The newest couch co-op from Hazelight studios takes an unusual turn as its main characters turn into Claymation for a fun filled adventure.
The tale of May and Cody begins with a rather bleak revelation, telling their child Rose that they will be getting a divorce. With a few salty tears the pair are turned by magic into toy versions of themselves, confined to their fate until the will of a rather obnoxious book of love is satisfied. The story is a simple but effective package for the gameplay, setting and toy characters. The small amount of real world cut scenes are oddly the weakest part of the entire thing, particularly Rose who seems overly twee. As soon as the real world drops away the developers and artists find endless potential in the art and gameplay. There is a visible passion and joy in the world they create which sustains something unique and brilliant.
The visual quality of the entire game is impressively slick. It is marketed as a next gen release but that has been a phrase surprisingly lacking in meaning in other games recently. It is fairly cartoonish in style but with the 4K textures it looks clean and Disney movie quality. The blend from cut scenes to game play is completely seamless, an impressive feat given some of the grand vistas and situations you find yourself in. Each segment of the adventure remains so determinedly fresh and visually different there is no fatigue in level design. We often found ourselves pausing to happily explore weird parts of the map, interacting with objects to see where the world’s boundaries are. There is always more to do that you would think as the world has a life of its own in many ways. The scale of what the artists reach for is breathtakingly beautiful and keeps you forgetting the game is designed around a suburban house. It is hard to pick just one scene as an example but the inside of the old clock is stunning, the shading, colours and the depth of world’s design show no corners were cut from the artists’ intent.
The traversal mechanics for the huge area you cover are perfectly honed, there may be puzzles to solve to progress but the wayfinding is a breeze. It is fast as lightning and with no frame rate drops on either Xbox One X or Series S. To put this into perspective, playing Destiny 2 afterwards feels clunky! What makes the control system even more impressive is the fact that you change movement style and attack styles pretty much every 20 minutes. Even within one level you might go from flying to riding beetles to magnet swings and it rarely repeats. Just moving is enjoyable and exciting, something very few games have managed in my opinion.
Level design and enemy types all come with their own flavour and unique route to success. It might take a few respawns to work it out but it feels satisfying to progress. The emphasis always remains on fun and there is no difficulty increase toward the end of the game, it spikes around bosses but there is a natural ebb and flow. The characters you meet drive the game forward and are wonderfully weird, the unexpected is a benchmark that never changes. Fighting with militant squirrels was certainly a stand out moment, the voice actors fully commit and the world entirely supports what is going on.
Playing over the Easter weekend as a social activity was thoroughly enriching. Taking the time to share an experience that creates such a positive vibe is always valuable. The timing of this game’s release couldn’t be better and hopefully holds a spotlight to the fact that couch co-op still has huge value. The polished issue free release is a big middle finger to most of the industry which seems to have forgotten what that looks like even before 2020. This is a must play and Hazelight Studios is going from strength to strength as it grows! Time to rediscover your inner child and sense of wonder.
Author: Joe, Bath store