Otters with water Jetpacks and guns, bring a friend!
I’ll start out by saying that this game took a lot of time to grow on me, though it still has some issues. Upon the initial tutorial and beginning of the game, I was frustrated. I’m glad I pushed through, as there is a decent amount of fun to be had in The Otterman Empire, though it is a shallow experience.
The first thing that you will immediately think of when playing the campaign is Ratchet & Clank and Crash Bandicoot, the shooting and character designs all echoed the gunslinging Lombax, especially towards his later adventures, and it resembles the latter in its boss design and cutscenes. The villain, a cyborg otter named Tiko, introduction reminds me of Doctor Neo Cortex in all of the good ways. An evil mad scientist with an obsession for building robots.
Your goal in Otterman Empire is to obtain a certain number of stars before moving on in levels. Each enemy you take down within the time limit adds to the score and the more damage you take detracts. It’s all a pretty simple premise, and once you get the hang of it getting stars is easy.
It is plain to see that this game was definitely designed with coop and multiplayer in mind, as you can have up to 4 players total tackling missions. The variety of characters and little upgrades you get between worlds is also a nice incentive. With each of the story missions feeling like mini coop arenas it also does become repetitive playing solo for a while.
There are a variety of different characters to play as, each with varying weapons and abilities but each sharing the same basic movements. This makes it easy to switch between characters without feeling you have to learn a whole new move set, but does so at the cost of any real character depth.
The game controls decently if a bit sluggish. During the tutorial, I experienced a few glitches but after restarting the game I was fine. On a technical level, I didn’t experience many bugs beyond that initial tutorial I’m glad to report.
There is nothing that really stands out with a variety of weapons besides how each fire, and the size of the projectile. One character had the equivalent of a bazooka, the other a submachine gun. On a surprising note, you can also play as the villain Tiko. I do like that you have to constantly manage your water levels, for both your jetpack and guns. Having to dive underwater to reload these is a cool touch as well.
The coop is easily where you will have the most fun, especially if you have younger children. Couch coop was really where I was able to look past some of Otterman Empire’s faults. While playing this I just had fun flying around with the water jetpack and trying out each character.
Too Much, Too Little
Otterman Empire wears its influences proudly on its sleeve but early on it hits a point where each mission feels somewhat arbitrary. Your objective for each mission varies and adheres to the three-minute time limit. At times feeling like I was only playing arcade minigame for certain levels.
One mission I was standing next to Robots to recharge them, the other I was tasked with a Speed-like mission of keep moving or the bomb explodes while trying to take out tanks. So there is variety but it lacks depth. It’s a pool a mile wide and one meter deep.
It seems that Otterman Empire has a bit of an identity crisis. It constantly tries to be multiple games at once in what seems like a shout out to the early aughts. There is a clear inspiration from many great titles of the past (Super Mario Sunshine, Ratchet & Clank, etc.) but it really fails to do anything new. Worse yet it doesn’t utilize the ideas it takes from those games well either. It is an imitation and a shallow one.
Everything presented here seems great. A game focusing on Otters fighting an evil Scientist to protect their city. That has charm written all over it, yet it feels like there was something lost upon execution, it constantly felt like an amalgam of ideas. None of these feel really unique.
Instead it takes the surface level nostalgia of these games and puts it onto a wobbly and poorly built frame. I don’t know whose idea it was to map three different controls to the A button. Especially when the rest of the face buttons aren’t even used. This is especially confusing as jump and dodge are on the same button, for what seems like no reason.
Animations and Sound
Animations are also pretty stiff, and while they do have moments of fluidity it is hard not to feel like I’m watching Chuck-E-Cheese animatrons. They have surprising bouts of fluidity but feel robotic a majority of the time. The moments of fluidity are rare enough that they don’t smooth out the jankiness but highlight it, showing what could have been.
The soundtrack also feels a bit at odds with itself. There are a few pieces of music that just seem really jilted and don’t mesh well with the visuals on screen. If you’re trying to go the abstract route, that can work, but it doesn’t here. Too often I didn’t even notice the music playing in-level or even worse only noticed it because I wanted to turn it down.
It feels like the game had a solid foundation but they kept adding in more and more. This makes the game feel skin-deep at best. Don’t get me wrong, I did have a lot of fun with my time, even if this isn’t my particular brand of game. The phrase, “Lost in the sauce” comes to mind. There is fun to be had with The Otterman Empire but don’t expect the same staying power as the early 2000s platformers that inspired it.
The bottom line is that I had fun with my time in The Otterman Empire and if you see it on a steep sale give it a chance, and get a few hours of fun out of it. At the asking price of $24, I cannot currently recommend it.
Note: We received a review code from Tri-Heart Interactive