When Ittle Dew launched on the Wii U back in 2014, we really enjoyed it, praising the game’s art style, soundtrack and puzzle design. It’s a clear homage to earlier Legend of Zelda titles - most specifically A Link to the Past - borrowing heavily from the classic SNES game, but at the same time retaining its own unique character. But how does the game fare on Nintendo Switch? Does it stand out in a far more crowded eShop?
The answer is, unfortunately, a bit ambiguous. Yes, it’s a good game that Zelda fans in particular will absolutely adore thanks to the puzzles and overall style, but its short length and poor combat hold it back from being a must-buy title for the masses.
Starring the titular character Ittle alongside her faithful fox companion Tippsie (who, if you hadn't guessed by the name, seems to be constantly intoxicated), the two find themselves on the shore of a mysterious island. Not convinced that the island will provide the kind of adventure Ittle seeks, she finds a shopkeeper by the name of Itan, and requests use of a raft to find a 'better' island.
Itan believes the island Ittle currently finds herself on has plenty of opportunity for adventure, and tasks her with finding an artifact from the island's castle, after which he will craft her a raft for free. So starts Ittle and Tippsie's adventure.
Ittle Dew has a fairly rudimentary structure for the most part. You'll start off the game with virtually nothing but a stick, before heading to the castle to collect money with which to purchase new, better items from Itan's shop. Much like Zelda games, Ittle Dew throws the odd spanner in the works and sends you off to new, menacing parts of the island to make use of any new gadgets you happen to pick up, before making your way back to the castle (which effectively serves as the game's 'hub').
The castle is undoubtedly the best area in the game. It's where you'll find the most puzzles, the most enemies, and most bosses. You'll head back to the castle multiple times during the game's relatively short 5-6 hour length, so there's certainly a risk there of it becoming slightly repetitive, but thankfully every subsequent return unlocks new areas within the castle to explore, and new puzzles to master with whatever new item you happen to possess.
Speaking of items, there are only a few key pick-ups in the game, but each one is put to use in some truly ingenious ways. The fire sword is primarily used as a means of attacking enemies, but it can also be put to use in puzzles. You can ignite bombs with it, melt ice blocks with it, and more. Similarly, you acquire a little portal gizmo later in the game that lets you conjure up you very own block. Shooting another item in the vicinity, such as a bomb, will then transform the block into that particular item, effectively acting as a portal. The puzzles as a whole are really clever, and there are certainly a few that will leave you scratching your head for a while. Thankfully, Tippsie’s knowledge is just a button press away, and he will give you hints and tips depending on the situation you’re in.
On the flip side, the combat itself is quite lacking for the most part. Ittle will swing her sword/stick in much the same way that Link does in earlier Zelda games. Unfortunately, it’s a lot more difficult to actually make contact with enemies than it should be. This is in part due to Ittle’s sluggish movement speed, but the hit boxes for the enemies seem to be incredibly small, leaving very little room for error. On top of this, the enemies themselves are incredibly accurate - particularly with projectiles - and also meander around the environment in completely random directions, making some of the game’s encounters feel slightly unbalanced.
Whilst the Wii U version of the game presented the game’s map and items on the gamepad in addition to the main action on the TV, the Switch obviously doesn’t have this luxury. We found this wasn’t really an issue, as you can bring up the map on-screen with a simple press of R, whilst any items or pick ups pop up on the screen in a minor, unobtrusive way. Technically, the game holds up much better than the Wii U version did. Load times are pretty minor for the most part, and we didn’t encounter any hard freezes during our time with it. There were a few moments when the framerate stuttered for a few seconds, but this by no means harms the overall experience.
The overall style and charm of Ittle Dew is practically impeccable. The graphics, which look to be hand drawn, invoke The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker whilst also reminding us of classic Saturday morning cartoons. Colours really pop from the screen, and the characters all look wonderfully unique and hilarious in their own way. Additionally, the game is very self aware, and likes to poke fun at itself with funny jokes and dialogue sequences. It’s a lot more cheeky than Zelda titles tend to be, but we really enjoyed this shift in tone.
Ittle Dew is a lovely, endearing title that will undoubtedly appeal to Zelda fans thanks to its birds-eye view and heavy focus on item-based puzzles. The bothersome combat remains unchanged from the Wii U version, which is a shame, but the game is technically much more impressive on Switch. If you're after something to keep you busy for a while while you wait for the next big Zelda title, this is the one to go for.