Have you ever wondered what would happen if Katamari, Pikmin and The Wonderful 101 created the equivalent of a gaming baby? With its cheerful organized chaos, Anarcute is ready to make its parents proud.
My initial reaction was a delighted squeal, as adorable animals with large eyes waved from the screen. This charming cartoonish art style was present within the entire game world, keeping the tone uplifted through simple colourful designs. Wrapping this all up into the perfect ball of happy cuteness is the bouncing soundtrack. From the first 6 beats of the theme song I just knew it was going to get stuck in my head (and I could still give a rendition right now). Needless to say, Anarcute put me in a good mood before I’d even hit play.
Sticking with the light-hearted tone is the story. Shown through non-verbal cutscenes, we see that the evil Brainwash Patrol has taken over the world, leaving our fluffy friends determined to put a stop to them. More often than not I just got to see the bad guys shaking their fists for each location saved, then twiddling their metaphorical moustaches in triumph as they created a new, more dastardly plan. In many ways, the cutscenes were unnecessary due to the focused gameplay, yet I couldn’t help but be drawn in by their charm.
There are four different cities to save, each providing multiple separate stages to wreak havoc in. Doing so involves controlling your rioters as a single group from a top-down perspective, with the aim of taking down all the mind control towers in the area. A map in the top left pinpoints the position of towers and friends, quickly becoming crucial to plotting the most advantageous route.
Despite the cute design, Anarcute actually has a decent difficulty curve. Going in all gung-ho may serve you well for the first few areas, but it won’t be long until it gets you killed. Constantly checking your surroundings then considering the best use of your current numbers and skills should therefore be your priority.
Different abilities become available based on the number of rioters in your party. It’s possible to collect more from small groups scattered around the current location, although enemies can severely reduce your teammates (and thus the skills at your disposal). A small group only has the option of the standard attack and throwing objects, but larger numbers can dash, stomp and tear down buildings.
It has to be said that the majority of the abilities stay the same throughout, so they can end up being a tad repetitive. Not helping matters is the way in which levels are all very similar to each other in design. Having said this, the layout of the city does change each time, and there are basic aesthetic differences for the four cities. Unfortunately though, it was never quite enough to stop Anarcute from looking overly familiar.
Luckily, I found the gameplay to be enough to hold my attention. Much of this came down to frequent use of new enemy types that required their own strategies to take down (to lose the least amount of rioters as possible). For example, simple grunts will quickly be dispatched from the basic attacks, it’s best to get rid of helicopters by throwing big cars at them before they see you, and snipers perched on top of roofs can be knocked off by tearing the building down. There’s even a handful of boss fights thrown in for good measure.
Given the sweet outlook, it’s embarrassing to admit to omitting occasional grunts of annoyance. I should point out that the majority came from not thinking a strategy through quite well enough, or being rightly punished for thinking I could just charge into a huge mob. Most problems came down to either feeling too overwhelmed by constant hoards of bad guys, or lacking speed in boss battles. Large mechs taunted me as they scuttled around with ease. Meanwhile, I desperately trailed behind aiming for their weak spots, until inevitably getting crushed by a quick fire laser, or bomb.
Those looking to complete Anarcute are going to have quite the challenge what with having to get the best time, maximum amount of rioters, and destroying all enemies for the glorious S rank. It was no real problem to get A with a little thought, but S escaped my grasp every single time. I have to say I gave up trying eventually, although I was determined to find all of the hidden species on each stage. The excitement of unlocking a new animal to join my group never faded, from cats and bunnies, to jellyfish and snails, I enjoyed each discovery with a childish glee.
It’s fair to say that Anarcute’s sweet design fooled me into thinking its gameplay would be a breeze. I may have whined a little earlier, but was truly delighted by the difficulty curve, happy that the game was more than its fluffy exterior suggested.
This review is based off a PC copy of the game, which we were provided with.
Anarcute will put you in a good mood through its happy art design and music. The strategy gameplay is simple, but still fun, while providing a decent difficulty curve along the way.