Ittle Dew is a puzzle adventure game with some light action developed by Ludosity. Imagine a Zelda game where the focus is mainly on its puzzles. That’s more or less what you’ll get here. They are not shy about their inspirations in that regard, but they definitely see more potential in the concept than Nintendo seems to do. The main plot is pretty basic. You play as the main character, Ittle, on a journey with your flying creature friend Tippsie, who is keen on handing out hints almost as much as having a drink. You both wash up on a mysterious island with no way to get home. After finding a craftsman that runs an item shop to sell said self-crafted items, he offers to fix your raft in exchange for an artifact hidden deep within the castle ahead. However, in order to get to the precious artifact, you’ll need to use a few handy items. If you can scrounge up enough gold to pay the shopkeep he’ll let you buy an item. Or rather, he’ll send you to the location where that item can be found. You’ll be launched into the air and land in a dungeon of sorts. Here you’ll be tasked with solving some puzzles, which is the bulk of the gameplay.
There are a few different types of puzzles you’ll encounter. A common type is to present you with blocks you can push one space at a time in grid-based movement in order to try and depress a button or multiple buttons. Another type is to simply gain access to a switch to hit. Sometimes there are multiple switches that must be hit within a time limit before resetting. Sometimes you’ll be tasked with trying to figure out how to set all the piles of kindling on fire in a room or perhaps to extinguish them all. Some rooms require you to defeat all of the enemies within. You can also blow up certain blocks using bombs found in the rooms or bounce projectiles off of mirrors. These types of puzzles and elements are often mixed and matched in various rooms and often times you’ll need to do certain ones first to unlock barriers to get to the next ones, however most overall puzzles will take place in a room by room basis. After finding your way through enough solvable puzzles in a dungeon you’ll come across the key item and then use it to solve the rest of the dungeon and eventually fight the boss of that dungeon. Each time you are sent to a dungeon you’ll lose all of your other items and be left with the basic stick to attack until you find the key item. You’ll get your other items back once you return to the trash can outside of the item shop after completing the dungeons.
From the start you have the stick, which is weak but can be used to hit enemies and temporarily be set on fire. While on fire the stick can ignite some enemies, break frozen objects, light bombs, and set kindling on fire. There are three main items to acquire throughout the game. One is the fire sword which increases your attack damage and permanently has the effect of the flaming stick. There’s an ice rod that can freeze and objects. Frozen enemies can be shattered by fire and frozen objects will slide when pushed and only stop once they come in contact with another solid obstacle. You can also freeze walls and bounce magic off of the temporarily frozen patch. Lastly is the portal wand. This item has two different functions. One function creates a portal block that can be moved around like any other movable block and even depress buttons as such. By creating a new one you’ll destroy the previous one. And the other function is a magical projectile that will teleport enemies and certain objects on contact to wherever the portal block is. You can even teleport yourself with it. So basically all of the puzzles in the game will be solved using these elements and items, as well as the boss battles. There are some optional chests in dungeons and in caves that themselves are optional where you can find collectible cards of the game’s characters including a bit of lore on each or a piece of paper, four of which will create an extra heart of permanent health for you. Once you have enough key items you can solve your way through the castle and fight the final boss to obtain the artifact and leave the island.
As a Zelda fan, I found myself enjoying a lot of these puzzles. They are simple to understand but some of them are real head-scratchers to solve even if you get the idea of what you need to ultimately do with them. And many of the puzzles have multiple solutions because you can actually beat the game without getting every one of the key items. I’ve only ever won with getting them all, but the idea that I could go back again and try to solve puzzles with limited options of less key items is impressive and a little bit enticing. I also appreciate that, while each item dungeon takes away your other items, the way they force you to use the new item you get to finish is a good learning tool to understand all the applications of your new abilities. The hand-drawn art is charming. The music is atmospherically interesting. The writing is goofy and somehow manages to work despite being pretty bluntly lame at times. I guess it just seems self-aware enough to sell me on that humor. The mix of some light combat and exploration also help to make this game still feel like a cohesive experience rather than simply a series of puzzles, even if that’s largely what it is. It somehow adds extra weight and a feeling of progression to doing the puzzles that a simple level select wouldn’t really offer. It’s also a Steam game I’ve played through more than once, which is worthy of note on a platform where my backlog is this damn big. It’s short enough to not drag on and long enough to feel like it’s worth the investment in time.
Of course, it has a few issues. The combat is pretty simple, but there’s some delay and awkwardness at times. You may find yourself getting hit if you’re not patient enough or deliberate enough. Some of the timing you need to execute the proper actions for certain puzzles also suffers from the awkwardness in control. I also found that trying to do action-oriented puzzles in general was frustrating since most of the puzzles in the game can be solved at your own pace allowing you to think. So the few times you’re pushed into an action-based puzzle it feels very unnatural and the control just isn’t well-suited to such things. It’s also a bit of an annoyance on replay that you still have all your cards unless you wipe all of your game data. You can still collect them on the new file but you can only track them through the in-game status screens on each map and that’s a little bit of a chore if you’re trying to finish up the endgame. I also think that’s one knock against playing without getting all the key items. You won’t be able to solve all of the puzzles without all of those so you’d either need to do a replay closer to the last play, which may be tiring, or be okay with not doing everything over again if you wait, which may leave you feeling incomplete.
Most of my complaints are minor and most of my praises are mild. Ittle Dew is not an amazing, must-have title. However, for an indie game on Steam, it’s certainly a cut above average if it’s something that STILL stands out to me at this point. If you like puzzle games, or just the puzzles in Zelda games, and you want something more focused on that with a reasonable price, Ittle Dew is a great pick. It has enough going for it to keep you playing if you like it and ultimately, while you may not be blown away, you should at least feel satisfied with the experience. I know it’s on Wii U as well as Steam and I’m not sure what other platforms it is on and what the pricing is, but I think it’s worth maybe about 15 to 20 bucks or so depending on where you get it and how interested you are in it. I think as of right now it’s only 10 bucks on Steam so it’s not too shabby. In fact, I enjoyed it enough to be interested in playing the sequel sometime when I get the funds and urge. Maybe some popular demand wouldn’t hurt, but we’ll see.