From the beginning of Cookie Cutter, I knew this Metroidvania promised attitude, immense violence, and a tragic layer buried deep within a journey through a sprawling world. My first few minutes with the game felt like a bloody combination of Robocop, Tank Girl, and a bunch of 90s games such as Skyblazer, where our beaten and broken protagonist sees the love of their life being taken away by a bunch of nasty villains. And like any great retro game, it’s time to embark on a grand venture of grime, grit, blood, sweat and plenty of tears, as Cookie Cutter is quite frankly 2024’s most bada** Metroidvania.What is Cookie Cutter?
At its heart, Cookie Cutter is a tragic love story, fuelled by undying love, vengeance and a serious lust for bloodshed. We take on the role of Cherry, a highly advanced android who falls in love with their creator, Dr Shinji, and wishes for nothing more than a peaceful co-existence with her while living in a vastly decayed world that has previously been stripped of all nature and beauty. However, their love is torn apart, and Cherry is left brutalised, and managed in a bloody wreck by a sinister corporate degenerate, who kidnaps Dr Shinji.
Like any good story involving poor souls who have been so wronged and left for dead (i.e Robocop, Alita), Cherry is put back together by a trusty mechanic named Rez, who stumbled across the abandoned lab, situated within the megastructure that houses all manner of scum, poor souls trying to survive, and things much, much worse.
Cherry decides enough is enough, and it’s time to track down Dr Shinji and take down INFONET, the organisation responsible for pretty much screwing over the planet and causing all the problems in the first place. And what better place to have a Metroidvania adventure, than a gigantic megastructure home to all manner of creepy critters, murderous robots, and plenty of secrets to uncover.
It's a typical affair of blood, guts, revenge and sprawling Metroidvania fun we’ve seen before, but Cookie Cutter manages to incorporate a whole heap of charm, fun and tongue-in-cheek humour that you root for due to its sheer bizarre creativity. I mean, your helper and guiding voice throughout the game is Cherry’s talking … Lady bits named Rigina. I’m not kidding. Cherry’s V area talks and has a lovely persona that gives advice and speaks to other NPCs like it’s no big deal. It would be so cringe and crass, but the interactions and lack of vulgar-mannered jokes towards Cherry and Rigina, make this quite funny and a likable pairing we don’t tend to see much … Looking at you Forspoken.
But other cool characters help add depth to Cherry’s journey, aiding and providing banter which strengthens Cherry’s purpose. It’s a wonderful collective bunch of weirdos who make the world feel a little more fascinating, and the world itself is already immeasurably stylised, vastly compelling visually, and feels to have a ton of depth, history and tragic undertones buried deep within.
The plot is quite straightforward, but then again, so was Robocop. But what made that and Cookie Cutter compelling in many respects was down to the world-building, side characters and leading characters themselves. While Cookie Cutter doesn’t have the same levels of depth as Elden Ring, it has plenty of charm, style and passion for its characters, and I loved it. Pop art with a punch … Jamie Hewlett would be proud
What gives Cookie Cutter an edge over the competition is the stellar, pop-art inspired hand drawn and beautifully animated presentation. There a quite a few side-scrolling games of the same nature, like Blasphemous which indeed looks great. But Cookie Cutter takes its presentation to a whole other level of an eye-melting art style. It truly feels like a living, breathing comic book or work by Jamie Hewlett come to life. It’s just so glorious and gorgeous, from the brilliantly drawn imagery, stunning colouring and of course smooth animations which look so professional, that the guys behind this must have some serious experience in the field.
This feels quite like Ember Lab’s 2021 hit Kena: Bridge of Spirits, which looked like a high-budget animated film. And it looked so good, was due to how the studio had 10 years of animation experience. The same must be said for Subcult Joint.
