2021: A Space Otterssey
What makes you want to play a game? Perhaps it’s a sequel to an established franchise that you’re willing to give a second chance. Maybe it’s a new IP from a studio that you love, or maybe you’ve been convinced by a friend who won’t stop singing its praises.
How often are you sold on a game based exclusively on a song?
When a code for Space Otter Charlie dropped into my inbox, I was curious. I love otters, as any normal human being does, so I was definitely interested in a game about their exploits in the cold recesses of space. I opened the trailer that was attached to the email and was greeted not only by a wonderful compilation of Otter footage, but by an absolute banger of an 80s power metal tune.
The chorus, “Space Otter Charlieeeeee” remains swirling around in my head like a ping-pong ball.
The game itself is a 2D platformer in which you control the titular Charlie as he and his crew attempt to find a new place to live, the Earth having been wrecked by disgusting humans some time ago.
Charlie has a jetpack that allows him to float through the levels like Homer Simpson eating potato chips, and a gun because as Charlie colonises space, he intends to do so leaving a trail of blood in his wake.
The art style is instantly very charming. The Otters are cute and the levels are clearly designed without becoming overly simple. I was always very aware of hazards and the in-game map is great at giving direction. Occasionally the game would send me through one of the warp doors when I didn’t intend for it to do so, but that’s the only real moment of clumsiness.
The combat is twin-stick shooter-like, you aim with the right stick while guiding Charlie with the left. Drifting your wee Ottery pal round enemies while landing shots is fun, though the combat is rarely challenging. The only difficult parts of the game are the occasional platforming sections in which you need to take sharp turns with speed and precision, something the game doesn’t excel at.
There’s a lot of great dialogue in the game that elicited a chuckle or two, but it’s a real shame that none of it is voice-acted. There’s a Ratchet and Clank style humour to the writing and I’d have loved to have heard it voiced. It works for what it is, but falls short of its potential.
Space Otter Charlie isn’t incredibly long, I finished it in one sitting, although there are a few optional planets that you can travel to if the mood strikes. I love a good three hour game. Something I can sit down and finish in one sitting, have a few laughs and enjoy some fresh mechanics? Sign me up.
It’s a total palate cleanser. It feels like something people should just keep on their Nintendo Switch and finish a wee level or two before bed. It’s the gaming equivalent of watching TikToks about cats.
There’s a bevvy of suits that you can dress Charlie up in, each of which come with a special gun tied only to that suit. For example, you can fit him with a suit that looks similar to, but is legally distinct from the types of suits worn by the characters in Tron. As you’d expected, this gun fires out rings of light. Finding the materials for these suits takes a bit longer than I’d like, I want to dress up my little otter, don’t make me fight for it.
Space Otter Charlie is a lesson in playing more games you’ve never heard of. It’s a dopamine rush and will encourage you to look up YouTube videos of otters vibing, and as far as public services go, that’s pretty unmatched. The game’s very charming and while mechanically simple, enjoyable for the duration of its run time. It won’t live long in your memory, but as something to play between lengthier titles, you otter give it a shot.