2023 has been a hell of a year for games, and it’s still firing out bangers as it winds to a close. Christmas is on the near horizon, snow is creeping across the country, and Cookie Cutter is smearing blood and engine oil all over the shop. A 2D, hand-drawn Metroidvania most reminiscent (in terms of structure) of F.I.S.T: Forged in Shadow Torch, Cookie Cutter follows android Cherry, torn apart and left for dead when her creator is kidnapped by the overlords who rule this post-apocalyptic hellscape. It’s a world that reminds me of something like Tank Girl, or more recently Jay Kristoff’s LIFEL1K3 series.
See, Cherry isn’t the type to take it lying down, and after being rebuilt by engineer Raz, she embarks on a bloody, destructive odyssey of vengeance, tearing apart any mechs, mutants, and monsters that get in her way. The character herself is not what you’d expect, either. Decked out in her waitressing outfit from the diner she worked in, Cherry is like the caffeine-nightmare of any late-night truck driver who was rude to the serving staff. She’s also mean as a junkyard raccoon, channeling rage and violence through the mediums of fists and snark.
Accompanied by Regina, a robotic face that resembles a very specific article of the female anatomy, Cherry leaps, dashes, slides, and pulversies her way across multiple biomes including lethal factories and barren wastelands. I’ve played through the first two biomes of an early preview version of Cookie Cutter, and right now I’m very excited to play more.
Perhaps the most appealing thing about it is how it all moves. Cherry’s animations are smooth and fluid, the environments are highly detailed and pulsate with atmosphere, while the enemy design is interesting. So far I’ve dealt mostly with mutants and robots, all of whom can be beaten to squibs or executed with a single button press after you parry or stagger them.
Cookie Cutter is no Soulslike though; it’s a Metroidvania through and through. Death sends you back to the most recent checkpoint, which so far have been impeccably placed before tough areas or boss rooms. Teleporters, however, are few and far between, forcing you to make use of Cherry’s array of traversal moves and abilities. Up to now we’ve unlocked the air dash and double jump, but the trailer shows many more that will become available later.
The cathartic violence is weirdly refreshing in a game that doesn’t also beat you over the head with its difficulty. The aim here is not to punish the player, but to reward exploration and experimentation with crass humour and bloody action. There’s an undercurrent of “gross-out” humour, but the world is bleakly funny, too. A mildly disturbing opening sets the scene for what will become a white-knuckle blast of gore and gags.
You will need to unlock Energy Cells to equip Cherry with permanent buffs such as increased health and damage, while the traversal abilities are unlocked as rewards for defeating bosses or exploring the environments thoroughly. It runs incredibly smoothly on PC, the hand-drawn animation bringing Cherry’s violent executions to vivid, colourful life. But it also has some great visual touches, like her determined face that might as well have her tongue sticking out the corner of her mouth as she stamps on an android’s neck to rip its head off.
One thing I appreciate is that enemies don’t respawn until you die, meaning you can clear an area and then explore it at your leisure – as long as you avoid traps and hazards, of course. The bosses so far are appropriately challenging, but do throw up one flaw that I hope will be fixed by upgrades later. Cherry heals by standing still and absorbing the energy she uses for special attacks. In every situation this is fine, except boss fights. They come at you so fast and in such small arenas that you have nowhere to run or hide while you heal – and it’s the only way, currently, to restore health.
As I said, upgrades may fix that later in the game – and it’s a minor gripe anyway. There’s so much fun to be had bouncing enemies off walls and destructible environments, or catapulting them into traps, or ripping off their body parts and beating them to death with their own severed limbs.
Despite coming so late in the year, Cookie Cutter is an absolute recommendation even at this point. Although what we’ve seen is early game and there’s plenty of potential to overcomplicate the formula, right now I can’t wait to play more of this colourful, hyperviolent adventure.
Cookie Cutter is coming to PC and consoles on December 14th.
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