But looks are surface level, and it’s all about what lies underneath all that pretty hand-drawn imagery. And again, Cookie Cutter does incredibly well in the gameplay department, that it could give other Metroidvania titles a run for their money.Chocolate chip mayhem, baked for 20 minutes
Cookie Cutter strives itself as an unabashedly irreverent, violent, and risqué Metroidvania. It offers a great deal of depth in exploration with unlockable powerups, tons of combat and a meaningful sense of progression that comes through hard work and player interaction.
Cherry is a badass android who will stop at nothing to free her love from tyranny, but she’s going to have to venture through a behemoth maze of death, secrets, and blockades only a certain superpower could destroy in order to accomplish her goal. Also expect plenty of things to murder in your mayhem including killer robots, icky bugs, Grotesque bugs and some pretty crazy-looking bosses for good measure.
Now in all fairness, planning out and creating a Metroidvania game is a lot harder than you might think. Elements such as item placement, backtracking and progression are all very important and can be fumbled spectacularly if not handled right. And for the most part, Subcult manages to create one of this generation's most compelling and engaging Metroidvania titles.
As you would expect, there is a lot of exploration, through a profoundly massive world, to say the least. I was impressed with the scale of Cookie Cutter’s world, and just how the design of each sub-area that makes up the megastructure, looked, looked, and was designed so differently, that it peaked and kept my interest throughout. The world as a whole has everything a good Metroidvania has, from looping level design, hidden secrets that grant bonuses and upgrades, and all those cool blockades that require you to get a special perk, powerup, or simply a good old-fashioned double jump to overcome.
There is so much to see, explore and do within the world, and I do love various components which make it feel somewhat different to most. I love how environmental hazards were implemented, being that there are many and make the journey all the most dangerous and stimulating. But also how they can be used to aid you in combat, as whatever poison gas, electric walls, or spike pits (yes … there are plenty of those, and a nod to Blasphemous too!) will hurt enemies too. So you can strategically use whatever deathtrap to your advantage before it may or may kill you.
The general pacing, looping level design and branching paths were all executed perfectly in my opinion, feeling close to an extended, eclectic, and enjoyable platformer. Each part of the world from the desert caverns, cyberpunk undercity, sprawling mega towers and underground pirate liars, was a lot of fun to run through. But I will admit the sheer scale of the world did become a slight annoyance when it came to backtracking for either loot, secrets or story progression, especially with the lack of fast travel points.
What made it worse still was an infuriating bug I came across where after some time, the explored sections of my map would vanish. This happened a few times, with most of the instances being in small patches, but a couple of times I explored/revealed a whole area of the world, or a sub-area, only to find when I came back from a break that it was all hidden once again. Just a heads-up and maybe something the developers could look into.
But aside from this, the game ran smoothly with no interruptions or other bugs. While the backtracking can be a little tedious due to the massive size (especially when the map vanishes), I still wholeheartedly enjoyed playing through, battling it out, and unravelling a vastly remarkable world.
All the Metroidvania elements, such as blockades and powerups are handled very well, with good pacing and adding to a much more meaningful sense of discovery and character progression.Blood, sweat, tears, a chainsaw and cookie dough
And the other side of the Cookie Cutter bread and butter is of course the highly brutal and visceral combat, which while lacking in a couple of key areas, is highly enjoyable and looks great!
While simple, the combat is a lot of fun, due to the various heavy weapons you acquire (including a massive chainsaw and motorbike!), special abilities which can be used on the environment and combat, the enemy variety and as mentioned previously the interactions with environmental hazards. It’s a case of a lot of simple, easy-to-grasp elements in combat, that amount to a visually spectacular, intuitively brutal and challenging experience which never lost its lustre through the 18 or so hours I played.
Cherry has her basic attack (that sadly never evolves, or you can change up that much), but also a series of heavy weapons, special abilities, and “Void” powers which she can use to spice things up. The Void meter is an interesting inclusion, acting like a mana bar for certain attacks and weapons. Dealing damage refills it, and using heavy weapons, Void abilities and even healing herself will consume it. There’s a nice bit of tactical management and choices between using weapons or healing, which adds a nice bit of tension.
