When The Legend of Zelda first launched in 1986 it was a revolution. At the time people didn’t see anything like it, much less on the home consoles at the time. People were still used to the single screen, minimalist games on the previous dominating systems of the day. These games were on systems like the Atari 2600. Then along comes Zelda and it was bursting with color and it had this huge world full of secrets that you could seemingly explore at your leisure, however you wanted. It created an entire generation of gamers, I should know since I am one. I was weaned on this game and still to this day various developers are trying to tap into the magic of this game with countless clones.
It is one of those clones that we are looking at today. Ittle Dew is brought to us by Ludosity, and they really didn’t pull any punches when they decided to go with the Zelda clone motif. Your health bar is represented by hearts and you need to collect four scraps of paper to increase your life bar with another heart. You have a fairy like sidekick named Tippsie who gives you hints along your quest. The game is mainly composed of going into dungeons with an overworld that is basically just used to get from dungeon to dungeon with various secrets along the way. You even hold items you get out of treasure chests above your head just like Link does. It really comes off as a Zelda parody at times, much like another game I love called 3D Dot Game Heroes. If you don’t believe me, just look at this screenshot below.
The statues in that screenshot also talk to you which just slams home the theme of absurdity even more. You play as Ittle who got stranded on an island with her fairy fox pal Tippsie. You meet the shopkeeper who can sell you a raft, but he wants you to get the artifact from the castle first. That is basically the entire objective. Along the way you are going to meet a lot of over the top characters and get into equally crazy situations everywhere you go. There is some odd backstory about a war between the Jennys, who seem like these purple girls who dress up as various animals, and the Turnips. Yes, this is very much a comedy game.
Now what Ludosity were striving to create other than a humorous Zelda clone is a single player adventure game with a competitive edge. Sounds weird right? Well, they did this by making the game more puzzle focused than combat focused which gives you tons of options on how to tackle the game. You don’t need to collect all the items and there are multiple paths, shortcuts, and ways to handle the puzzles. They even put up leaderboards where you can post your times based on certain item combinations. This really adds replayability to the game and it is needed as I got the achievement for finishing the game in less than 3 hours on my first blind run.
Since the game is so puzzle focused then there must be a ton of variety to those puzzles right? Well, not really, but that isn’t a bad thing. Pretty much all the puzzles in the game are block pushing puzzles but they can be very tricky and depending on what item combination you went with, they can be downright hard. As I was playing the game I acquired all 3 items, which gives you the best advantage, and even I got stuck multiple times. Things just get even more confounding if you decide to skip one of the items and go at it with only 2 out of the 3.
The 3 items you get are the fire sword, the ice wand, and the portal wand. The fire sword is going to be your main combat weapon, however it is also used to crack ice and set bombs on fire during the puzzles. The ice wand can be used to freeze enemies, which you can then use as blocks to hold down switches, and it can also create reflective mirrors on the wall. Finally, my personal favorite is the portal wand. This allows you to create blocks to hold down switches but what makes it really cool is you can then use the beam part to teleport anything, including yourself, to where that block is. It proves to be an invaluable tool in your adventure.
Basically every dungeon room in this game has a puzzle to get through, and as I mentioned before, they can get quite tricky. One example involves you leaving a portal block in a small corner, going over to a regular block, freezing it, then pushing it, then creating a reflective surface on the wall so you can hit yourself with the portal beam and teleport back to that small corner before the block gets there so you can push it from the other side. What really adds to the difficulty of the puzzles is that blocks are only able to be pushed; you cannot pull them, so you can easily work yourself into a dead end. The game gives you more than enough help on solving these though.
Included in the menu is a convenient restart room option which basically puts you back at the entrance to the room with all the blocks reset and you will find yourself using this numerous times on some of the more tricky puzzles. The game also included plenty of signs in the game which give you hints on the puzzles, thankfully you don’t have to read these signs if you want to get the satisfaction of figuring everything out on your own. I still like that they put them there though in case you are just tired of getting stuck. Puzzles usually unlock a door or drop a barrier and if you attack the target it will highlight exactly what needs to be taken care of for you to solve the puzzle. This is really helpful for rooms with multiple doors and you can’t figure out which switch leads to which door.
So as you can see, the puzzles revolve around these 3 items you get in the game and even though there is only 1 core dungeon in the game, whenever you buy an item, you have to go into a smaller side dungeon just to get that item. These aren’t as hard as the core castle, but as you go through them you will find the item. Eventually you’ll get to the boss which usually needs to be defeated with the item you found in that very dungeon, which is again, very similar to Zelda. The bosses themselves are also more puzzle based than pure combat based, as once you figure out the trick to defeating them, they will not pose a threat at all which I am thankful for since the combat in the game leaves a lot to be desired.
As mentioned earlier, combat is not a huge part of this game, but there are times when you will be faced with a screen of enemies and unfortunately this is where the game takes a negative turn. Combat is very sluggish and unresponsive. For example in Zelda if you rapidly smash down on the attack button, you will hit the enemy multiple times and defeat them, but for some reason in this game you need to complete an entire attack animation to register a hit. Due to this if you keep on smashing the attack button you more than likely won’t even register a single hit, I was simply baffled by this design choice, but it doesn’t end there. There is also a delay at the end of your swing where you just stand there holding your sword out. Since there is no bounce back on the enemies after they get hit, this delay leads to way too many unwarranted hits that your character takes. Thankfully health pickups are so plentiful that it isn’t a huge issue, it’s just that the sluggish combat really took away from what could have been a great game.
All 3 of your main puzzle items can all be used in combat as well and once you pick up the ice wand the combat problems become less of an issue since you can freeze just about any enemy in the game and then smash them with your fire sword for a one hit kill. There are only a handful of enemies that can’t be frozen and you will find yourself abusing this technique which again adds to the overall combat being more of a chore than an enjoyable experience.
Contrary to what the combat is, the overall visuals in this game are a pure joy. Everything is bursting with color and character. They took the approach that a lot of games trying to be cute take by adding faces to stationary objects such as the various barriers you need to pass in the game. I am a sucker for this approach as there is nothing quite like seeing a cement pillar with an angry look on it. Just looking at its face makes you want to solve the puzzle even more.
When you defeat an enemy the enemy will burst into confetti and you will get a much grander confetti display when you defeat one of the games bosses. When you freeze certain enemies their facial expression will change to a really surprised or sad look, some of them even have tears appear when they are frozen. I really get drawn into little details like this and seeing such care put into the overall theme and feel they were going for really makes me appreciate the game that much more.
The audio in this game is a mixed bag. A lot of the sound effects come off as kind of flat and don’t really have the visceral sound I like when smacking something with a sword. You run into this same issue when you are crushing a frozen enemy, it just doesn’t sound as satisfying as it should. Again, very minor things, but they are worth noting. The music is quite good, but really nothing special. No tune in the game really stands out, but by the same token, nothing had me turning my speakers down. It’s good standard adventure music.
Overall I enjoyed the short adventure I took with Ittle. There are a variety of places to explore, a lot of fun and colorful things to look at, and a lot of rewarding puzzles to solve. It’s a real shame about the combat or else we would have had a great game on our hands. It’s still worth checking out, especially if you are a fan of Zelda or just the action adventure genre as a whole. You can pick it up on Steam or directly from Ludosity themselves.
– NOTE: If you decide to play this game I highly recommend using a controller as opposed to a keyboard. I found the keyboard controls to be pretty awkward and literally all you have to do is plug in the USB controller and start using it. You don’t have to configure anything. Smooth as Butter!!