At first glance you might not think much of Cookie Cutter. It’s a game that sounds rather wholesome, but Subcult Joint LTD immediately makes it clear this is everything but. Between the extreme violence across this edgy world, it’s an experience that does a great job of hooking players. However, given so much of the idea is linked to the concept itself, is Cookie Cutter a good experience, or is it just an edgy Metroid?
Cookie Cutter starts by explaining where the game’s name comes from. Instead of having its roots in baking, or something similar, it details a future where robotic slaves, known simply as Denzels, are mass produced. Dr. Shinji came to realize this and decided to make a unique Denzel known as Cherry, who she came to love. Unfortunately, she would pay for this choice, so you need to defeat countless enemies to find and topple Salem’s evil empire.
Part of what helps Cookie Cutter work is the amount of visual story telling. Outside of optional lore, and the occasional interaction, narrative isn’t in the forefront. Usually it’s told more through the colorful cast of characters, including a skeleton that looks like Brook from One Piece that talks like Johnny Bravo, and a mechanical vagina. It’s a really weird world that keeps things interesting, assuming you can survive.
Gameplay is in a really weird place. The concept itself works fairly well. Cherry is given a normal attack combo, and fantastic juggling potential. To help keep things interesting there are special attacks, heavy weapons, plus gruesome finishing moves. There is also a rewarding parry system where one to five successful parries allows you to instantly kill an enemy.
Where things start to go south is variety. Instead of quickly expanding your available options, a good number of weapons/powers are hidden behind optional tasks. I think it took me about two hours to find my first power, something my buddy failed to do, with the second being locked behind an optional quest I finished quite a bit after that.
This isn’t to say things remain static for the first couple of hours. Odds are you’ll find double jump, plus the aerial dodge, just that things quickly grow stale. A proper aerial combo is invincible, your starting heavy is a gauntlet that feels like a higher damage normal attack, with each enemy having a single predetermined finishing animation. All of this also makes Cookie Cutter feel easy, something the developers are well aware of.
In an effort to combat easy gameplay, a wide variety of annoying enemies and mechanics were created in hopes of preserving the fast paced nature. This is something that Cookie Cutter is successful in, but it can make playing rather frustrating.
The first of these enemies is a bug that can fly through walls and shoot a laser. Later on there are other enemies, including larger bugs, that can shoot through walls, and/or shoot far more often. Eventually, even normal enemies will gain a ranged attack to punish at any opportunity as well.
If I’m being perfectly honest, it isn’t even the ranged combat that makes them annoying. Some of these enemies, like the triple firing hoodie guys, will constantly attack even if you can no longer see them. It makes platforming harder, and in a lot of cases forces you to kill them just to explore/progress.
The other major negative is the amount of damage certain enemies do. The first melee enemies do 10 damage a hit, with their attacks being a two hit combo. Bugs do 15 damage per successful ranged attack. So, you’ll survive four to nine attacks (starting health is 100) without needing to heal.
Other enemies, such as those in the starting area, can deal 40 or more. It creates a very real situation where one distraction can result in death. I also had a few gauntlet fights where bad positioning resulted in catastrophic health loss. Usually these things build off of each other as well. The ranged hoodie enemies do 20, a lot of times will cause you to land in a trap, and now you lost half your health.
Things improve as additional options unlock. The first skill I found was a devastating ranged attack that effortlessly killed a lot of weak enemies. There are also mods to increase your options, health, and other mechanics. Their only downside is usage is tied to exploration. Without finding upgrades, and in some cases the item itself, you’ll be limited on what you can do.
Combat negatives aside, Cookie Cutter is a legitimately enjoyable Metroidvania experience. There are hidden rooms, optional places that tease you early, along with a wide variety of obstacles. Some are more exciting than others, like I loved the Chozo Statue, but could do without pulling a dookie out of a toilet, even if both have trophy/achievements associated with them. I also appreciate certain secrets are less hidden, and simply come down to proper timing/positioning of jumps.
One final thing I want to touch on are graphics. While Cookie Cutter does not look unique next to similar experiences, the attention to detail is appreciated. A lot of time and effort went into each finishing attack, or the overall animations that highlights the love that went into this experience. Even if you’ll eventually grow tired of the finishing animation, they’re not bound by logic, or available weapons, just crazy ideas that are almost always different than you might think.
Cookie Cutter Review Verdict
Cookie Cutter: Even though Cookie Cutter is far from the perfect experience, it's an enjoyable game. Finishing moves are nice, combat is fun, and there is a sizable amount of content to explore. It would be nice if combat expanded faster, or it had a more palatable approach to difficulty than cheap and high damage, you're at least given the resources where these are not unreasonably difficult. I died more to bad luck (two or more attacks hitting at once) than anything else. So if you like the tone this is an adventure worth exploring, whereas those who don't will probably hate everything about it. – Grant
Editor’s Note: Cookie Cutter was reviewed on PlayStation 5, and a copy was provided to us for review purposes.