Crassness isn’t a shortcut to enlightenment, it’s just a toddler flinging poo at the Sistine Chapel, hoping to spark a revolution. A well-placed obscenity can be like a Molotov cocktail hurled at the temple of hypocrisy, but for most people, vulgarity is about as potent as a spitwad against a tank. Slinging insults like a drunken baboon at a Shakespearean play, all grunts and gesticulations with zero wit to grease the gears.
M-rated games slap that label on like a badge of honor, puffing their chests like deflated zeppelins, declaring that they’re ‘grown-up games’. In most cases, M-rated humor in video games is juvenile and lazy. It’s the kind of comedy middle-schoolers would come up with or the kind of jokes seen in an Adult Swim cartoon that lasted only one season and everyone forgot about.
Cookie Cutter is a competent metroidvania-beat-’em-up hybrid, and these days, that isn’t enough to stand out. With hundreds of similar games flooding the market, Cookie Cutter desperately needs to rise above the competition. Leaning on crass humor, ultra-violence, and traditional animation, will this edgy action-platformer spark a revolution or is it a rebel without a cause? Find out in this Cookie Cutter review!
Developer: Subcult Joint LTD
Publisher: Rogue Games Inc
Platforms: Windows PC, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 5 (reviewed)
Release Date: December 14, 2023
Price: $19.99 USD
Cookie Cutter stumbles out of the gate with an intro so expository it could bore a brick wall into shedding tears. You get the usual megacorporation gone mad, shoving immortality down people’s throats like a bad burrito, all wrapped in the glittery cellophane of a recycled cyberpunk dystopia.
Cherry is a gynoid broad with more chrome curves than a chrome factory fire sale. Her creator, lover, and all-around McGuffin gets snatched by the bad guys, leaving Cherry battered and smashed like a disco ball in a mosh pit. She gets patched up and pumped full of enough rage to fuel a chain reaction in a plutonium plant. Cookie Cutter unleashes its true potential when it sets players loose in a sprawling megastructure.
This nightmarish labyrinth pulsates with cybernetic monstrosities and diabolical contraptions, each designed with one purpose: to tear Cherry limb from limb. However, the game’s potential for environmental storytelling and lore exploration through scattered logs is squandered. Uncovering the narrative organically through exploration would have been far more impactful than the exposition dump at the outset.
Level design is varied and dense with challenges, gimmicks, and enough secrets to make you feel like Indiana Jones… only instead of uncovering the Ark of the Covenant, Cherry is uncovering a giant penis. The flow of the stages with how Cherry moves fluidly and how responsive her controls are make Cookie Cutter feel smooth.
Compounded with the excellent animation that has her squishing and squashing like a cartoon adds a tangible tactile quality to the controls. When unleashing vicious combos, her attacks are unwieldy and she throws herself into her attacks, like a beast that the player must contain.
The combat is intense for a metroidvania and eclipses most beat ’em-ups on the market today. Her wriggly noodle arms snap like rubber bands, a heavy attack that can be swapped out for other weapons, and gets several ranged attacks that cost mana. Compounded with being able to change weapons mid-combo, Cherry is flexible enough to reward high-skill play. It feels as if she can do anything.
Cherry is also able to equip chips that further expand her abilities to the player’s preference. With smartly allocated points, gamers will be able to juggle foes indefinitely until their innards spew out their eye sockets. Sometimes, it can feel like something out of a Smash Bros. game.
Parrying is a crucial mechanic but the implementation is questionable. Cherry can already dodge roll with generous i-frames, but parrying is cool because successful executions mean an instant kill-counter attack. The problem lies in the window being unclear at times and the fact that Chery can get stun-locked very easily which negates any inputs from the player, making interruptions impossible.
A lot of the time, parrying isn’t worth the trouble and gamers will be better off dodging and landing hits during an opening. Parrying would be more reliable if there was a better audible cue to react to and if parrying while foes are kicking Cherry into a corner.
Cookie Cutter‘s gameplay is incredibly tight and polished. The only real flubs apart from the questionable parrying is the distance between checkpoints. Some boss rooms will be surprisingly far away from a checkpoint and will require players to renegotiate several gauntlets of tough foes or crafty obstacles. The speed at which a boss can cut you down will make you eager to retry quickly but expect to temper your patience when getting that rematch.
Playing Cookie Cutter is undeniably a stimulating and electric experience. However, when you get down and dirty with its premise and engage its themes on a deeper level, the game is intensely obnoxious. Cherry and her lover’s relationship is not earned and is no deeper than a woman in love with her vibrator.
The overall dystopian themes brought up in the intro’s exposition are not elaborated upon and exist only as a cheap flavor for the game’s punk aesthetic, serving no function at all and having nothing to say. Playing the game, the main reinforced theme gamers will encounter is “lol penis”.
At first, it’s amusing, but the novelty wears off fast. The game inundates you with massive phalluses and lazy juvenile stoner humor. There is no punchline, just sloppy and lazy crassness for the sake of it. The relentless pursuit of edginess and vulgar humor also extends to the art direction.
The first thing anyone will notice is Cherry’s unusual design and proportions. For some reason, she is grossly out of shape and has bizarrely stocky legs and little nubby feet. She kind of resembles Dany DeVito with a long slender neck and her stupid Chelsea hairstyle ends up making her look like she has a horseshoe bald spot
The developers were painfully obviously inspired by Tank Girl and incorporated a similar punk-like style to her but without any of the sex appeal. Normally panty shots are really hot, but Cookie Cutter manages to make them lose all the allure by Cherry looking like a tattooed, sweaty hog. She looks like she smells like cold cuts rotting in the sun.
If her unappealing design wasn’t bad enough, she is also unlikeable. She is usually very standoffish and comes off as sarcastic towards people she helps. This clashed with the opening exposition which depicts her as something completely different.
Cookie Cutter‘s developers pitch their game as “post-kawaii” and “anime-inspired”, but these are hollow and meaningless marketing buzzwords. There is nothing in this game that feels like it homages anime apart from incorporating admittedly good-looking, traditional animation. Expressions and character designs are not what a real Japanese anime artist would ever do.
Having randomly placed references and homages does not mean much. It’s competently made, but in the neon wasteland of cyberpunk, competence isn’t enough. Cookie Cutter needed to have symbolic grit, needed to have metaphorical grime, it needed to have enough existential dread to make Nietzsche weep. This isn’t anime-inspired, it’s Adult Swim-inspired.
Cookie Cutter‘s biggest hurdle will be adjusting to its unappealing art style and boorish writing. If you squint your eyes while playing, it is easy to imagine a much better game where there is more of a point to the design choices and the jokes are funnier.
It’s a shame that Cookie Cutter is so utterly off-putting because the core gameplay is tight and flexible to foster inventive combos. Level design flows nicely for the most part and it seems like the developer truly understands what a good metroidvania needs to engage players.
Cookie Cutter was reviewed on PlayStation 5 using a code provided by Rogue Games Inc. Additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy can be found here. Cookie Cutter is now available for Windows PC (via Steam), Xbox Series X|S, and PlayStation 5.