When I first saw the charming art utilised in Later Alligator by Small Bu animations and published by Pillow Fight Studios, I was unsure. We’ve all seen a wealth of indie games trying to capture players with artistic choices at the expense of good gameplay decisions, so would this be the same?
I can say now, I was utterly wrong to be so sceptical.
Later Alligator is an absolute joy to play and every moment with the title had me smiling and laughing. The game does wonders with narrative and creates a vibrant world filled with unique characters, charming environments and beautiful musical choices.
From the second you enter into Alligator New York City, you’re charmed by a seamless loading screen and menu selection that befits the noir tone of a 40’s era hard-boiled detective story.
The musical score that accompanies this helps to create the feeling of Raymond Chandler-esque grittiness that, when placed beside the hilariously animated and designed Alligator residents of the city makes for a truly fantastic experience.
Later Alligator accomplishes something that other, large scale titles often fail at. It makes me feel part of the world and doesn’t lose the player with lengthy exposition whilst also creating something believable and unique.
The plot seems straightforward at first, find out what ‘The Event’ is for a terrified Pat the Alligator, a big mouth who is sure that the mob is about to murder him.
What follows is some of the most enjoyable mini-games and world building that I’ve ever seen in a title.
The environment of each area is beautifully created, each screen with it’s own unique music and clickable items that make you think back to the carefree times of point and click entertainment games that you’ve experienced as a child.
But there’s a twist.
Behind the fun mini-games and smaller details hides a wealth of interesting twists and turns, with the game constantly questioning and subverting the player’s expectations via art changes, sweet character interactions and challenging puzzles.
The game even utilises QR codes and external links, such as web pages which draws you further and further into the game’s universe and lore. Its a city and you’re surrounded by the culture from the second the game begins.
The initial thought I had when I first took part in one of the mini-games, for example was that the game’s charm was the sole reason for playing. The plot seemed obvious and the challenge was low, however, later on you’re navigating through information and deciphering subtle clues to solve unique and interesting problems and each game is different from the last. Love and time have gone into building something different and it shows.
A great example of this, is the mini-game to help one character fix his broken phone. I won’t go into too much detail here because it really has to be experienced first-hand, but honestly, it had me laughing out loud whilst also giving me cause to really think and ponder about how to resolve the problem.
Whilst we’re on the subject, the game’s humour really has to be praised.
The character interactions were enough to make me smile, but when I was shown a doll labelled as ‘Clod Stripes from Final Friendcity’ my eyes started to roll. Are we going to be stuck with some typical ‘look at the reference’ gags?
I’m pleased to say that this isn’t the case.
We’re shown references to other titles but they’re subverted into something comical and sweet. Each homage is more than just pointing at something else, it’s parody rather than imitation.
Despite being funny in their own right, these asides are merely the dressing across a perfectly written title filled with great jokes, humorous digs at other genres and unique characters that overflow with personality.
Each one moves in different ways. They have different and noticeable mannerisms despite only having a short period of time on screen and each character feels like more than just a token placeholder. They’re all citizens on the city and their lives are intertwined and multi-layered.
It’s believable, well executed and a breath of fresh air to see something so new and creative on the Steam store.
Honestly, if you need something fun, interesting and beautiful to look at, then look no further, because Later Alligator has you covered. Even as I’m writing this, I’m just counting the moments before I get to go back and continue on my journey.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to Alligator New York City again to have another go at succeeding on a date!
Later Alligator is available now on Steam and I’d advise you now to head over and give it a go, you won’t be disappointed.