Sir Eatsalot is a 2D platformer/adventure game that is out now exclusively on PS Vita and it features the titular knight as he battles the evil witch Hysterica who has poisoned the kingdom of Gluttington with sour lemonade. As the name, and screenshots below, suggest, Eatsalot is on the chubby side but his sense of honour and duty spur him ever onwards through the assembled army of Hysterica’s rat goons as he takes on quest after quest in an effort to save the Kingdom.
The game comes to us from German developers Behind the Stone, a two-person crew with one of them on programming duties and the other one graphics and it’s there where we’ll start. Sir Eatsalot is a great looking game. It has a simple, cartoony look but everything is cleanly defined and the art style is charming. It is all brought to life by some excellent animation and is one of the first indie games in ages where the characters seem to have some real personality to them. We feel like Monika Rider’s work definitely deserves special mention here.
As you travel through the kingdom you’ll come across all sorts of weird and wonderful creatures, and these may or may not help you with the puzzles you are facing but they add a great deal of cuteness to the proceedings. Even more entertaining is Hysterica, the game’s antagonist who yells at her incompetent minions as they attempt to stop Eatsalot in his bid to save the kingdom.
The game sets out in quite a gentle fashion with some basic platforming and combat to master. You can walk, run, jump, attack and defend and the game’s enemies and platforming sections don’t offer too much of a challenge. Harder enemies await but your shield does a good job of protecting you and extra health is always available to you thanks to the developer’s use of the Vita. Candy-giving plants can be tapped (using the Vita’s screen) to boost your health while the rear touch pad is used to clear obstacles. Later on the camera is even brought into play when you are trapped underground with limited light. Much like the games that first came out for the Vita, it’s all a bit gimmicky but these days so few games are exploring the possibilities the Vita gives you so we welcome it here.
I was loving Sir Eatsalot, from the visuals to the relaxed gameplay and simple but satisfying puzzles it was all a bit of a joy to play but the game does have a problem and that is with its level design. The game uses the sort of design that I’ve not seen much of since the 8-bit days of the ZX Spectrum and specifically games such as Joe Blade, Tirnanog and Marspot. These games all had the kind of world maps where you’d be in a 2D left-to-right corridor with doors that you could go in that took you into the screen or out towards the player. Each door led to another corridor. Hopefully you know what I mean. Anyway, I wasn’t a fan of this layout back then and I’m not a fan of it now.
Initially it’s not too much of a problem but later on the game offers you choices. You go through a door and can go left or right. Where do you choose? Am I going to end up defeating a bunch of enemies and negotiating a load of tricky jumps only to find out I went the wrong way? What if each of those choices leads to another choice? And so on? I found that whenever I returned to the game after a break, I was never sure where I was meant to go and with the game offering no map screen or indicators, a lot of time was wasted as I probed each direction until I ended up making progress.
However, it was still tolerable until I got to the mines. At this point each choice led to three more it seemed and each time I got to where I wanted to go a new quest was given to me, making me have to head back into the darkened maze that got me there. The game knows exactly what it is doing as the quests are tied into the insufferable bureaucracy of the chocolate golems who operate the mines but it leads to a series of nested quests that stripped out nearly all of the good will I had towards the game.
It started with fixing a generator but then ended up with me having to go to a series of offices, each one asking me to perform quests, each quest seemingly leading to additional tasks when you got there. Eventually I found my way to mining area A. Bear in mind that during all of this you have to keep recharging your light source (using your camera) or else you’ll keep falling to your death. In mining area A the gameplay mechanic that refills your light stopped working and by that point I already wanted to bury my Vita in the garden. But then I returned to the previous area and it started working again (and then worked in the next area after all). It really is some of the most joyless, tedious gaming we’ve ever had to endure. Old school gamers might be able to tolerate it if you start hand-drawing maps to keep track of everything but it all feels so unnecessary. We’d rather they made the combat and platforming a little more difficult and streamlined the exploration because it got to a point where each new area was greeted with a worried sigh rather than welcoming the next challenge.
In the end I felt as though I was making myself get through it just for the review and the more I played it, the less I was liking it and that’s a shame. We want Behind the Stone to succeed for sure but lessons need to be learned here. We really want to love Sir Eatsalot. The game has so much charm and confidence and very patient gamers will no doubt enjoy it but in the end it felt like a struggle to get through. The guys who made this have real talent but arguably they need to work on their gameplay. There’s a reason why so many cute platform games never made it when Sonic and Mario did and it comes down to keeping the momentum going and ensuring the game is always fun. This game doesn’t get that right all the time but there’s still enough here to recommend it to you if you feel like you won’t be put off by the game’s incessant backtracking.
+ Fun characters
+ Uses the Vita hardware
- Easy to get lost
- Unskippable cutscenes
- Basic combat and platforming
- Slow movement makes backtracking even worse