Heavy weapons have impressive combos that when executed will deal devastating damage, and weapon swapping and using those abilities you tend to use for environmental blockades adds a nice bit of tactical flare to all combat encounters. Plus the combos and finishers are ridiculously awesome to see! As said, all very simple ideals and interactions, that amount to a thoroughly engaging sense of mayhem and destruction.
And there is an excellent array of enemies, ranging from annoying bugs, cyberpunk mages, and walking tanks with flaming shields. They are again easy to understand and learning their moves comes quite quickly, but the environment and combination of enemies is where the strength and variety of combat come in.
My only picks that were disappointing were the lack of remarkable bosses, with meaningful strategies, and impact. They just tend to run around and do the same moves over and over, making it easy to figure them out and defeat, them while only posing a threat due to the high damage they deal. And this was annoying, as the high damage can catch you off guard, seeing as two or three hits can end you, and in most instances, I felt bosses would just end you without giving you a small breather to recover.
Some games like Dark Souls, DOOM Eternal and other challenging games do, providing you a chance to think fast and react fast. But I’m not sure if it’s intentional to make the bosses more challenging and exciting by having them easily smash you into nothing within a drop of a hat, as they are otherwise pathetically predictable.
And there are indeed a few annoyances with combat, down to ungodly stun-locking from projectiles and how the camera view in certain arenas, pans out too far making it difficult to see what’s going on. The stun-locking I found to be worse as there are plenty of instances where enemies will shoot projectiles, that can go through walls, and hit you over and over, while other enemies will come in for a cheap shot. I hate stun-locking as it’s cheap and can be taken out of hand without the developers releasing it. Just take health away and don’t bother with stun-locking that eats up 2 or 3 seconds, where enemies can recharge their attack and do it all over again. To be fair you will have some protection after getting up, but having multiple enemies who shoot projectiles at you in a single space soon becomes an absolute nightmare.
And the camera issue in fairness only popped up a couple of times but was still cumbersome as these tended to be massive arenas with a lot of enemies, a lot going on screen, and usually … with flying enemies that shoot projectiles …. Great! And the insanely high damage input from certain enemies will again come out of nowhere like it does with bosses. And as healing is a manual process which takes time (you can upgrade the speed later in the game thankfully), there will certainly be times of frustration and deaths that feel cheap.
But overall, the combat was a lot of fun, that for the most part, never felt unbalanced, or overwhelming, say for these few and in-between moments.Overall?
Cookie Cutter is utterly charming, and hugely enjoyable, due to its compelling and well-crafted Metroidvania elements, the engaging and bloody combat, and the down-right beautiful imagery shown on screen. I fell in love with this game, and it’s a fantastic indie title to play at the start of 2024. I can’t recommend it enough, and while there are a couple of shortcomings here and there, what shines brings in the funky, gritty pop-up beauty, really does show profound excellence, incredible talent, and above all else, everything comes together to make one of the best Metroidvania titles I’ve played. Which can now sit with the greats such as Blasphemous, Shadow Complex, and Castlevania: SOTN.By the way, I did want to make a "Put that cookie down" joke as a sub-title ... but I'm sure a 100 other reviewers have done that already ....
++ Complex and engaging world design, filled with neat exploration and rewarding discovery
++ Looks f***ing fantastic! One of the best-looking indie games I've played in a long while
+ Combat is brutal, fun and has plenty of neat dynamics to keep it interesting
+ Lots of charm, attitude, and flare of creativity which made me fall in love with it
- Bosses aren't all that great and lack any persona or depth
- Some annoyance with unbalanced enemy attacks and odd design choices that get in the way of certain fights
- Couple of bugs that halted exploration and the maps can be a little too big for backtracking
A review code of Cookie Cutter was kindly provided by the publisher for this review.