Genre: Action, Adventure, Arcade, Platformer
Platform: Nintendo Switch (reviewed), PS4, Xbox One, PC
Age Rating: PEGI 7
Release Date: 28/02/2020
Price: £11.69 – Rapid Reviews was very kindly provided with a review code for this title.
Looks can be deceiving and so too can sales pitches. Both are true of AvoCuddle, developed by lone ranger, Ramez Al Tabbaa, and published with the support of Ultimate Games. The opening line of the eShop listing states that “AvoCuddle tells a tale of true love! An emotional action adventure through the galaxy searching and seeking to free your soul mate.” Whilst this may be true, there is absolutely no indication that this game will involve machine guns, jetpacks or bazookas.
No sooner had the protagonist’s girlfriend, AvoLn, become incredibly upset at the offer of chocolate from the loveable rogue, AvoRa, had she then been kidnapped via spaceship. What ensues is a rampage across 5 different planets, equipped with both an arsenal of weapons and a vengeance. If not for some glaring gameplay issues and an overriding lack of polish, there would be something about this whacky and disjointed story that would have been worthy of merit.
From the opening moments, the backdrops to all the 2D platforming action look stunning. They are vibrant, detailed and varied, and have all the makings of a top tier indie title. Unfortunately, all the visuals do is remind the player of all the promise of AvoCuddle that the developer has failed to capitalise on. Coupled with the issues that the parallax effect – where background images scroll across the screen slower than those in the foreground – has on the platforming itself further serves to highlight how the game needed more time to ripen. There are often times where visibility is restricted as you can’t see your character because the foreground assets are in the way.
On the note of visibility, there are some issues with the platforming segments of AvoCuddle – the staple of this 2D title. Sometimes the path to be taken is off screen and it requires a leap of faith, or an over-reliance on the map, to make the jump to the next part of the level. This is an issue with the angle of the camera, and whilst it could make for a quick fix, it’s a rather frustrating experience as it currently stands.
The early frustrations with AvoCuddle don’t end there and it is easy to foresee that the problems with this platforming title could make players put the controller down. Controlling AvoRa feels clunky. When walking through the gorgeous sections of the map, AvoRa exudes confidence and is rather charming. Try and scale a wall to reach a higher platform or swing across vines to move from one platform to the next, however, and there is little to enjoy. The controls are fiddly as you have to direct the analogue stick in the direction of the wall, then jump up it in phases using A. Once at the top, you need to jump to the nearest platform and often the press of A isn’t registered. I lost count of how many times I had to scale a wall, again and again, to get to where I needed to go – something so simple should not be so difficult.
Thankfully, it isn’t too long before help comes in the form of a jetpack and, later on, a parachute. These rescue the protagonist quite literally, but also rescue AvoCuddle metaphorically too. Equipped with these two items, the game becomes a much more enjoyable experience whereby it can be a delight to play, at times. The movement of AvoRa becomes a lot more fluid, the controls easy to use and exploration of the landscapes is excellent.
There are also enjoyable ‘mini-games’ that are placed in between each planet that you visit. The variety is good and can be a nice reprieve from all the fighting. They can also be incredibly frustrating and continue to demonstrate just how strange the AvoCuddle journey is. One such example is evident in the screenshot below, whereby you navigate your spaceship through oncoming fish and fireballs as you make your way to the next planet. Go figure!
Whilst the early issues with controlling the character are over soon enough, there are other simple mistakes that have been made which call into question how well AvoCuddle has been tested before going to market. When defeating an enemy, ‘limon currency’ is dropped and you are to collect it in order to spend money on upgrades at various locations throughout the map. This currency falls in the most awkward of places and it is commonplace that you won’t be able to reach it without getting hurt or dying. These are the sorts of bugs that should be ironed out long before it makes it to the eShop.
The gameplay improves as you progress through the game, however, there are still question marks over the storyline itself. Is it a complex metaphor? Do AvoRa and AvoLn represent something greater than two avocadoes’ in love? What relevance does the spaceship have? Why are the weapons at odds with the otherwise beautifully animated scenes? Or, is it all to be taken at face value?
Whatever the answer, it is here that would-be purchasers of AvoCuddle will either jump at the chance to be a part of the gun-toting protagonists love story or know that it is too farfetched for them to enjoy. It is important to note that there are segments of the story which are poorly written with misspelt dialogue and instructions, as well as double spacing between some words and not others. It all contributes towards the overall lack of polish that, unfortunately, AvoCudddle exudes.
The independent work of a sole developer allows free reign on a project that’s dear to their heart. It is evident that Ramez Al-Tabbaa has developed a game that is inspired by creative vision. The decision to include avocados as the main characters will no doubt prove to be ingenious, however, many gamers won’t know what they are purchasing until it is too late.
The game is reminiscent of the likes of Hollow Knight, with players given little instruction and a place to roam, however, the gulf in class between the two is evident almost immediately. It has potential but it fails to capitalise on its gorgeous visuals and outstanding soundtrack, and further compounds its place as a budget indie title with its poor character control and absurd conglomerate of components. The competition is fierce and will likely see this game lost in relative obscurity, however with a bit of shine and a spot of refinement, this could have been one to be celebrated.
Rapid Reviews Rating
You can buy AvoCuddle at the following link.