash to the ground and activate switches. Pushable blocks can be frozen to become ice blocks, allowing you to shove them across the room. An advanced technique allows you to light a bomb and freeze it, and then slide it along the ground. When it unfreezes, it explodes.

The most complex item is the portal wand. With the press of a button, you can create a pushable block wherever you’re standing. These blocks can be used to activate switches, but only one block may be created at a time, as creating a new one causes the first to disappear. The wand can also fire a projectile, which teleports whatever it hits to the block’s location. This can be used to cause enemies to appear on top of spikes (which kills them), to relocate bombs that you can’t reach or push, or – in conjunction with mirrors – used to teleport yourself to that location. The player is only limited by the fact that he cannot teleport pushable blocks.

Once you leave the dungeons where these items are found, you can go back to the shopkeeper to pick up your other item(s) and use them together. For instance, the ice wand lets you freeze pushable blocks, when can then be destroyed with your fire sword to clear a blocked path. The ice wand can also be used to cast a reflection against a wall, allowing you to bounce your portal wand’s projectile off the ice to teleport yourself without using mirrors. You can even create a warp block and freeze it, then push it to some unreachable area, and teleport yourself to that location. Understanding the full range of your items’ functions is key to making your way through the castle and reaching the artifact you seek.

While the castle is accessible from the start of the game, you won’t make it very far without at least one of the items. However, the castle is the only area where you can find money with which to buy items. And so you may work your way through several of the castle’s rooms, earn enough money to buy the item you want from the shopkeeper, and then return to the castle to complete more rooms that require that item to proceed.

Each room that contains a treasure chest with money also contains a warp point that drops you out behind the shopkeeper’s house. This allows you to quickly go to the shopkeeper to spend your newfound riches, but it also lets you return to that point in the castle whenever you wish. This “warp garden” allows you to access any of the previously activated warps – seven in all – which are used to move quickly around the castle as needed.

The game is very friendly when it comes to informing you what is required in order to proceed. You aren’t given any puzzle solutions outright, but hitting any closed gate or doorway will cause glowing lines to emanate and move toward the switches that need to be activated in order for you to continue. Conversely, activating a switch shows you what door or gate was affected by your action.

You can also summon Tippsie at any point, and she will offer you some general hints about where you should go next. A map shows the surrounding area and any previously explored rooms. Finding maps in the dungeons also provides additional details, such as the location of treasure chests.

Most enemies are in place to simply patrol and thwart your attempts to advance. However, some of them perform secondary functions, such as the aforementioned rock creatures that can be used to weigh down switches. In addition, there are spinning enemies that can be used to activate crystals, which deactivate after a few seconds exactly like the ones in The Legend of Zelda series. And there are pancake creatures that will open their mouths and swallow any nearby bombs (pancakes love bombs), potentially forcing you to restart the room.

The game is presented in a hand-drawn illustrated style, and a number of objects – including enemies and gates, and even Ittle herself – wobble slightly as if their animation frames weren’t drawn precisely from one to the next. Combined with the simple, colorful designs and thick outlines, this gives the game the appearance of a picture book, rather than the pixelated look present in many 2D video games. There are little touches to further emphasize this, such as swaying trees and the addition of a cartoony “scrambling legs” animation whenever Ittle pushes a block.

Generally speaking, the illustrated style works in the game’s favor to give the world a cohesive look, but it does have a few negative gameplay impacts. For one, the style makes it more difficult to tell if you’re lining up an attack on an enemy, and you may find yourself slashing your sword in the air or whiffing a magic spell that looks like it should strike your enemy. Gameplay-wise, the easy enemies and low penalty for failure means that this won’t hinder your progress, but it certainly disconnects the player from his surroundings somewhat.

Further disconnecting the player is the fact that enemies merely flash and slide backward when struck, making them feel more like video game constructs than cartoons. However, killed enemies do pause, quickly swell up, an then burst into a satisfying spray of confetti… along with the occasional meat-slapping drop of a heart.

Animations also have some impact on gameplay. One axe-tossing enemy winds up to toss her projectile with a noticeable delay before the axe is actually added to the game world to be hurled in your direction, which makes it more difficult to time your response to these attacks. Even Ittle’s movement suffers a bit from the illustrative style, as attacking an enemy requires a momentary delay while she puts away her weapon before she can continue walking again, giving her a somewhat stilted pace.

