Let’s start off this review by pointing out the obvious: we all love cute little animals. There’s really no debating that fact. You can’t go 10 seconds on social media without a video of a cute animal doing something… cute. So since that’s the case, I don’t know definitively if that was the sole motivation for developer Anarteam to create Anarcute, but it had to have at least had some role in it. Right?
The premise of Anarcute is a pretty simple one to understand – take cute little critters and cause anarchy and destruction across cities all around the world; to start a revolution. The Brainwash Patrol has, as you can imagine, brainwashed the masses, and as such does not appreciate adorableness and fun in their world. It’s up to you and your little rioters to recruit, mess dudes up, and bring fun back to the planet.
Since it’s in the title, you would be correct in assuming this game is cute. I mean, just look at the picture above. It’s very cute, especially the little animals you collect in your makeshift army. The maze-like cities are a geometry fan’s dream because everything seems to have a box-like look to it. I honestly have no idea if this is a geometry fan’s dream or not, truthfully, because I don’t particularly enjoy that area of math (or any kind, actually). I’m kind of projecting that, and I’m sorry. Please don’t throw bricks at me, guys, I bruise like a peach. The art style felt to me like a sort of Katamari Damacy game without the rolling of a ball. It almost plays like that in a tiny way, too. Katamari games are favorites of mine, so this game is like a graphical feast to my eyes.
Musically Anarcute should have won me over, but sadly, it didn’t. After hearing the main tune so often I got really annoyed by it. The level music from there didn’t do anything to wow me, either. It was either too bland for my tastes or, again, annoying, in an upbeat sort of way. Which in and of itself is annoying for me, because I can’t figure out why I didn’t immediately take to it all. Normally on something like this I would be drooling all over it, but I’m not here. Even though I enjoyed the sound effects and the cute (you’ll likely get that adjective a lot here on out) speaking noises everyone makes, the music had me reaching for the mute button on my TV remote after a short period of time.
Starting out the game in Tokyo, you’ll move on to Paris, Miami, and Reykjavik, looking to put a stop to the B.P., who has taken over. As you progress, the levels get larger and tougher, altering objectives to complete each as you gain momentum. You still need to collect rioters, but the ultimate goal can change. One level may have you capturing flags around the city, while another may have you destroying certain landmarks or B.P. buildings, just to name a few. Your health is determined by how many animals you have in your group, and if you lose them all, you have to start over (duh). Some of the later levels can be pretty tough with what they throw at you, so get accustomed to keeping these critters alive as much as possible. The enemies range from simple grunts to heavy armored officers. We also fight off machines, flying or grounded. All of which can shoot lasers at you, so bone up on your dodging skills.
Controlling your group starts off kind of simple. There’s not much variety in maneuvers you can pull off at first. You can pick up objects to throw at enemies and use your gang mentality to beat up on the B.P. The more you assimilate into your group, the more moves you acquire. A stomp becomes available, then you can topple buildings with a certain size. You can amass well over 50 cuties in your group, so you can keep unlocking ways to take down your enemies. Keep in mind, if you lose “health” you’ll also lose that ability. There’s also a vending machine you can use after a level to choose boosts at specific crowd sizes for added mayhem.
Controlling the group may start off simple as I said, but it can become a chore the larger you get, and the more diverse and dangerous levels get. The combat feels shallow and repetitive to me, but not in a good way like other great brawlers offer. There’s one button to attack and while there are other ways to take enemies down, none offered anything more satisfying. You’ll be mashing a single button most of the time, praying you can kill them before they can kill you. Which brings up another point I want to mention. It felt too easy to lose followers, whether to enemies, the environment or even actually losing them. The bigger your crowd gets, the stronger you are, yes, and you do take out the weaker B.P. foes quickly, but the bigger/stronger ones seem to dwindle your ranks too immediately sometimes. It’s also tougher to control a larger crowd just in movement. I suppose that was a point made by the devs, but some levels have tight areas that you need to move around, and you can get your team separated for too long or too easily and that could be bad news depending on your situation. Yes, they will eventually catch up around that corner, but sometimes it’s not fast enough, and sometimes I couldn’t figure out why they were getting “lost” to begin with. The crowd also seems to want to “lean” in a direction while moving, originally making me think it might be a faulty stick, but it’s just how larger crowds move, which was odd to me. The later levels made it all feel tedious. And I’ll be short and sweet with the camera controls. Sometimes they worked well, sometimes they were frustratingly annoying.
The way the story plays out is kind of a mixed bag, too. Yes, it’s cute to see and hear the gibberish language in a news report cutscene or to see the head of the B.P.’s motivations play out in another, but with no actual dialogue or subtitles, I found it a little bit of a stretch to assume the motivations for why anything was going on. Nothing was very clear to me. Maybe that was on purpose, but the only thing I could reasonably gather was that standard global domination was the end goal. I’m not saying we needed Shawshank Redemption or Schindler’s List level of storytelling here, but something more coherent would have been welcome.
I will, however, give the game props for a story twist towards the end as well as the final boss character. I did enjoy that. It was kind of funny and interesting and satisfied me at least from then on. On the flip side, why are the animals just sleeping all around a level? I could never figure that out.
My biggest issue with Anarcute is the performance of the game in motion. The framerate bounces all around, even sometimes outright grinding to a halt. I wish this were an issue that only happened a few times, but it happens multiple times in each level. It’s nothing game breaking, nor does it completely ruin the playthrough, but it’s absolutely noticeable and annoying every single time it dips or stops altogether. I don’t know the actual framerate, but I can say without question it’s not steady, nor is it consistent enough to let complaining slide in the review.
There are 25 Achievements to unlock, though not all of them will be a simple thing to do. We’ve got your standard complete the area ones, the “do this specific thing” ones, story ones, and also ones for unlocking the little cuties, of which there are dozens. Completing every level with an S Rank will likely be a challenge for most, so go into the game with the knowledge of a struggle on your hands.
Overall, I enjoyed some of my time with Anarcute. I started off hot for the game, but the longer I played, the more I started seeing the flaws and getting frustrated or bored with the action. In short bursts, the game can certainly be fun, for sure, and it shouldn’t take you dozens of hours to complete, but for long stretches, I just couldn’ maintain the initial joy I had. I loved seeing the new faces I loosed from cages throughout the journey, though. Their oversized eyes and random accessories (like hats or bows, etc.) they donned in the menu was a pleasure to see. I may return from time to time to the land of cute anarchy, I just don’t expect to overstay my welcome.