Cookie Cutter is a Metroidvania style platformer/brawler from Brighton-based studio, Subcult Joint LTD. Promising to fuse Manga stylings with a punk rock aesthetic, this futuristic title mixes a bit of dystopian sci-fi with some good old ultra-violence.
You play as Cherry, a robot who receives a much needed refurb job after she is smashed to near ruin when her creator/lover, Shinji, is taken hostage by an evil corporation called Infonet who have been creating robot slaves that have the downloaded consciousnesses of the humans who thought they were signing up for a happy immortality but instead are left to work in the factories and furnaces as free labour.
The opening plot explains all this with a mix of cutscenes and voice acting, which gives the game a bit more of a premium vibe compared to most of the exhausting number of Metroidvanias that we review on PSN but when that’s all over, you’ll immediately take control of Cherry, battered and broken in a surprisingly gruesome way, before an ally fixes you and you start getting to grips with the basic movement and combat abilities that Cherry starts with.
Set in a 2D, side-on viewpoint Cookie Cutter is very much a traditional Metroidvania in terms of its basic mechanics. You run, jump and crouch your way through screens of obstacles, while your educated right foot lets you Chun-Li your way through the various foes that litter all the screens. Initial impressions are reasonably good thanks to the game’s quick action, colourful palette and slick animation. There’s a bit of a Prince of Persia vibe in terms of how well-presented it all is.
In terms of progression, the game points you in the direction of the next objective and then you’ve just got to get there. Sometimes this is fairly straightforward, although the levels are very large and take some traversing, but this is a Metroidvania and so you’ll also come across new door types you can’t open or platforms that are tantalisingly out of reach, just begging for a double jump ability that you’ll eventually earn. This means there’s quite a lot of backtracking and exploring to do but that’s all part of what you sign up for with games like these.
That said, there are niggles with your progression. Along the way you’ll pick up ‘bits’ which are the game’s currency but it’s a while before you can spend these and even longer before you can spend them on anything that’ll meaningfully enhance your combat abilities. You also find components that’ll give you upgrades that are more useful, but you’re super-limited in terms of how many you can equip. Progression just feels slow. There’s no sense of looting and upgrading but rather just the feeling that your improvements are being gated to slow you down.
And, to be honest, you kind of need help in this game. With no difficulty settings, your progression will depend on your ability to get through the game’s toughest sections on your own merits. Thankfully, Cherry’s pretty tough. She uses a combination of basic melee attacks and ‘Void’ powers. Attacking enemies builds up your void bar which is then used up by special attacks. These can be upper cut combos, laser blasts and other special moves that are unlocked along the way and they’re all pretty devastating. Some of those components that you find can upgrade your Void capacity and so that’s pretty much the way to go, especially as your melee attacks take ages to actually defeat enemies.
It’s a pretty good system and it works well but combat overall definitely has its problems. The game likes to throw locked rooms at you where waves of enemies appear and have to be defeated before you can leave. These are actually some of the most fun parts of the game but they can also be troublesome. While combat is pretty fast and slick we weren’t always convinced by the collision detection, the visual clarity or the parrying. The middle of those is the real issue. With lasers flying at you, enemies dashing and you having to worry about your Void meter, the main thing you need is for things to be clear and consistent but that wasn’t always the case. What should have been Cherry slickly dodging and timing her way to victory often ended up with us having to run away in order to just to make space and reassess. Instead of Bruce Lee-ing our way through these encounters, we instead often resorted to kiting enemies. It works but it’s not always all that fun. Especially when the game has a terrible habit of placing these rooms an annoyingly long distance away from the nearest checkpoint. It gets frustrating, especially if all that is behind these rooms is a few more ‘bits’ or another locked door.
The other issue is with how the story is presented. The opening cutscene sets up an interesting plot but after that you don’t get much apart from the occasional dialogue box conversation or text logs that add barely anything to the story and just read like babble most of the time (see above). Text logs are the worst way to tell a story, even if they do fill out the lore in a game, but here they’re just a bad reward for fighting your way through to another dead-end.
But, overall, Cookie Cutter does more right than it gets wrong. The game’s length is just about right, not too long even if it can feel like a slog at times, and the combat can be enjoyable. Exploration is either going to be your thing or not but if you lack patience, you’ll probably want to swerve this. But if you’re ready to sink yourself into Cookie Cutter and enjoy its Metroidvania-y charms, this is way better than a lot of what we get from this genre these days and it’s elevated by a cool art style that lets you know a lot of love went into the game.
+ Large playing area but not too large
+ Combat can be fun
- Combat can be messy
- Story could have been stronger