Ittle Dew was created by Ludosity, a Sweden based studio with a number of works across multiple platforms, as well as numerous experimental flash games. Oh, and Ittle Dew sounds like “it’ll do”. Astonishing!

Earlier in 2013, the studio released Magicka: Wizards of the Square Tablet, a game designed for tablet devices, offering single-player and co-op gameplay for up to 4 players. The game features wizards defending themselves from an onslaught of enemies and boss creatures, which can be defeated by tapping the various elemental spell indicators on the bottom of the screen and exploiting the elemental weaknesses of your foes. More than this, spell effects can be mixed and matched by selecting multiple elements, or powered up by repeatedly tapping the same element, and then tapping the enemy (or friend) you wish to obliterate. Healing spells and shields offer some additional protection.

Alien Chaos 3D was released on the 3DS eShop in 2013 and features the characters from Ludosity’s Mama & Son - Clean House, which was released on Xbox Live Indie Games in 2010. You play as Really Shooter, whose Mama was abducted by aliens during an attack on the city. And so you do what any good son would do… you grab your guns and blast every alien you see to get her back! As in the previous game, collecting your spent shell casings is important, and recycling them will eventually produce ammo for more powerful weapons. You can also power up by wiping away gun blast marks from the walls, further requiring you to balance shooting and cleaning in order to proceed. You can shoot in 8 directions and lock your stance a la Contra 3 in order to stand still and feed the invaders a healthy dose of lead pudding.

Boulder Dash XL 3D was released for the 3DS in 2012, and it is the portable version of Boulder Dash XL, which was released in the previous year for XBLA, PC, and iOS. The game is a remake of the 1984 original, and also features dozens of new levels. As in the original game, you shove rocks and collect gems throughout the main game, but you can also explore several new modes as well, such as puzzle mode which drops players in a confined arena and requires clever block pushing strategies to avoid trapping or crushing themselves with boulders.

Mama & Son - Clean House was released on Xbox Live Indie Games in 2010 and it is the predecessor to Alien Chaos 3D. In this game, Really Shooter doesn’t have to clean up after himself; rather his Mama cleans the walls, sweeps up his shell casings, and tosses out more powerful ammo. This game also supports independent aiming and shooting with dual analogue control, as well as 2P offline co-op, with the second player controlling Mama. You can even let the AI control Really in the single player mode and just run around cleaning up with Mama.

Bob Came in Pieces was released for PC and Mac in 2010. The game is a 2.5D physics-based puzzler which focuses on Bob, an alien who has crash-landed on a planet on his way to work, and he must rebuild his ship so he can escape the planet and make it to work on time. You hover around the planet collecting ship parts which can then be added to your ship as you like, on each of its eight sides. These bits allow you to do things like push, grab, burn, and smash through various objects to reach new areas, but you must also be careful as to how these ship designs affect your maneuverability, as you must place thrusters effectively as well. Continuously building and re-building your ship allows you to complete the game’s various challenges.

Loot, Steal n’ Destroy was released for Xbox Live Indie Games in 2008. The game is a multiplayer-only title for 2-4 offline players. Your goal is to reach the various treasure troves to grab as much gold as you can and bring it back to your home base while your opponents attempt to do the same. Players can steal gold from each other’s bases and destroy each other’s ships to loot them. Powerups come in the form of speed boosts, cannon upgrades, and ship repairs. Matches are timed, and whoever has the most gold at the end is the winner. Like all piratey things, the game is best enjoyed with copious amounts of rum.

Garden Gnome Carnage was released on Xbox Live Indie Games in 2007 as part of a team-up with Remar Games, who originally created the game as a Flash title. The game focuses on a garden gnome who is connected to the roof of a building with a bungee cord, and he can swing around to the left and right while bouncing up and down. You have to knock elves off the side of the building and fight off flying sleighs as they attempt to get onto the roof and reach the chimney. The XBLIG version replaces the Christmas-themed enemies with soldiers and helicopters, although a second title called GGC X retains the Christmas theme. By pulling bricks off the building, you can toss them at enemies and cause them to explode (for some reason), and when things get really out of hand, you can call in an airstrike to carpet bomb the area.