When it comes to the metroidvania style of games, there are those that strive to try and reinvent the concept by introducing their own elements, those that offer an amazing aesthetic to build their game around, and some of the best that manage to do both. The concept of being able to explore a massive area, obtaining new abilities, and using these new abilities to return to reach previously unavailable areas has become something of a staple in many games and now Cookie Cutter is looking to put a bit of an extreme twist on things. Featuring a hand-drawn art style and a focus on bloody violent combat, is Cookie Cutter‘s latest spin on metroidvanias worth picking up?
The mysterious and powerful energy source known as VOID appeared to offer endless possibilities. So much in fact, that a massive megastructure rivaling a planet was built around the energy source and, the corporation that managed to harness the energy proclaimed that those who followed them would find themselves in a utopian paradise. Instead, hundreds of years have seen this future turn into a dystopian nightmare where the promised immortality of a robotic body saw loyal followers turned into cogs in a never ending machine. Players take on the role of Cherry, a “Denzel” built outside of the corporation’s influence by a female scientist turned rebel known as Shinji. Shinji saw the horrors of the megastructure and, for her part in rebelling, she was taken and Cherry was left on the brink of destruction. With her only goal being rescuing her creator and her love, Cherry has been rebuilt by a helpful hacker and with the help of a few unlikely allies she must delve into the depths of the megastructure, take on numerous enemies, and rescue Shinji no matter the cost.
Cookie Cutter establishes a fairly interesting world to serve as the backdrop to Cherry’s quest for her beloved but unfortunately doesn’t really do much with it. There are various logs, some hidden and others out in the open, that help provide extra background information to the world and where players are exploring but the actual game does very little with the concept. In fact, the shock value of the game’s more “graphic” violence and raunchy aesthetic is mostly played for a quick laugh cheap gag and surprisingly is dropped quickly outside of a few extra references and obvious jokes with certain character names and hidden easter eggs. Cherry’s talking robotic “Regina” between her legs may seem like the tip of the iceberg but doesn’t really go much more extreme than that. Even the characters that players interact with, as outlandish and unique looking as some of them can be, aren’t really able to shine outside of a few of the, ironically, more normal characters. The plot itself is poorly developed, with many of the biggest questions being left unanswered and Cookie Cutter surprisingly leaves a lot of plot threads hanging, even closing out with a cliffhanger that leaves fans with hopes that the story will continue either through DLC or a sequel.
As a metroidvania style game, players will find themselves exploring the megastructure’s labyrinth design and taking on numerous enemies ranging from generic robots to penis-like monstrosities across numerous different locations. As they progress through each location players will often obtain various upgrades for Cherry that will help augment her movement capabilities and combat repertoire with new attacks and weaponry. These various upgrades can then also be used to explore previously unreachable locations players explored in old locations or reach new areas entirely, with certain areas gated off until players obtain certain abilities. In many ways, Cookie Cutter follows the standard formula to the letter, rarely trying to reinvent it or offer new elements but it does manage to offer some fast-paced chaotic combat to make up for the rather straightforward exploration.
Combat throughout Cookie Cutter is one of the game’s highlights as players will have a wide range of different special attacks to unleash on enemies with tight controls that make the fast paced combat feel wonderful most of the time. Cherry has a standard combo string that can be chained into heavy attacks utilizing her powerful weaponry that ranges from simply a giant gauntlet, to an electric guitar, a motorbike (if the game doesn’t bug out and refuse to advance the quest for it), and even some rather unique transformation attacks. The thing with these heavy attacks is that they require VOID to use and players can only recharge their VOID meter by damaging enemies with standard attacks or performing finishers. These finishers can be executed on any enemy displaying the prompt when at low health and are brutal looking affairs that often reward players with not only VOID but also some extra health as well. While Cherry can simply beat foes into submission she has a few defensive capabilities as well, though the game’s explanation of one is a bit off the mark.
Cherry can dodge enemy attacks with a short but effective window of invulnerability allowing players to mitigate damage but the best way to avoid taking a hit while weakening your opponent is the parry mechanic. If players parry at the proper time, they will not only block the attack but often stun the enemy they are fighting against, or drop an entire bar from its endurance meter, and stunned enemies can be executed at any health level. Unfortunately, while the game states that timing the parry when enemies flash blue as they attack is the best way to do it, this is almost always false. Instead players will need to parry when an attack connects and the window for this is incredibly tight to the point that, especially during frantic combat or against most bosses, simply dodging attacks is far more effective. The combat itself isn’t too hard but the poor parry mechanic and the fact that enemies deal a lot of damage when they strike Cherry makes it often a little cheap feeling.
Besides using her VOID energy for attacks Cherry can also use it to heal herself though the healing mechanic can leave a lot to be desired. This is because rather than instantly heal or use an item, players must press and hold down on the D-Pad to recover health, using VOID to restore health while standing still. This means that, should players need to heal during a fight they must run for it and try their best to heal without taking another blow and likely dying as a result. The ability to heal is nice but, even with later upgrades, is inefficient feeling most of the time. This is especially true with the prevalence of “arena’ style rooms that see Cherry battling against waves or respawning enemies in order to progress, something that becomes heavily used in the latter half of the game. The boss encounters are also treated with far less fanfare than one may expect, often featuring fairly simple extra mechanics or, in most cases, none at all besides standard combat.
As Cherry makes her way through the megastructure she will obtain plenty of money and various upgrades for herself with many of these often hidden away as reward for player exploration. Money can be used to purchase and upgrade certain parts that can be installed into Cherry for extra boosts to things such as her total health, damage output, and more. Players will need to obtain extra energy cells through exploration to equip additional abilities, though these can only be done through the game’s limited teleportation stations that are used for fast travel. These passive upgrades are definitely worth acquiring, as are the energy cells required to use them that are found by searching high and low through the megastructure, including breaking down hidden walls. It is worth noting that, even if players find all of them, there is never enough power to have every ability equipped at once.
Audio & Visuals
The best part of Cookie Cutter is hands down the gorgeous aesthetic provided by the hand-drawn artwork that is everywhere in the game. The character models are all unique looking, with some rather extreme looking designs sometimes, and Cherry’s multiple upgrades and attack animations flow fluidly. The combat can occasionally be a bit too frantic looking at times, with it being easy to lose track of Cherry in the chaos of enemies and executions but this ultra-violence style is quite impressive looking more often than not, especially when characters use executions on new opponents. The design of the various “areas” players explore are all unique from one another but are often a bit on the too simplistic side, where most locations will start to feel repetitive less than halfway through a location.
There is some decent voice work throughout Cookie Cutter though not as much as one would hope. Most dialogue is unvoiced and this surprisingly includes plot related interactions as well, which is disappointing as these are often the interactions players would prefer to be voiced. The soundtrack features a great collection of rock music that fits perfectly well with the action happening on screen, especially during hectic boss battles.
Cookie Cutter may not reinvent or innovate the metroidvania genre much but it does feature some absolutely wonderful hand-drawn animation and stylization combined with some solid stylistic action. Unfortunately the game’s storyline isn’t given the same type of attention as its artwork as it largely disappoints both in its attempts to be “extreme” and “raunchy” as well as tell a worthwhile narrative. As a result, Cookie Cutter‘s action and style do the heavy lifting in what ends up becoming a fairly standard metroidvania.
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