December 14, 2022
We live in a time where almost every video game is full of complex systems to learn and mechanics to experiment with. RPG systems and skill trees sneak their way into all manner of genres nowadays, and it’s fair to say it can feel a little overwhelming for some. Simplicity can be refreshing, and Lil Gator Game is a 3d platformer that’s a throwback to a simpler time.
The titular Lil Gator just loves to play games with his big sister, but unfortunately since she’s started at college she doesn’t have a lot of time to join him on make-believe adventures. Our hero has a plan though, if he and his friends have the most exciting adventure ever then she’ll be tempted to join them. It’s an incredibly wholesome premise that sends you on a journey full of lush green hills and homemade cardboard monsters.
Controlling our snappy protagonist is easy. From the start of the game you can run and jump, but before long you’ll get all your hero equipment and will be able to swing a wooden sword, slide down hills on your shield and even climb cliffs thanks to a bracelet. These tools will make it possible to start exploring the largely vertical environments for collectables and buddies, and start to set the gameplay loop in motion.
Exploration is the name of the Lil Gator Game. To accomplish your main goal of playing with your sister, you need to help loads of kids around the island so they’ll become friends with you and help set up the big game. This means searching all over the cliffs and forests for the charming animal characters, and helping them with little tasks. You might need to convince a bull that he’ll still look cool with puffy fur after he goes swimming, or climb on a whale’s back to help clean out its blowhole. These tasks are rarely too difficult to accomplish, but are a nice distraction from fighting cardboard cut-out monsters.
Fighting might be a bit of a stretch, because these 2d stationary baddies can’t really fight back. It’s important to smash them all to pieces though, because those pieces can be recycled to make yourself new gear. As you complete tasks for your new friends you’ll get inspiration for new equipment to make, and by putting enough shards of cardboard together will be able to upgrade yourself and look stylish doing so. Weapons like the nunchucks have a wider swing and are more satisfying to use against the cardboard menace, whereas a new ninja hat makes you faster thanks to its Naruto run based abilities, and nothing feels better than bouncing across the landscape on a trampoline shield.
As well as upgrading your current kit, you’ll also gain access to new items that will help with traversal and dispatching hand drawn blob monsters. Early on you’ll be given paper shuriken to throw at monsters that float in the air strapped to balloons. There’s also a paint gun if you’d rather have a more Splatoon themed ranged weapon, and my personal favourite, a balloon that allows you to float upwards to get up those particular steep cliffs.
If you’ve been enjoying all the frictionless no stress games this year like Tinykin, Lil Gator Game will be right up your alley. There’s no enemies that can make you lose a life, no health bar to keep an eye on, just lovely environments to explore and collectables to find.
Unlike a game like Tinykin though, I just don’t think there’s enough to sink your teeth into in Lil Gator Game. It’s fun enough to climb the cliffs and gather scrap paper, but after a couple of hours it starts to feel like you’ve seen everything the game has to offer. It’s a charming and positive game, but especially if you’re familiar with 3d platformers that only carries it so far.
It’s also worth mentioning the Switch performance of the game too, which is a little on the ropey side. Far too often you’ll notice some pretty substantial frame drops, and although the Switch hardware is dated nothing about this colourful platformer feels like it couldn’t run smoother on it.
Lil Gator Game is an adorable adventure packed with charm, but the exploration focused gameplay is just a little bit lacking. The story of the reptilian siblings is truly heartwarming, but in trying to make the game free of threats too much of what I enjoy from the genre was stripped away.
A joyful and heartwarming adventure
Exploring for collectables is fun
Some great equipment to collect
No enemies or hazards to worry about
The gameplay doesn't evolve enough
Noticeable frame drops on Switch
Lil Gator Game is a charming exploration focused 3d platformer, but is held back by Switch performance.