There will always be a particular game which offers a unique experience that players enjoy leaving them wanting more after they’ve had their time with it. What the game is matters not, as spending countless pleasurable hours leaves a longing for the next installment of its series. Ittle Dew 2+ not only scratches a major itch for players being the game that it is, but delivers what’s been promised by the developer, Ludosity, after the praise coming from Ittle Dew‘s release in 2013, which is heavily inspired by classic, top-down perspective entries in The Legend of Zelda series and art style from the toon-shaded games started with The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. Make no mistake, however, even with the obvious respects to The Legend of Zelda, the Ittle Dew series can certainly stand on its own. Ittle Dew 2+ brings enough of its own cleverness and charm to offer a familiar, yet new, larger experience to its predecessor with more exploration and puzzles than before.
What’s immediately noticeable about Ittle Dew 2+ is its colorful, cartoon aesthetic. The various facial expressions, poses and back & forth banter can be seen from start to finish. The game opens with our barefoot adventurer, Ittle, and her winged fox-like sidekick, Tippsie, on the ocean tired and bored out of their minds until their raft crashes into an island. Not pleased with the locals and what they seem to consider an empty locale with nothing to offer, they immediately want to sail off. The bad news is their raft has been destroyed in the process. The good news is they find out there’s treasure waiting for them. In order to leave the island, they’ll still need to find 8 raft pieces scattered throughout the world. Lighthearted humor is the constant vibe in the game and is present in the overall visual design of the world, the witty banters found through dialogue, characters, and the character stills seen in those conversations. I do use the term “stills” somewhat loosely as just like the first game, every interactive object and character can be described as having a stylized comic strip or flip book-esque aesthetic. Even when being completely in a still pose, they look like they are being animated in fast frames. This certainly adds a bit of fluidity to the cartoon appeal. I find this design choice both visually attractive and a detail that creates elements of the world to grab the player’s attention. Unlike its hand-drawn 2D predecessor, Ittle Dew 2+ is now rendered in 3D graphics and it does so without losing any of its style.
There’s interesting and varied locations all having their own particular theme with some sort of weird twist. You may see sun rays fading onto the scene and it may even rain at times. There is also a day/night cycle which takes place, albeit purely cosmetic. The characters you’ll come across usually have something to say whether meaningful or just chatter. The bits of humor found throughout the world certainly makes the game’s charm never dull. As the game encourages you to explore, you’d probably want to hear what the NPC’s have to say. They will often drop hints on where to find an optional dungeon or solve a particular puzzle. There’s enough visual differentiation that each region you visit will feel entirely different. The same also applies to the game’s dungeons.
There are an essential 8 dungeons that need finishing to get through the story and they can be completed in any order. As with the regions, difficulty will increase depending on how far you go out from the game’s opening location. This can provide a nice challenge for anyone who’s up for the task. It should be noted that completing dungeons out of order may make earlier dungeons easier. You can guess on what type of difficulty dungeons are as they are listed numerically. The design of each dungeon allow the player to always complete them regardless of which items are currently in their possession. You may find a shortcut within a dungeon relating to a specific item, but the game never barres you from making progress. You may also be able to bypass a puzzle or solve it much faster than with the original ordering of dungeons in mind. On your adventure, you won’t have a vast arsenal of weapons and items. Instead, the main 4 you acquire are all you will be using. You start out with your handy wooden stick and eventually pick up wands and dynamite. Depending on which items players find first, there are a few copies of the same item in the world. Collecting them will upgrade your current item’s level, making it more powerful. With this in mind, the many puzzles you will come across have more focus on clever ways of utilizing your items instead of being tied to very few or one gimmick. Regardless of which items you find, the puzzles themselves are designed requiring to think them through. You have the standard block puzzles you need to place on floor switches, but can be altered such as turning them into ice blocks or even needing to be careful of not breaking them. Many puzzles require you to assess the situation and plan carefully on what to do and how to use specific items. Also, any time in the overworld or in dungeons, you can call up your partner Tippsie to give a bit of information about the location which include hints or him telling your progress on items found. Dungeon maps display rooms visited and a marked destination. An item called the Tracker can reveal more about a dungeon. Depending on how many you’ve found in the world, more is revealed.
