Publisher: United Games Entertainment GmbH
Platform: PlayStation 4
Age Rating: PEGI 7
Release Date: 19/05/2022
A code was provided for review purposes
Picking Up Cotton
Cotton Fantasy is a shoot-em-up title celebrating the thirty-year anniversary of the Cotton franchise. With multiple playable characters and sixteen stages, I was excited to see whether I ended up enjoying my first experience in the franchise. Find out if I did in this Rapid Review.
Unfortunately, my excitement dwindled a little once I began the title for the first time. I was introduced to Cotton, a lively, animated, and energetic fairy who seriously enjoys sweet treats. On the journey, she loudly and obnoxiously screams about how badly she wants to eat candy and talks about other surface-level things with some of the other characters. While the story was not a fundamental part of Cotton Fantasy, I found myself wanting to skip these cutscenes even on my first playthrough. I did not enjoy it. Plus, it was hard to see how the story helped tie the game together. Thankfully, I was able to skip the cutscenes, but the game could have benefitted from an interesting story. I would not recommend Cotton Fantasy for the story content.
As I kept playing, I started to enjoy myself more. The levels, while relatively short, kept me hooked throughout, as new enemies were constantly pouring in from all directions. The scenery itself was lovely too. I navigated a host of different locales such as temples, airships, and even outer space. I had a lot of fun and enjoyed fighting through the different levels. Unfortunately, this fun did not last long. I cleared the main story in less than an hour on the normal difficulty. At the price point, I was disappointed by how brief the main campaign is.
Time and Time Again
Instead, the game encourages revisiting these locations multiple times. Another major element of Cotton Fantasy is the seven selectable characters. They all play differently from each other, so they add some longevity. One of these characters could use enemies as shields, another had a clock instead of a traditional lives counter, and one even used a sceptre to shoot projectiles. I had fun learning what these characters could offer. Unfortunately, they did not make the same levels overly exciting. While it is enjoyable to learn the intricacies of these different characters, their inclusion did not reinvent the shoot-em-up genre. Still, the characters are distinct, and I enjoyed playing as them.
Moreover, the developers tried to motivate revisiting the levels by keeping score throughout the story mode. I like being able to see how well I do in a stage and appreciated this feature. Additionally, after clearing the story mode for the first time, I was able to clear the levels more quickly. The brief story is a good size to replay. Unfortunately, actually optimizing the levels themselves is not as fun. Since there are only fourteen distinct levels, playing through the main campaign gets boring quickly. Though there is a ranking system in Cotton Fantasy, it is difficult to understand. There would be some levels where I did not take any damage at all, but then still got a low ranking on the stage. I would have liked to see a more cohesive structure to help me tailor my play.
Competing with Friends
Of course, even outside of ratings on individual levels, I could compete for a high score throughout the entire playthrough. This was engaging, as it required that I not only play well but select the character that was best suited to the nine levels I chose. It was interesting seeing the strategies of other players online and competing with them to see if I could rival their scores. Competing with these people also required genuine skill, as using a continue resets all points back to zero. I think this is an excellent inclusion, but it still did not make me excited to play through the same levels multiple times. However, if chasing for a high score does sound like a good time, Cotton Fantasy’s leaderboards are packed with scores to best.
While the competitive side of the game is tricky, the casual side of the game is incredibly easy. I could use as many continues as I wanted in a level (of course at the expense of my score), so I could continue pushing through if I did not care about how I ranked. I liked this, as it made Cotton Fantasy easily accessible. However, having unlimited continues made completing the game normally far too easy. I would have liked to see an additional mode with a more rigid cap on how many continues I could use to further reward dedication to mastering the mechanics. Instead, the developers include two more challenging modes that still allow the use of unlimited continues. Though this makes these challenges more accessible, the lack of structure discouraged me from pushing myself to my limit. Even still, making the game accessible is great.
To round out the experience, Cotton Fantasy features a solid art design. Enemies stand out from the background, bullets differentiate themselves from the other assets, and my main character is always visible wherever they are. I do not think the visuals are overwhelmingly excellent, and they do not warrant a purchase, but I think they look good overall.
The sound design is similarly good. Apart from the aggressive screaming that Cotton did during the storyline, I liked the sound effects. The music was good too, keeping me entranced in the waves of bullets forming around me. This music brought Cotton Fantasy together nicely.
Overall, however, I cannot recommend the game. Though the levels are fun, and I enjoyed experimenting with the various characters, there are plenty of shoot-em-ups, and Cotton Fantasy does not offer me enough to justify the price. Unless you are deeply passionate about the Cotton series, I would either wait for a deep sale or look to another shoot-em-up.
Rapid Reviews Rating
3 out of 5
You can purchase Cotton Fantasy on the PlayStation store here
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