Back in 2013, Swedish indie developer Ludosity released a charming little game called Ittle Dew. Drawing heavy inspiration from Nintendo's Legend of Zelda franchise, Ittle Dew was a fun, puzzle-filled experience, but it left something to be desired in terms of game length, exploration, and combat. Ludosity promised a bigger, better sequel with improved combat and an increased focus on adventure, and Ittle Dew 2 is available now on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Steam. Does it live up to those promises and improve on the strengths of the first game? Ludosity provided me with a review copy of the game, so I dug in to find out!
Ittle Dew 2 starts with the adventurous Ittle Dew and her magical flying fox Tippsie crashing onto an island ripe with treasure and danger. In order to leave the island (after acquiring all of its loot, of course), they need to conquer eight dungeons to collect eight pieces of a raft. Seems legit. For most of the game, there isn't much to the story. It's a simple tale of adventuring with little depth of plot (although the plot picks up a bit near the end), but there's a healthy amount of NPCs scattered around the island to give it some personality. Ittle Dew and Tippsie are always good for some witty banter, giving off a vibe that reminds me a little of classic Banjo-Kazooie fun.
While the first game was largely linear and only featured four main dungeons, Ittle Dew 2 offers eight main dungeons (with several more secret ones to be found) and players can tackle the first seven in any order they want. The map points you in the direction of the first dungeon (and subsequent dungeons each time you complete one), but you're totally free to ignore that marker and explore virtually the entire island right from the start.
That said, the areas meant to be played later on in the game (both overworld regions and dungeons) will prove quite challenging if you don't have enough health or if you're missing some helpful items. Every secret in the game's overworld can be discovered with only your basic melee weapon, and dungeons that require a specific item to complete always house that item itself. There are duplicates of some items, allowing for different methods of progression through the game, and collecting a duplicate will upgrade any weapons you've already collected.
With this increased focus on exploration, Ittle Dew 2 needs an exciting and interesting overworld, and it delivers. The island is divided up into eight different regions (each with its own dungeon), and the environments are diverse and imaginative. Whether it's the candy-coated shores of Sweetwater Coast or the Old West Pepperpain Prairie with its rivers of hot sauce, the island is full of strange and wonderful places, and there are secrets to be discovered everywhere. Each region feels and looks unique and has its own catchy tune (I've had the Star Woods music stuck in my head for about a week straight now), making them all a joy to explore.
As I'm writing this, I've put about 14 hours into the game (taking my time to look for secrets), and I've beaten the main quest and several optional dungeons. It's a pretty healthy game length (much more so than the original), and Ludosity assures me that there are secrets I have yet to uncover. If sprinting through games is more your style, the game's open world nature lends itself well to speedrunning, and there are even shortcuts that reward you for playing dungeons out of order.
The dungeons themselves are varied and imaginative as well, ranging from a pillow fort to an art gallery for monsters to a pirate stronghold in a flooded basement. Each dungeon is filled with clever and challenging puzzles, and I found most of them to be quite satisfying. Puzzle-solving and combat are both performed using four items: a stick (that is eventually upgraded into a sword), a ring that creates blocks of ice and freezes enemies, a wand that can be used to move blocks from a distance, and good ol' handy dynamite. You'll have to think outside of the box, experiment, and find creative ways to use your items together in order to solve all of the puzzles.
As promised, the game has an increased focus on combat, and there's plenty of baddies crawling all over the overworld and inside dungeons. The biggest change from the last game is the addition of a roll button. Rolling helps you get around the map faster and dodge attacks, and it also gives you a brief moment of invulnerability. This is an extremely welcome addition, and you'll have to master this technique to conquer some of the harder dungeons and boss fights.
While combat is improved from the first game, it still feels a bit clumsy, and items still feel like they're puzzle-solving tools first and combat tools as a distant second. This leads to somewhat underwhelming boss fights, and that shortcoming is amplified by the fact that you fight the same few bosses several times over, each time with slight changes or upgrades.
Ludosity set out to make Ittle Dew 2 a more fleshed out adventure than its predecessor, and overall, they've succeeded. Ittle Dew 2 brings back that fantastic puzzles and charm of the original, but adds a large, robust overworld that does non-linearity better than most of the Zelda games from which it draws inspiration. The leap in combat quality is not nearly as substantial (although the added ability to roll is a big improvement), but it's not a deal-breaker by any means. Once I started playing, I had a hard time stopping, and I imagine many other Zelda fans (and fans of adventure games and puzzle games in general) will feel the same way.