Game: Summer Catchers
Genre: Adventure, Racing, Arcade
System: Nintendo Switch (also on Steam & iOS)
Developers | Publishers: Noodlecake | Evolve PR
Age Rating: EU 3+ | US Everyone
Price: US $5.99 | EU €9,99| UK £8.99
Release Date: February 11th, 2021
Review code used, with many thanks to Evolve PR
Summer Catchers is a pixel-graphics side-scrolling adventure game developed by FaceIT and published by Noodlecake Studios.
The core of the Summer Catchers feels more like an endless runner, but there are no scores. Instead, you have specific goals to reach in each area before moving on to the next. Chu is the main character, a young girl who has lived her whole life in the frozen north, and she has never seen summer. After waking up under a pile of snow, she meets a friendly creature and calls him, “bear” (in fact, it’s a local wolf who builds her a wooden kart). With the help of her friend she starts her adventure to see summer on a magical journey. It is up to you to help Chu travel from the frozen winter lands to the summer ocean in the homemade kart. Along the way she’ll encounter pits full of razor-sharp icicles, collapsing bridges and more hazards. Luckily the little girl has you to help as its to dangerous to go alone!
Three tools to use
You start with three consumable tools to smash through, leap over or outrun obstacles in your path, with more unlocked later. Each area has variations on similar obstacles, including totem poles that have been built absolutely everywhere for some reason
Pretty much all the gameplay consist of Chu riding her kart in 2D, throughout various environments, the challenge comes from how quickly you can react to the situation to survive the next second. You see, as Chu slides across the screen, you have to use tools that correspond to specific obstacles with split-second timing.
While driving, tools you have bought show randomly up in three tool slots at the side of the screen. When you use a tool, another one will be made available to the same slot until you run out of tools. As tools appear in a random order, there are often situations where you don’t have the right equipment to overcome the next obstacle. Hazards, too, are randomised so you can’t memorise them.
However, it’s sometimes possible to combine tools to dodge multiple obstacles at once, or to avoid obstacles that they aren’t specifically intended for. Other times, you’ll take damage anyway because you weren’t quite quick enough on the button.
Allowed Three Mishaps
If you have three mishaps your back to the beginning of the level. With the added challenge of only having three tool slots, resource management becomes an important factor. At the start that’s simple enough to manage as there are only three tools: jump, speed boost and a shield. Unfortunately for me, my reaction time has gone to hell in a hand kart (pun intended) which as much as I enjoy the game makes for a frustrating experience.
Summer Catchers has a story progression so it’s not just one infinite level, it’s more of a story-driven experience with a lot of grinding. The game has story acts designated by different areas where you meet new characters and gain new abilities. Thankfully, Chu gets a lot of help along the way from some interesting characters she meets. Some of them can even help you out during a race. They take the form of collectibles called pets, and they may take some convincing before they agree to help you out. There are also a number of other collectibles to find and secrets to uncover, including a few mini-games, and mythical creatures.
To make progress you have to complete quests in each area by grinding the level, followed by an occasional unique event or a boss fight. Quests involve things like waking up sleepy owls, collecting berries, planting trees and such. If a quest needs a certain item, it will automatically be added to Chu’s inventory. They, too, will appear randomly in the tool slots so you might need to drive past a quest object if the tool needed for it doesn’t show up.
As well as completing quests, you can also visit the shop. There you will find the tools you need to help you avoid the hazards. On each run, you collect mushrooms and theses are your currency to spend on costumes for Chu. You can also buy karts to change the look of Chu’s kart.
If you run out of mushroom, you can just start a run, crash, and repeat until you have the desired amount as everything you collect is kept, win or lose. After you leave an area you can stay in touch with the characters you left behind. There is a postal mail service so you can send and receive letters from the oddball bunch of animal characters. Being able to post a letter is quite a nice touch that the developers thought to add.
Playing Summer Catchers can be a challenge (for me anyway), the gameplay itself becomes enjoyably addicting and the game has a very positive attitude. No matter how many times Chu crashes, her positive attitude shines throughout the game. This makes you want to go out and try again and again to help Chu to reach the summer she so longs to see.
Visuals and Controls
The pixel artwork and environmental detail are lovely as you visit beautiful views and vistas in different environments. Lots of detail everywhere, even the character models are well designed. I did notice that Summer Catchers writing does suffer from translation problems, with a number of typos and
phrasing mistakes during some of the conversations with quest givers.
The music and sound effects are great, from the tranquil driving-around music to the ominous music during the boss fights which drives you on the finish the boss off. Chu emits cheery little grunts, yelps and whoops as she goes along. Along with the music and sound effects, it all captures the atmosphere of a road trip adventure.
You can control the game either by the joy-cons or the touchscreen, both works equally well. Though I preferred using the joy-con controls myself, that’s just personal preference.
Summer Catchers is an enjoyable romp helping Chu see the ocean. When I first started playing Summer Catchers I wasn’t too sure what I thought of the game, but you know what? It grew on me!
As I’ve mentioned Chu has a can-do attitude which really does rub off on you and makes you want to try to succeed. I like the art style, and even the gameplay itself becomes highly addicting.
Final Verdict: I like It A Lot