By now, coming up with something original in the increasingly crowded Metroidvania landscape is not exactly an easy task for those who choose to try their hand at the genre. The independent scene has now eviscerated it thoroughly by also offering real must-have gems for fans, think of Hollow Knight or Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom, just to name a couple. For this very reason, stunning is becoming increasingly complicated without having even one feature that is truly capable of shining.
Cookie Cutter on paper would have a distinctive trait a truly spectacular hand-drawn aesthetic style – especially in terms of character animation and characterization – which has been able to make an impression from the very first moment the Rogue Games Rogue Games Subcult Joint Subcult Joint was presented to the public. In practice, however, Cookie Cutter seems to have leaned very heavily on form at the expense of substance, which really fails to shine despite the solid foundation on which it rests.
Cherry, an over-the-top Denzel
Set in a dystopian future with the world now in ruins, mechanic Raz finds inside a now-abandoned secret laboratory a Denzel android named Cherry, destroyed and apparently dead but, in truth, also feebly alive. Previously, Cherry belonged to scientist Shinji Fallon, whose lover she was: the two have been separated by a cruel madman who aims to rule what is left of the world, with the android destroyed and left to rot in the doctor’s laboratory.
Raz brings it back to his workshop by refurbishing it and now Cherry, moved only by an irrepressible desire for revenge against those who reduced her to death and took away her beloved, ventures into the huge INFONET megastructure, where Shinji is being held captive, in an attempt to free her and end all threats. Thus begins an over-the-top adventure that relies on exaggeration, where the narrative, at first glance a mere side dish, does not disdain to introduce us to absurd and off-the-wall characters by bringing to life dialogues that certainly do not go unnoticed.
Nevertheless, it is still the action the main protagonist of Cookie Cutter: Cherry delves into fairly large sized maps structured in pure Metroidvania style in the meantime that It slaughters with kicks, punches, uppercuts and lethal combos any unfortunate individual that tries to stand in its way, perhaps finishing him off with a decisive move that literally reduces him to mush. Cookie Cutter does not disdain violence and gory scenes at all, with the final moves executed against opponents often turning into an explosion of blood just to highlight even more the protagonist’s state of mind and her thirst for revenge, willing to do anything to save the person she loves.
A few too many limitations
However, the Rogue Games’ title fails in the long run to prove compelling. At first, one is pleasantly impressed by the truly frenetic pace of the fighting and by the good variety of enemies to be faced, some of them also quite tough and thus requiring us to make good use of all the techniques available to our android to triumph even in the most adverse situations. Taking advantage of her mana indicator, Cherry can also make special attacks that can deal massive damage, which can then be recharged by the dint of blows delivered against our targets, while her agility allows her to perform quick dodges so as to avoid the most dangerous blows.
Little by little, moreover, you unlock not only new combat techniques but also additional skills that are essential for exploring the map further and continuing with the main story, as is customary in a self-respecting Metroidvania (if you’re a fan of the genre and a Game Pass subscriber, here’s Best Metroidvania Games available in the Microsoft catalog). As a gameplay experience, by the way, Cookie Cutter aims to be a 2D Action/Platform as traditional as possible, without any kind of roguelike or soulslike contamination as is often the case with this type of game: it is, therefore, a product designed for genre purists.
All of this, however, taking into account the limitations that emerge forcefully hour after hour. Aside from the genuine frenzy that characterizes them, the fights in the long run tend to become repetitive partly because of the lack of particularly compelling ideas aimed at characterizing level design and enemy move park. Very often we find ourselves facing the same situations over and over again, such as the ever-present hordes of monsters to defeat one by one so as to continue beyond the room in which we are confined while the structure of the areas to be explored actually appears quite simple and never too elaborate, without the courage to go beyond the patterns of the more traditional Metroidvania.
Unconvincing, then, is the artificial intelligence that characterizes the mobs, which are often so stupid that they fully fall into the various traps scattered along the way. In general, while not lacking more challenging moments (it gets better with Boss Fights that turn out to be creative to the point and where a distraction can often be fatal.) Cookie Cutter appears to be a rather simple adventure, both because Cherry has a way to heal herself at any time by consuming the available mana, and because it takes little to understand the patterns used by rivals and therefore counter them even when they attack us en masse.
Cookie Cutter: brutal poetry in motion
As a hand-drawn visual style and art direction, Cookie Cutter really knows his stuff. The authors have shown a lot of creativity in the aesthetic key by bringing to life characters and creatures from a truly peculiar and over-the-top design, especially with regard to the characterization of enemies who know how to turn out to be out of their minds on several occasions. The real wonder, however, is her, Cherry, whose movements are so precise and natural that they leave you speechless.
It almost feels as if we are in front of a comic book come to life given the pinpoint accuracy of every animation, even the seemingly most pointless ones. The same argument extends to every NPC and creature encountered along the way, graced by a very inspired and out-of-the-ordinary aesthetic style, and seeing the way the android rips enemies to shreds with its executions literally keeps you glued to the screen because of the extremely creative way each kill happens. The only negative note should perhaps be made about the somewhat too uniform setting, an unavoidable detail being the adventure set all within the Megastructure.
The main scenarios thus tend to resemble each other although there is no shortage of details and peculiarities in abundance to give them a definitive identity anyway. On the technical front, no particular smearing is noticeable, and everything runs smoothly and accurately on the screen without major uncertainties. The sound accompaniment on the whole works well, even without offering memorable music in the true sense of the word. In any case, they adequately fulfill their task of creating atmosphere, thanks in part to heavy, adrenaline-fueled tunes that peep into the background during the most intense moments of our journey.
The flawed Denzel
Without mincing words, Cookie Cutter can be considered a missed opportunity. Despite its great style, graced by striking hand-drawn graphics for its beautiful animations and very inspired character design, Rogue Games production fails to hit the mark on a purely playful level: we are looking at the most classic Metroidvania, which does not shine in level design and map characterization and that doesn’t even convince in view of the challenge, alternating between challenging fights and puzzles and others that are not quite compelling. However, the pace of play remains very frenetic and its brawler setting gives rise to some spectacular moments and visually striking executions.
Here, Cookie Cutter is exactly that: a small aesthetic prodigy with a lot of stage personality not supported, however, by an equally original adventure. The feeling is that more could and should have been done, and there was also the basis for doing so. Unfortunately, the various underlying naiveties and the lack of a real distinctive trait from a gameplay perspective do not allow this Metroidvania to stand out from the ocean of similar productions that the indie scene has been offering us for several years now. However, if you love the genre, at the very least give Cookie Cutter a chance: maybe it will still manage to entertain you without too much pretension.