Mascot based platformer Space Otter Charlie is a wonderful throwback to 16-bit platforming with a zero-gravity twist. Playing as the gun-toting Otter, you’ll be bouncing from wall to wall to find your species a new home. It is a charming mix of platforming and light puzzle work that is largely a joy to play.
Charlie operates much like aiming weapons in Worms. You point him in the direction you want to fire him and then shoot him in that direction. He will continue to glide in that direction until he hits a wall. His sticky feet will keep him still and until you fire him somewhere else. To combat missed moves and later in the game have much more autonomy over your space travel, an upgradeable jetpack is also available. Its fuel is rechargeable so long as you leave it alone for a few seconds and so you can course-correct a fling or blast around corners. The jetpack starts off as a nice add on but after the first hour of gameplay, it is an essential tool in your kit. You see, Charlie is exploring abandoned ships and caves for signs of life but these areas have turned into death traps.
Not only are mechanical and ghostly enemies everywhere but lots of things are on fire or electrified too. Touching those will lose you an orb of health although you can collect orbs to restore it throughout levels. Each ship will offer up new challenges and just as importantly, new loot. Collecting scrap enables you to unlock new guns which are often exploited in that level, or new suits. Suits carry a special ability that is usually much more powerful than your standard gun so whilst initially, they may look cosmetic only, there is value in unlocking them. What is also nice about Space Otter Charlie is the more you explore, the more you unlock. For every level you must complete, an optional sub level can be unlocked. This is where you’ll find all the extra loot for suits or health and jetpack upgrades. Do you need them? No. Should you get them? Yes.
This flexibility runs throughout the game and is a real strength. Puzzles often involve breaking lines of sight for lasers and you can ride blocks by pushing them with your jetpack or shoot them around the level. Once you get the missile launcher, you can go back to previous levels and blast open some debris you might not have been able to pass before. You can choose to fight some enemies or avoid them entirely. It helps to tailor the difficulty level to your playing needs. That difficulty level is relatively low so long as you understand that timing is key to the platforming. Many platforms move or switches are timed and so being quick when required is key. Occasionally, the boss battles may throw you a difficulty spike curveball. One boss escape section requires you to blast and jetpack through a firewalled cave chased by a fireball. The difficulty jump for this specific section is huge compared to anything that comes before it and also after it for a while. It is a minor niggle though in an otherwise excellently balanced game.
Graphically Space Otter Charlie is lovely. Whilst the ships themselves aren’t very varied, the characters and enemies are. Bosses are a highlight and everything has a cute comic book vibe. Levels have comic book styled cut scenes between them sometimes too. Whilst the music didn’t make a huge impact on me, it didn’t annoy me either – likely because I was firing my guns everywhere instead.
The last excellent addition Space Otter Charlie has is a multiplayer mode. Up to 4 players can battle in arena modes to fight for food. It makes good use of the weapons and jetpack physics of the game and rivals some standalone arena brawlers with its execution. I haven’t personally been able to play much of this mode but in the 2 player battles I tested, it worked a treat.
Overall, you may be forgiven for overlooking this hidden gem of platforming but you’d be missing out. A joy to play from start to end and with a lot of character and charm, there’s a lot to love here. I can see a new series being born if the developers want it to be. Space Otter Charlie, we salute you.
Review copy provided by publisher.
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