Gaming

Review of the game Lil Gator (Switch eShop)

Shot on Nintendo Switch (pinned)

There is something to be said about trying to return childhood. Nostalgia is (and always has been) a popular tool used by game designers, and it’s what many modern games use to try and recreate the childlike wonder. And yet, for the first time in recent memory, the new issue has tried a different approach, relying less on nostalgia than on imitation of a child’s imagination. Lil Gator Game is not only a surprisingly charming game, but also a holistic experience that will take you back to an era you probably haven’t returned to in a long time.

Lil Gator Game follows the story of a young alligator and his older sister. As children, the siblings spent their days playing outdoors, using their imaginations to create video game-inspired adventures to go together. However, as they begin to mature, Big Sis begins to devote more time to schoolwork and less time playing adventures with her brother. Disillusioned with his older sister, Lil Gator decides to work with his friends to create their biggest adventure, in hopes of attracting her to him. There is an overarching theme of fun throughout Lil Gator, regardless of age. It’s a lesson that should resonate with a lot of people, and exemplifies the game’s deep subtext and great writing, despite the outwardly cute aesthetic.

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Shot on Nintendo Switch (pinned)

One of the most impressive features is the presentation. The color-shaded visuals of the autumn forest look great on the Switch, and the game works well overall. Continuing with the children’s theme, all of the gear and items Lil Gator collects on his quest are either handmade crafts or household items. For example, instead of skillfully crafted shields by a blacksmith, you will collect fancy utensils and skateboards. And it’s not just the equipment you collect, as the same detail went into the design of the world and “enemies”. Even though they are technically enemies, your opponents are actually just immobile cardboard figures decorated with slugs and skeletons. It really seems like everything you find on your adventure is carefully designed to be as close as possible to something a child can use in tandem with their imagination.

At its core, Lil Gator Game is a quest-focused collector’s game. Your main goal is to create the highest quality adventure for yourself and your sister. To do this, you must solve dozens of animal challenges to convince them to join you in your “town” (which is really just a playground). These tasks can range from defeating enemies and collecting debris to helping grow seeds or turning on water pipes. The more animals you hire, the more you can improve your city.

In addition to recruiting villagers, completing quests will also bring you tangible rewards. Most often, you will be rewarded with confetti (the main currency of the game), but sometimes you can also get new equipment for your adventure. These can range from new hats and swords to tools like throwing rocks and ninja stars. You can unlock dozens of pieces of equipment, so no matter what quest you choose to complete, there will always be a reward at the end that will make you feel like it’s worth it.

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Shot on Nintendo Switch (pinned)

While Lil Gator Game focuses on collecting, the game draws heavily on some well-known contemporary games; the most obvious comparisons are with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. From shield surfing to a donut-shaped stamina wheel and even a Link-styled glider, Gator Game clearly draws inspiration from one of the biggest and best Switch games. It contains several other references and homages to various game series, such as first class lawyerlitigation in style. Because the game focuses so heavily on Lil Gator’s imagination, using these famous video game series that he’s likely played for countless hours makes sense in the context of the world and only adds to the game’s emotional realism.

While Lil Gator Game does a lot of things right, there are some minor areas that unfortunately don’t quite hit the mark. In particular, sometimes the game can feel rather pointless. There is no mini-map, no compass, no quest list to help keep track of your current tasks (although it occasionally pops up briefly during main quests). Sometimes it can feel like you’re looking for a needle in a haystack, especially if you decide to take a break and come back to the game later. Luckily, the game’s main island isn’t too big, so you can wander around and eventually find your destination, but having some kind of journal would have made the adventure a lot smoother.

In addition to progression issues, Lil Gator Game also suffers from some writing pacing issues. While most of the dialogue in the game is charming, there are times when conversations between characters can feel too long. Also, while it’s not game breaking, it’s worth noting that there have been instances of the physics engine launching Lil Gator into the sky, especially while surfing with a shield.

Conclusion

There are few games that successfully capture children’s wonder and imagination better than Lil Gator Game. Despite some minor writing issues and how aimless the adventure can feel, it’s easy to forgive small disappointments when a game is as wonderfully charming from start to finish as this one is. Lil Gator is among the best indie games released this year and offers recommendations for anyone even remotely wanting to feel like a kid again.




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