Tue. Jul 23rd, 2024

[Review] The Otterman Empire – Nintendo Switch

Developed By: Tri-Heart Interactive
Published By: Tri-Heart Interactive
Category: Arena, Action, Arcade
Release Date: 02.07.2020

I miss the console wars. Back then companies had a face, a mascot we all remember, and some we’d like to forget. The end of the millennium brought an experimental cast of characters including secret agent geckos, sassy purple dragons, and whatever Rayman is. Similarly, The Otterman Empire is a game out of time with its crew of space otters fighting to save their otter galaxy. With repetitive gameplay and an unruly camera, it’s an imperfect edition to the genre of platforming arena fun, but in a game designed for kids, that’s often enough.

My time in The Otterman Empire universe brought back memories of Billy Hatcher And The Giant Egg; maybe because it was the last time I played an arena party game suited for couch co-op and versus play. They were fond memories though, and as a distraction from everyday life, Otterman does a fine job of creating a series of levels to run and fly around in with your water-powered jet pack. Due to the style of game and audience, there isn’t a narrative reason to defuse bombs or shoot down drones. If you want to stop the mad otter Tiko from trying to take over the galaxy, this is how you do it.

The path to saving that galaxy requires stars. Earn enough points in a round and you’ll be awarded a star, maxing out at just three. A new world is unlocked once you’ve earned a certain amount, so unless you received a perfect score the first time, you’ll need to go back and try again to earn more. Levels only last a few minutes, so it’s never too much trouble to go back for the second or third star, but over time I noticed I needed to get a perfect score in virtually every level to advance. Again no problem, but it seemed to defeat the purpose of what I thought was a grade on my performance.

In fact, you don’t fail a mission if you don’t complete the objective, and with quick respawns, dying only eats up time. Set in a colorful, mesoamerican temple–not unlike ones we’ve seen before–one mission had me guard a waypoint against these drones won’t hurt you but will slow you down. The Otterman Empire is easy, but here it wasn’t clear exactly why I was following orders, since the drones didn’t pose a threat and I could get more points from shooting enemies than by completing the objectives of deactivating or protecting the game’s various “TikoTech.” On another level from the same world, I had to charge batteries. I got extra points for matching the right ones to the right chargers, but the indicator was so small in handheld mode that I couldn’t tell which was which, and it never made any difference in the end.

These complaints are secondary, though, to a game about shooting robots and unlocking skins for your anthropomorphic otter heroes. While I only played solo, I can see how the game might be fun to run around and wreak havoc with a friend. Since the controls are no more complicated than jump, shoot, and refill your ammo by jumping in creeks all over the map, The Otterman Empire lends itself to accessible party play. At times the camera had a mind of its own, which made some of the platforming hard to execute, and there was some brutal rendering in cutscenes and the menu, but these were never enough to take away from or ruin the experience.

The Otterman Empire is a straightforward package of arena action and mayhem. It won’t break any barriers, but it’s a fun experience in small bites and succeeds at giving players a few minutes to fly around and gun down enemy AI (or each other). It’s short for the price, and some performance issues are noticeable, but overall a younger audience or group of friends at a party could do worse. Still, I might wait for a sale.

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