Thanks to Nicalis for the review code
Title: Ittle Dew 2+
System: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: 11/14/2017
In this action-adventure game, you take control of an explorer named Ittle and her friend Tipsie as they go on an adventure to build a raft in order to escape the island they’re on. Not much of a detailed story, but instead there’s a lot of humor and nods to other franchises, along with nods to the first game.
While the first game (a title I have not played for myself, sadly) used a distinct 2D artstyle with fuzzy outlines, Ittle Dew 2 retains the general look of the prior artsyle but takes it into a three dimensional perspective, slightly giving the camera a bit of a tilt in order to display the new 3D models for the characters and environments. In portable mode, this looks rather good, with everything being good on the eyes, from easy-to-read text to the optional map being a lot more efficient and better designed than the one from Cave Story+. (Which only worked well on the eyes in handheld mode due to the small size and simplistic nature of that map)
Plug your Switch into the dock, however and you’ll be treated to a lovely boost in visual quality, with better lighting that really makes the artstyle shine, especially in one particular screen connecting a Forest to a Snowy Mountain Area, where the camera tilts to show everything from a front-facing point of view instead of an overhead one, which shows off the extra touches between modes a lot better than any other screen in the game. Regardless of which way you choose to play Ittle Dew 2, the same will still look fantastic thanks to the cell-shading.
The music on the other hand is a mixed bag. While some songs like the Main Dungeon Boss Theme and a few field themes are very memorable, a lot of the tracks sound pretty average and leave a lot to be desired, with nothing sounding too terribly bad, just forgettable. The voice clips used for Ittle and some of the bosses and enemies are rather amusing, too, with Ittle often letting out funny sounding “ERFH” whenever she takes damage, and a few of the bosses speaking in gibberish as they attack you, adding a bit of charm to the game.
Repeated frequently within the game itself, Ittle Dew 2 is pretty much a 2D Zelda clone with the gimmick of allowing the player to choose between the first seven dungeons in any order they please. Unlike A Link Between Worlds, which still had some restrictions on a similar gimmick by requiring you to use specific items for specific dungeons, Ittle Dew 2 allows you to clear all seven dungeons with just your default weapon, no extra items required.
That being said, the three helpful items you will eventually come across during your adventure will unlock special shortcuts and make puzzles in the dungeon a total breeze if you decide to hunt for them before entering one, and since all three of these items can be found in the overworld in secret caves, you could theoretically jump to the seventh dungeon with all three items without entering any other dungeon, and skip ahead like you would if you went through the dungeons normally.
Obviously, entering these dungeons or certain parts of the overworld earlier than intended will lead to you fighting really tough enemies that will kill you in no time at all, but somehow the game is balanced in such a way that it doesn’t really feel cheap, since you can master the art of pressing the back shoulder buttons to roll past an attack, which will briefly make you invulenrable to it and allow you to deal some hits on the enemy, even the toughest ones. Mastering the roll mechanic is key to conquering the harder dungeons if you do decide to go out of order, although it does bring up one problem with the balance that I didn’t like, and that comes from the Boss Battles.
You see, the game loves to recycle the same three bosses for the first seven dungeons, with each of them getting stronger and stronger forms the further you progress in the game. This isn’t so bad since these fights are still fun, even though the game is self aware and pokes fun at how this trope is often used because of lazy recycling, but the problem with the balance is that the order in which you fight the bosses is always the same. So when I cleared Dungeon 5 first, after dying nearly a dozen times along the way, and making it to the boss, I found it downright amusing and a bit concerning that the first boss required nothing more than for me to get up close to it and hit it with the stick a couple of times before it died very quickly. Yet, when I eventually cleared all the remaining dungeons, I found that the bosses did get gradually harder the further I progressed, and when I completed the first intended dungeon as my seventh one, the insultingly easy difficulty of that dungeon was a complete contrast with the high difficulty of the boss, which was made that way due to the fact that I had gained six prior raft pieces and was thus fighting the seventh boss.
Part of me feels like it would have been a lot more exciting to be able to fight these harder variants of the bosses in the harder dungeons, since none of them require any of the extra items you’d get from clearing the multiple dungeons, which makes me wonder why the developers bothered to go through with this format for the boss fights. The same thing happens if you go out of order with the Secret Dungeons, too. Thankfully, the game’s difficulty does feel more reasonably balanced for going out of order in the overworld, meaning that if you choose to go to the forest area that surrounds the final dungeon first, while you will have a really difficult time exploring and trying to find hidden caves and puzzles without dying, it makes discovering the secrets that can get you extra equipment, special shards that unlock three secret dungeons that leads the way to a super boss, and the aforementioned early items (or, if you already obtained said items, a power upgrade) a lot more satisfying, which is the way sequence breaking should feel.
So with all that explained, there’s one last thing to note about the Switch version of Ittle Dew 2, and that’s the exclusive set of Dungeons that can be accessed in a small town near the first dungeon of the game, by going into a pink bed lying beside one of the houses. This takes you to a Dream World which requires you to have the dungeon items in order to open a gate to the corresponding item dungeon, which strips you of everything else except for the stick and the featured item upon entering it.
In these dungeons you’ll find some of the most infuriating and cryptic puzzles I’ve ever dealt with in an Action RPG, which will reward you with silly trading cards that give descriptions for each of the enemies you’ll encounter in the game if you manage to solve these tricky puzzles. Compared to the main game, these dungeons are downright evil, not due to the difficulty of engaging in combat, but rather just because of how brainteasing and clever these puzzles can be, testing your limits with every item you obtain, which makes finally solving a puzzle incredibly satisfying. From what I’ve been able to gather, this addition seems to have been done in response to criticism due to how some players didn’t like the focus on combat in the original release, and wanted more puzzle based dungeons like in the first Ittle Dew. Well, now you have it, and it’s one difficult sidequest that will add several extra hours for the most daring of challengers.
In conclusion, Ittle Dew 2 is a great Zelda-Like adventure game for those who desire a challenge. Sure, taking on the dungeons in a custom order can lead to the difficulty being outright ridiculous, but if that’s too much for you then the game gives you the option to just explore the many caves for Secret Shards, costumes and upgrades to help make the dungeon order of your choice a bit easier.
I’m also happy to report that since the Steam Achievements for this game didn’t amount to much outside of getting 100% completion, the lack of said achievements on this version of the game don’t do anything to impact the replay value at all. In fact, you’re encouraged to speedrun the game after you get the hang of it, with the option to upload your best time to the online rankings in order to see who has the World Record for this adventure. Combine that with the exclusive (yet insanely hard) set of puzzle dungeons, and Zelda fans should take note of this charming and challenging adventure! I give Ittle Dew 2+ a 9 out of 10, and I really hope that we get the first one to come to the Switch eShop in the future as well, since I absolutely fell in love with this game, despite the few faults it has.