1986’s The Legend of Zelda established one of gaming’s essential formulas, where a succession of puzzle-filled dungeons steadily supplied the tools that players would need to advance. At its core, Zelda (and Metroid, which contextualized the idea into sci-fi, side-scrolling, setting) fashioned one of the industry’s definitive gameplay loops. Each completed puzzle inched players through dungeons. And each surmounted subterranean stage bestowed one of the eight pieces of the Tri-Force that were needed to open the final dungeon and save Zelda.
By breaking down progress into bite-size steps, the game signaled a proper amount of direction to players- allowing advancement to feel wholly gratifying. But most amazingly, were The Legend of Zelda’s occasional fractures from linearity, with directors Shigeru Miyamoto and Takashi Tezuka permitting progression without the use of certain tools. In the ensuing years, Zelda would be mimicked many times, but few developers outside of Nintendo could emulate the sublime cycle of advancement and sporadic thrill of thinking outside of the box.
Save for Silicon Studios’ voxelated endeavor, 3D Dot Game Heroes’, Ittle Dew 2 is one of the better attempts to recreate Zelda’s recurring sequence of overworld exploration, creative thinking, and tense boss battles. Building on the flexibility of Link’s expedition, the game allows players to tackle the game’s first seven dungeons in any order, forging your path with nothing more than a short-ranged wooden stick, as protagonist Ittle and her flying fox sidekick Tippsie attempt to collect eight pieces of an escape raft.
But in theory, you’ll probably want to follow the subtle route that developer Ludosity has crafted for you. Sure, those who have already completed the game might revisit tougher stages, but with a meager starting supply of health-hearts and your preliminary weapon, it can feel like challenging some of Mega Man’s toughest robot masters with nothing but your Buster. But by activating teleportation pads around the overworld and depending on the liberal dispersal of save points, it’s a feat that’s just within the realm of feasible.
Regardless of what path you’ll follow, Ittle Dew 2 delivers a gratifying sense of discovery. As you make your way around the world, you can expect the obligatory opposition- everything from angry bees, lava-tossing minecarts, and even testy tentacles. While you explore, the game serves as cartographer, drawing points of interest on a map that looks like the old, fold-out posters that came in Nintendo Power magazine.
Each zone has its own dungeon, which like the first Ittle Dew, are the undeniable highlights of the journey. Inside, challenges show a wide range of diversity, ranging from action-oriented feats like killing all on-screen creatures, obligatory box-pushing puzzles, and switch activations that require keen reflexes. Pleasingly, the title keeps the action fluid, limiting the player’s arsenal to four tools which can be easily accessed via the DualShock 4’s face buttons, eliminating the need to delve through menu screens. While the toolset might seem small, upgrades and interaction between components ensure that the game’s puzzles are rarely stifled.
A few innovations separate Ittle Dew 2 from its less successful, Link-envious peers. Satisfyingly, your sidekick is more than just a tagalong, with a button press offering puzzle assistance or even suggesting your next course of action. Storywise, the title gets right into the action, with just a skeletal set-up before setting players loose. But stick with it and there’s a decent amount of exposition, with Dew playfully poking fun at game at Zelda’s tenets. Knowing players are conditioned to break every pot looking for loot, the game has a number of amusing quips at the ready.
But there are also several blemishes that keep the game from infringing on Nintendo’s level of finesse. Traversing the game’s platforms can be especially tricky. Although the penalty for falling is only a heart, the punishment can be frustrating before a boss battle. And these showpiece scraps might be contentious for some. Although elevated enemies offer some of the game’s best dialog and characterization, there’s a bit too much recycling of antagonists. Lately, load times are just a hair longer that they should be, with a blank screen accompanying the journey between overworld and underworld.
Minor issues barely tarnish Ittle Dew 2’s expedition. For the most part, the title captures the intricately interwoven mechanics that have helped keep The Legend of Zelda an enduring favorite. Playful, pleasing, and brimming with challenging puzzles, Ittle Dew 2 wistfully recreates the feeling of sitting in front of a television and experiencing Miyamoto and Tezuka’s masterpiece anew.
Ittle Dew 2 was played on PlayStation 4 with review code provided by the publisher.