Cutouts! Need Some Glitter

Review of Cutouts! on XBLIG: Pass
A simple platformer, Cutouts graphical polish is lost on overly simplistic gameplay.

The first thing I noticed about Cutouts was the graphics style.  The world and inhabitants all appear to be made of felt.  There is a layering effect applied to the elements that has a South Part animation feel (only with felt instead of cardboard).  It is visually striking and gives the game a unique look.

Gameplay is straight ahead platformer, down to the point where Mario must have been a consultant on level design.  There are creatures that resemble goombas which can be killed by jumping on them.  Bees float up and down, and rabbits that bounce toward you, reminiscent of the flying turtles in Super Mario Bros.  The rabbit leaves behind a tail that can be picked up and thrown at enemies, just like a turtle shell.  Buttons stand in for coins, and collecting 100 buttons earns an extra life.  You can crouch, but just like Mario this never seems to be useful.

The controls are very literal.  Tapping the A button jumps, while holding A button yields a higher jump.  The left stick moves the player and controls distance in air.  The X button is held to move faster, and can be activated while in air.  There is no inertia to character movement – letting go of the thumbstick mid jump causes the player to fall straight down.

Edge and collision detection are also very literal.  Taking one step over the edge or getting a pixel too close to the wrong part of a creature results in death.  Truth be told, the collision detection and controls did not cause me that many deaths, but I did experience a few moments of feeling cheated by the game.

The larger problem with Cutouts is boredom.  The levels blend together after a while and I found myself zoning out and going through the motions.  While the number of elements borrowed from Super Mario Bros. are enough I expected the levels to be named “World 1-1” the game could have used a few more.  Vines to climb, star power, a level timer, or fire power flowers would go a long way to spice things up.

I ran into some frustrations while playing as well.  A few sections required me to die to know what was coming and how to proceed.  In one spot I killed a bee before realizing it was needed, and was forced to suicide before I could play on.  When I died, my button count reset to zero like it was linked with a bad mortgage loan.  More of an annoyance than frustration, the enemies can walk on water – the same water that kills me if I get too close.

Progress is only saved after three levels when a world is completed.  This is an unfortunate design choice as I played many levels over and over again, adding to the boredom and making the repetitive soundtrack painfully obvious.   The worlds do change in colors and creatures, but it is only slight changes and isn’t enough to keep playing for.

Cutouts is a Pass.  The graphics style is polished and interesting enough to warrant grabbing the trial to take a peek, but there isn’t enough here to justify a purchase.  The developer Robert J Louie has proven himself a quite capable developer and although I did not enjoy this game I am looking forward to his future titles.

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