Space Otter Charlie may be the cutest game of the year so far, but does this puzzle platformer have anything more to offer than an adorable fuzzy face? Yeah, it really does.
According to Space Otter Charlie, who I have no reason to doubt, the human race abandons earth sometime in the 2500s. She had a good run, ol’ Mother Earth, and honestly, I’m surprised she lasted as long as she did. The problem is, we humans packed our bags and left the sea otters behind to deal with our mess. Sounds like something we would do, doesn’t it? Well, the sea otters hung out for a few years enjoying having the run of the place, but eventually, it became too hot for even them. So they did what any hairy mammal would do: They created a space program and blasted off to places unknown, desperately seeking a planet with plenty of water but with way fewer of those plastic bottle holders that always get wrapped around turtle heads.
And that’s where you come in. You play as Charlie, the most adorable otter in the galaxy. You and your partners Ada, and Jesse must survive long enough to find a suitable home for your kind. That is pretty much the complete story, but it’s told in a charming comic strip style and features probably the cutest video game character I’ve played in a long time. Seriously, I didn’t know otters were so damn adorable. I know a real otter would just as soon chew my face off, but still … so cute.
An otter in space isn’t much of a stretch if you think about it… swimming is as close to zero-g as most of us will ever get, and what swims better than a sea otter? Space Otter Charlie is a puzzle platformer with some Metroidvania tendencies. Instead of running and jumping, you bound from one obstacle to the next in zero gravity. With the help of your jetpack, which you can upgrade as you level up, you can effectively fly around. The jetpack only lasts a few seconds, but it recharges fast and as you upgrade it, you can change direction and turn, albeit slowly, in mid-air. This movement system takes a little getting used to, but it’s a fun and fluid system that makes some of the platforming and boss fights more challenging than they would have otherwise been. To this point, Space Otter Charlie isn’t a precision platformer, but it isn’t a watered-down kid experience either.
In addition to your jetpack, you’ll find plans for additional gear, like new spacesuits, new boots that deal damage while you’re sliding, and a slew of cool weapons. A couple of my favorites were the lasers that ricochet off of most metal surfaces and a pulse pistol that fired kind of slow but made up for it with heat-seeking rounds that made every shot count. I need one of these in Call of Duty.
It’s not just floating and shooting, however. It’s a puzzle platformer at heart and almost every section has a puzzle to solve before moving on. Whether that’s placing a perfect ricocheted shot to press a button on the other side of the screen, or using the game’s fine-tuned physics to maneuver a floating box to temporarily block a security camera or laser grid.
There are five main levels not including a final sixth level that appears to be an otter utopia for Charlie and his buddies. I completed those levels in a little over 4 hours, but I’ve unlocked 7 extra levels so far and there must be more because I haven’t unlocked the trophy for discovering every new area. After completing a level, we see charlie back in the ship with Ada, Jesse, and a robot that can build Charlie his gadgets if he has the plans and appropriate parts. Charlie finds these parts and energy orbs throughout each level. As I mentioned, the parts are for all of the upgraded weapons and gear, while the energy orbs are used to bring extra animals along to help colonize the new planet once they find it. Each of these animals has a name and a job that they’ll do once they find their home sweet home. Once you pay the required orbs for these other animals, you can float down to the tank at the bottom of the ship and speak with your new arrivals. It’s equal parts silly and adorable but it added to the game’s undeniable charm.
You can also choose which level to fly to from this screen. It appears as a map and you can go to whichever destination you want. I was in a bit of a rush to complete the game before the review was due so I skipped most of the side missions and ploughed along with the main story. I tried one side mission fairly early. It was a fire-themed mission and it was really difficult. I suspected that I didn’t have some gear that I needed so I abandoned that one with the idea to come back later. I finished the game before I had a chance to go back, but thankfully you can continue to explore after the credits roll.
I’ve completed a few side missions since completing the game and I’ve even unlocked a new level to explore, so the game does have some decent depth. Plus it also features a couple of different competitive same-screen multiplayer modes called Urchin and Furry Fury. These are fast-paced arena-style games where you get to blast your opponent and steal each other’s food. My suggestion would be for players to at least attempt any unlocked side-mission because you will find upgrades and some new tools that will make your playthrough a little easier and a little more fun. Plus, it’s a fun game that was over a little too soon, so I wish I had broken it up with a few more side missions on the way. I suppose it doesn’t matter since you can continue to play after completing the main story, but I would have preferred to play some of those side missions while the stakes were still high.
But if that’s my biggest problem, the game must be pretty good. And it is. I really enjoyed hanging out with Charlie and his friends. It wasn’t easy, but any persistent gamer can see the end without too much frustration and it has a totally gettable platinum if you feel like some trophy hunting. It’s a bit on the short side, but still a bargain for only $14.99. If you like puzzle-platformers and cute fuzzy faces, you wouldn’t regret picking this one up.
Space Otter Charlie PS4 Review
- Overall - Very Good - 7.5/107.5/10
The small three-person team at developer Wayward Distractions has delivered one of the cutest games of the year, but it's not just for kids. It's not a punishing precision platformer by any stretch, but it isn't easy either and it managed to be fun even in the more difficult sections.
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a copy of the game provided by the publisher. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Primary version tested: PS4. Reviewed using: PS4, PS5