Ittle Dew is a top-down adventure game cut from the very mold of Zelda. Players are tasked with trekking through dungeons to find items and money that will eventually lead to their escape from an island. Short and sweet, this game doesn’t disappointment.
Ittle Dew is one of the only Zelda-style games I know of that allows for non-linear progression. There are three main items in the game: an ice rod, a teleport rod and a fire sword. You can acquire them in any order you like.
If you don’t want the Fire Sword, though, don’t bother with it. You can reach the final boss without it. Or you can grab all three and get some extra puzzle rooms before surmounting the final obstacle. Even the hidden rooms for collectibles can be tackled with multiple solutions.
Great Replay Value
Ittle Dew is packed with a lot of hidden tombs. These tombs have health upgrades and cards. While the cards really do not provide anything of value to the player, the rooms are filled with some expertly crafted puzzles.
In addition to numerous collectibles, a hidden dungeon exists. This dungeon has 12 rooms that get increasingly more difficult as you progress. I got stumped about halfway through, but I have a burning desire to see it to the end.
Strong Puzzle Design
Ittle Dew is a simple game. Not a whole lot of controls to deal with or bloated inventory. You’d think that every gimmick possible would be explored in a short amount of time and then repeated ad naseum.
Somehow, Ittle Dew manages to pack a lot of clever puzzles into its short playtime. Freezing enemies to use as blocks, reflecting portal beams to change locations and lighting sticks on fire; Ittle Dew really bends your mind a lot.
Sense of Humor
Ittle Dew has some truly funny characters. No one is deeply fleshed out, but their quips about genre tropes like picking up hearts or ludicrous enemy placement are hilarious. Even the final boss pokes fun at how easy most masterminds give up.
Solid Audio/Visual Presentation
Hand-drawn visuals are a rarity in modern gaming. I’m not sure why, either, as they usually look fantastic in HD. Ittle Dew sticks to traditional animation and looks really damn fine. The colors pop and the characters move smoothly.
There are also a few great audio tracks. Nothing sounds immediately legendary, but quirky tunes for a self-referential game feel right at home. The sound effects for attacking also remind me a lot of The Binding of Isaac, so things explode in a cute fashion.
Along with standard keyboard controls, Ittle Dew also has support for X-Input gamepads. Hooked up with a 360 controller, Ittle Dew feels perfect. The face buttons handle all your functions and the shoulder buttons allow for quick access to the map and hint screens. The game just feels great.
The keyboard controls are a bit funky, but you are given the option to rebind any keys. This makes any complaints about weird placement null and void.
Weird Collision Detection
The controls are pretty spot-on in Ittle Dew, save for one thing. When you swing your sword, the game has a predefined arc. The sword stops halfway through a regular swing and pretty much only hits enemies in front and to the right of you.
Nothing is overly frustrating, so I suppose this mark is a nit-pick more than anything. It’s just annoying to miss an enemy to your left all the time.
This isn’t a huge complaint, but a few of the textures in the game are misleading. In the overworld, there are some trees with you cannot walk behind. There are others that you can and will hold secrets. The game uses the same texture to hold both.
What’s worse is that some of these trees actually have enemies behind them. You cannot see them and they’ll hit you without a clear indication of how. You can’t even see if the enemy has moved, making retaliation nearly futile.
Lack of Innovation
While the puzzles are well crafted and the humor is actually pretty funny, Ittle Dew really doesn’t go out of the way to bring new ideas to the table. Pretty much everything you do in this game has been tried in similar games.
When the worst thing you can say about a game is that it’s not original, though, that honestly really isn’t bad.
While I definitely love Zelda, a lot of the later games feel extremely formulaic. The earlier titles gave you items that weren’t expressly needed in their original dungeons. Later games started making entire areas based solely on a specific weapon.
Ittle Dew falls into the latter. While there are multiple ways through the main hub dungeon to the last boss, the areas where you acquire your weapons demand you use them. Once you force yourself into thinking with solely ice, there is no reason to even consider other options.
Though the characters are charming, there really isn’t a lot of motivation behind this game. The original Zelda was the same way. You simply start the game, get a small box of text and then proceed until done.
Ittle Dew definitely gives a better sense of placement, but the game is played as a straight parody of the adventure genre. The main character really just wants to get off the island and that’s it. Even a little backstory might have helped a bit.
Lack of Challenge
While you can test yourself to speed-run the game or not collect every item, Ittle Dew is a very forgiving game. If you die, you simply restart in the same room with full health. Only one enemy in the game requires more than 2 hits to kill. Everything else goes down fast.
Ittle Dew isn’t a genre-defining moment for top-down adventure games. Nothing is wholly original and the game feels a bit formulaic in its design approach. The story is a bit lackluster and the game isn’t overtly difficult, which makes for a few dull moments.
But the charming characters and impressive visuals mixed with some strong puzzle designs make for a solid few hours of gaming. Considering the replay value is so high, the short initial gametime can be practically tripled in length.
For the price of $14, though, I’m not sure how many people will want to jump headfirst into Ittle Dew. Seeing as how this game doesn’t offer much over other adventure titles, Ittle Dew ends up being a missed opportunity for greatness.
I wouldn’t recommend skipping this, though, especially if you are a fan of Zelda games. The game holds enough polish to overcome its flaws. It may not make any top ten lists, but at least it doesn’t waste your time.
This game was played on PC. The game is currently available through Ludosity’s website in a DRM-free version with a Steam code for PC/Mac/Linux. The game is also on Ouya and will hit Android, iOS and Wii U later this year.