Gold keyholes found on doors are locked and require keys exclusive to that particular dungeon. To make things more accessible for players who may be stuck making progress, there are a limited amount of lockpicks which can be found in the world. For players who managed to come across any of these, they can be used on those locks and are consumed once used, like regular keys. This is nice for players who want to advance to the next room, but I personally chose to never use these. Being able to circumvent a puzzle hinders the experience. I find it as sort of a cheat, but it’s perfect for people wanting to speedrun. The game allows for it. In each of the main dungeons, you will find various enemy encounters and a mechanic that belongs solely to that dungeon. An example of such is generating electricity by connecting circuitry in order to complete puzzles. Sometimes there will be warps that can transport you from one section of a dungeon to another allowing you to get to where you need faster; after you’ve found it of course. The final room of a dungeon always results in a boss fight with the previous room generously having a platform which saves your progress and replenishes your health. So in case you lose against the boss, you can always try again without repercussion.
In addition, there a lot of optional dungeons/caves involving little puzzles or battles and always offer a reward, big or small, for completing it. They range from opening up new optional caves to explore or certain collectible shards that come handy for more gameplay opportunity later in the game. You will find items in the world that permanently increase your health, damage infliction/damage resistance, etc. These smaller cave dungeons can be completed using only your wooden stick. The biggest downfall of the game are the bigger, extra optional dungeons there are to get through which are easily the best dungeons in the game. The problem is they are so clever, but can easily be overlooked by players completely ignoring a certain aspect of the game. These dungeons mostly require a specific item to access it and make use of only that item, creating many puzzling opportunities. The place that holds the entrances to these dungeons is called the Dream World. Thankfully, you can find it in the location where players began the game. These dungeons are great because they are meant for people who want that extra challenge. Within all 5 extra dungeons, you can find a total of 40 collectible cards, many of which are tied to solving a puzzle luring the player’s attempt. If you’re a puzzle lover as I am, I recommend you go visit Dream World. Plus, end bosses and rewards are never a bad thing.
There are also outfits you can find which change Ittle’s and Tippsie’s appearance. Nice little touches to mix it up and keep things fresh. On the topic of freshness, let’s talk about the game’s soundtrack. It is absolutely fantastic. When venturing any one location for some time, it’s necessary for the sound to compliment your time spent in it and not be something you want to tune out. Luckily, there are memorable tracks here that fit to each theme and situation. Soothing marimbas and delicate hand drum taps are perfect for the beach before it dynamically transforms into a retro-sounding synth piece. Amplified guitar riffs mix well with hard piano chimes for certain puzzles. Metal tracks which are dramatic and techno that pumps you up are present as well. There’s actually quite a selection of tracks, most of which are exclusive to all the regions and dungeons. Music will even fade to variants of the same song when entering/exiting buildings. The catchy songs are still in my head.
Ittle Dew 2+ is fully aware of itself being a game and doesn’t take itself on a serious note. It totally realizes traits from certain video games and gives nods to them. You can go into a building and completely destroy someone’s pots and furniture for no good reason, but then be complimented on a job well done. Little moments like that, added as pockets of fun, is a running theme. It’s a reminder that for the game which inspired Ittle Dew to begin with is generally serious, Ittle Dew 2+ offers engaging gameplay while allowing players to take in silliness. Without the need to do a 100% completion run, the game take roughly 4-5 hours if you’re not exploring. Currently, I’m just over 12 hours and I am going for everything. I have the last 2 unlocked dungeons which seems to be the most hectic yet.
As vastly improved from the first game and great as Ittle Dew 2+ is, there are room for improvements. The good is that puzzles are a very strong element of the game, dungeon design and variation are fun as is exploring. In each part of the world, it’s dense enough to not be confusing and allows the player to just run and find stuff. What could be better are the boss fights. They are generally fun and change it up, but they all typically follow the same idea (I do have to give credit for the final boss for throwing things at the player they’ve experienced throughout the game). Controls could also be more refined. I found myself falling into bottomless pits from ledges more times than I can count. If the game allows for analog stick control, I should be able to control Ittle’s speed. She remains still or she runs; no in-between. And for that, it makes the game feel somewhat clunky and outdated. Ultimately it doesn’t ruin anything in the grand scheme of things, but a gradual walk-run adjustment would be a much welcomed addition in the future.