Here in the United States we are currently in the heart of summer. I am personally not a huge fan of summer due to the heat, but most people love summer. What would it be like though if you had never experienced summer before? Would you be willing to go on a roadtrip to finally be able to experience summer? Well that is the premise behind the game I am looking at in this review. Originally starting as a Steam Greenlight game, Summer Catchers has had a pretty long road to completion but it was finally released today. In Summer Catchers you play as a young girl that wants to see summer so badly that she will go on an epic adventure just to be able to finally experience a day of summer. Summer Catchers is a really unique and fun experience with a charming atmosphere that unfortunately relies on a little too much luck.
We at Geeky Hobbies would like to thank FaceIT and Noodlecake Studios for the review copy of Summer Catchers used for this review. Other than receiving a free copy of the game to review, we at Geeky Hobbies received no other compensation for this review. Receiving the review copy for free had no impact on the content of this review or the final score.
In Summer Catchers you play as Chu. Chu has lived her whole life in the frozen north and has never seen summer or the ocean. After waking up under a pile of snow Chu decides to change things. After getting help from a local wolf who builds her a wooden car, she is off on her journey to see summer and the ocean. On her adventure Chu will encounter many mysterious creatures some who are helpful and others that are trying to stop her from finally seeing summer. Will Chu succeed in her attempt to finally see summer?
For most video games it is pretty easy to classify them into one of established video game genres. That is not the case for Summer Catchers. After playing Summer Catchers for several hours I still don’t know what I would classify it as. It has elements of arcade, rhythm, and puzzle games. It even has some other mechanics that don’t really fit into any genre. Instead of trying to fit the game into a specific genre, let me just explain what the gameplay consists off.
In the game you play as Chu as she drives towards summer. At first you would think that you actually get to drive the car. It turns out that you don’t as you have no direct control over the car as the car keeps moving forward at a steady pace no matter what you do. As you aren’t driving the car, the gameplay revolves around avoiding the obstacles that you encounter. You are given a bag of tools that you use to avoid the obstacles. At the beginning of the game you have access to three tools and will gain access to more as you progress through the game. These tools include a bumper that you can place on the front of your car that knocks obstacles out of the way, a jumper that launches the car up into the air to avoid obstacles, and a booster/speed boost.
As you are driving along the path you will encounter obstacles that require you use specific tools to get past them. If you fail to avoid the obstacle you will take a hit. You can usually take a couple hits before your car crashes, but there are some obstacles that will immediately crash your car. When you crash (which will happen a lot) you drag your car back to the nearest village. There you can meet the villagers who will help you in your quest to get to the next village in exchange for completing a couple favors. You will do one favor at a time which usually involves collecting a certain number of items or using a special tool to activate something in the world as you drive by it. Before you head out though you need to visit the shop to purchase more tools for your journey as each can only be used once. While you travel you will collect mushrooms which act as currency in the game. You use the mushrooms to purchase tools as well as purchasing new vehicles or clothes (these appear to just be cosmetic).
After you finish purchasing your tools, you head out on the road to complete the favor. If you crash you return to town and will have to head out again to complete the favor (progress is kept between runs). After you complete a favor you move onto the next favor. Once you have completed all of the favors you can then head out to the next village. To get to the next village you have to complete a sort of “boss” fight. These boss fights mostly involve a creature of some sort chasing after you. This forces you to handle all of the obstacles you previously encountered in the world along with new obstacles specific to the boss. The objective of the boss fights are to survive long enough that you can escape to the next area. Unlike the favors your progress is not saved when you crash so you must make it the whole way without crashing to get to the next area.
I honestly have no idea what to compare Summer Catchers to as I have never played a game quite like it. While the game is hard to explain that doesn’t mean that it is a bad game. I actually really liked Summer Catchers as it is a truly unique experience. It kind of feels like an arcade game mixed with a puzzle game as you have to figure out which tools you need to use and equip them before you run into obstacles. This might not sound that difficult but it quite a bit harder when you factor in that you are speeding towards the next obstacle and only have a few seconds to decide which tool you are going to use. The gameplay is not going to be for everyone, but I found it to be challenging and fun.
