Cookie Cutter Review – IGN

You have to hand it to Cherry – she is tough. From the moment you meet, and she’s dragging what’s left of her beaten, broken android body across the ground in vengeful pursuit of the guy who ran off with her girl, everything about who Cherry is – strong, sassy, principled, and gloriously self-aware – becomes instantly clear. Not only does it nicely set the stage for one of 2023’s more unforgettable video game heroes, it leaves you with no doubt what metroidvania Cookie Cutter is all about.

It’s about violence. The gorier and the bloodier the better.

Unlike other recent games pressed from the same mold, though, Cookie Cutter isn’t about innovating the metroidvania template or incorporating ideas inspired by other genres, such as Hollow Knight‘s soulslike influences. As old-school a metroidvania as it comes, Cookie Cutter blends a memorable cast with a sprawling, interconnected world and striking hand-drawn graphics. And although it does occasionally frustrate as much as it entertains, it’s nonetheless one of the more approachable entries to the genre. If you like blood, of course. Lots and lots of blood.

I’ve spent a lot of time with metroidvanias over the last few years, and as most have been grim, gothic, oh-so-serious affairs, Cookie Cutter’s unabashed, over-the-top presentation and celebration of color are refreshing. I also cared about Cherry and her quest, and was intrigued by the way she’s able to augment herself to adapt to the challenges of The Megastructure you’ll explore with her. Accompanied by her friend Regina – a disembodied robotic head that closely resembles the part of the female anatomy that rhymes with her name (yes, really) – Cherry lets her fists do the talking as she punches, smacks, and flattens anything stupid enough to get in her way.

Cookie Cutter’s world is rich in detail, and each biome of the map is home to a unique selection of critters – say, the Denzel Factory’s droids, or the Bloody Den’s maddeningly electrified eel things. You’ll attack them with a combination of light and hard attacks – the former builds up VOID power; the latter uses it up – and there are countless combos to perfect as you kick and punch your way through the world. One-on-one, most enemies aren’t too difficult to defeat, but even if you’re better than me at parrying (which wouldn’t be difficult), very easy enemies can be overwhelming if there are enough of them.

The over-the-top presentation and celebration of color are refreshing.

How you play will change over time, though, particularly as you unlock new abilities and find components that help you tweak Cherry’s skillset to better suit your playstyle, such as focussing on offensive skills or making it quicker to self-heal. But it doesn’t matter how bombastic the animations are when Cherry wipes out a boss with a motorbike or beats something to death with an electric guitar – sometimes, you’ll just never feel quite powerful enough to take on the sheer number of enemies around you (especially the ones that can shoot through walls).

Because it takes a while for you to unlock Cherry’s full potential, the first half of Cookie Cutter’s 20-ish hour run-time has a couple of surprisingly challenging boss fights, as well as some particularly difficult horde-like auto-lock rooms where you have to take on waves of increasingly tougher enemies to continue. Part of the appeal of a metroidvania is that whenever you accidentally stumble into a boss lair and get your face kicked in, you can make a swift exit, find some upgrades or secrets along other paths, and then come back buffed up and ready for a fight. But although Cookie Cutter ostensibly offers a nonlinear approach, on a couple of occasions, I discovered that the next thing I needed to level up was just past the enemies in that room, which meant I had to tackle them in order to progress the story, which can be frustratingly limiting.

And yes, there are secrets for those prepared to seek them out. In true metroidvania style, there are plenty of hidden materials, weapons, and abilities for Cherry to find if you’re the curious sort who always has to punch a wall before you leave just in case it’s breakable. Sometimes your curiosity will be rewarded. Sometimes it will not. The glee of discovering a secret, off-the-map room never gets old, though.

The best part about Cookie Cutter is how it constantly reinvents itself. Just as you start to feel a little tired of bashing things with your fists, you’ll unlock a guitar that you can smash on enemy heads. And as soon as you think you’ve exhausted every cave and corridor, you’ll unlock a new ability that will let you ground stomp, or quick dash, or grapple, which opens up previously inaccessible areas. You’ll learn how to whack not only interactive objects around the map – say, giant spheres which act as locks – but also enemies to send them flying into environmental hazards, too, so the electrified floors and steam vents that made getting around for Cherry so difficult can now be used to her advantage.

Sometimes Cherry can get lost in a cloud of fists and blood.

That said, it can get a little tricky to see what’s going on, especially as the camera occasionally zooms out when I’d prefer it was closer and vice versa, with no way to change it manually. This is particularly frustrating when you’re locked in a room with dozens of enemies and can’t quite see where you are, let alone where you’re going, causing me to sometimes lose sight of Cherry completely in a cloud of fists and blood and dismembered body parts.

Thankfully, she moves around quite well. Despite the frenzied action, Cherry is responsive, moving with purpose and fluidity as she fights, and you’ll unlock enough save points that death rarely feels overly punishing (apart from a couple of cruelly distant checkpoints before boss rooms). Fast traveling is tougher but not agonisingly so, as each area of the map only has one or two Denzel Stations with teleporters that let you nope out of an area completely. Energy Cells, the collectible slots Cherry uses to equip passive buffs, are at least in plentiful supply, letting you extend your health bar, improve your “ass-kicking,” or add an additional uppercut during a multi-hit combo.

The main issue, really, is Cherry’s self-healing ability. Her offensive skills use VOID power, which you build up by landing light attacks, but you can also use this power to self-heal simply by hitting down on the D-pad. Let there be no doubt – I am very, very grateful it exists, and suspect my experience would’ve been a more frustrating one without it. However, it takes so long for Cherry to pull it off – once again, especially in high-octane rooms where you’re locked in and the enemies just keep on spawning. You’re eventually able to upgrade it to be a bit faster, but it makes the early hours just that much more challenging.

And if you do find Cookie Cutter too tough, there’s nothing you can do about that, either. Although it’s undoubtedly one of the easier Metroidvanias I’ve enjoyed, it has almost no customizable options beyond key rebinding, and no ability to tweak the difficulty – be that to make it harder or easier – to better suit your skill level.

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