In addition to the gameplay, Summer Catchers does a great job with its story and atmosphere. The overall story is pretty basic as you are just going on a roadtrip to try and find summer. The reason why the story and atmosphere succeed is because they are so charming. First the game does a fantastic job with the pixel art. If you hate pixel art it might not be for you. Anyone who appreciates pixel art though should love the game’s graphical style. In addition to the graphics, the game is filled with so much charm. From the main character to the characters you meet on your journey, it is hard not to enjoy the journey. The game does a great job creating a world filled with wonderment that you want to explore. The game is even genuinely funny at times.
There is a lot of things that I loved about Summer Catchers as I enjoyed my time with the game. Unfortunately I did not like one gameplay decision which adversely impacts the game. The problem comes from you not having a lot of control over what tools you will have access to at any given time. Basically the only control you have over what tools you will access to comes from choosing the distribution of tools in your bag. You can bring as many tools as you want so if you purchase more of some tools you increase the odds that it will come up. I actually kind of liked this as it adds a little strategy to the game as you try to figure out what to bring along.
The problems start to come up because you have no impact on what tools will come out of your bag at any given time. You will have access to three of your tools at a time (due to a helper you can sometimes have four). These are the only three tools that you will currently have access to. Which tools are chosen at any given time is completely random. You can get tools you need or multiple copies of a tool that you have no use for. I don’t hate this mechanic as it was meant to add some randomness to the game. It does add quite a bit of luck though as the order you draw the tools will impact your success.
The biggest issue is when you end up with multiple tools of the same type. When you get a tool that you don’t want you are supposed to use it quickly which gets rid of it opening up another slot for a new tool. Sometimes this is just a minor inconvenience as you jump, speed up, etc when you don’t want to. This could end up running you into a obstacle though which gets you closer to crashing. What is even worse though is that some items you can’t use until the previous instance of the tool has been completed. For example if you just used a speed boost you can’t use another until the previous speed boost ends. The worst is the bumper as you can’t use another until you hit something with your previously played bumper. This prevents you from clearing out your inventory slots to get the tools that you need.
This forces you to take unnecessary hits as you can’t clear out items quick enough in order to get the item you need to avoid the upcoming obstacle. This leads you to crashing due to no real fault of your own. While doing the favors this isn’t a huge issue as you don’t lose any progress. Resetting and starting over just wastes a little time. This becomes a pretty big problem during the boss fights as you lose all of your progress when you crash. You could be doing well and then a turn of bad luck could force you to lose and start again from the beginning. It is really frustrating when you lose because you had bad luck. You will eventually beat the bosses but you have to rely on a little luck being on your side to succeed.
I think this could have been fixed with one small change to the gameplay. The game should have included a button that either threw out items (without using their ability), or put them back into the bag to be used later. With either option you could get quick access to a new tool. I think this small addition would have significantly improved the game. This would have significantly reduced the number of times you would crash with no way of saving yourself. There would still be some randomness as items would be randomly chosen for your inventory. This would have eliminated a lot of the luck though so the game could rely more on skill.
As for the length I can’t give you a definitive length as I haven’t finished the game yet. Based on how far I have progressed through the included map, I would guess that I am at around the halfway point. So far I have played for around three and a half hours. If the rest of the game takes around the same amount of time as the first half, I would guess that the game will take around seven hours. As far as replay value the game has a co-op mode and there are quite a few Easter eggs/secrets to find which should add some length to the game. With the game retailing for $12 you get quite a bit for your money.
Summer Catchers is a really interesting game. It is unlike anything I have ever played as it is a strange combination of different mechanics leading to what I would call an arcade real-time puzzle racing game. While it is hard to truly explain what it is like to play, Summer Catchers is quite fun to play. The gameplay in Summer Catchers is really original and pretty satisfying. The game also has a really charming story and atmosphere as it creates it own world of wonder. Unfortunately the game relies on quite a bit of luck. Due to luck there will be times where you will crash and there will be no way to prevent it. This leads to Summer Catchers being a fun game that can be frustrating at times.
My recommendation for Summer Catchers comes down to what you think of the concept. If the concept doesn’t really interest you, I don’t see Summer Catchers being for you. People who like unique concepts though will probably enjoy Summer Catchers as long as they can get past the frustration that comes from the luck. If this describes you I think you should look into giving Summer Catchers a chance.