While waiting for the review, we share our first impressions after spending a few hours with Cookie Cutter.
We’ve already spent a few with Cookie Cutter, not quite enough to share the full review with you, but sufficient to provide an initial overview of Subcult Joint’s debut video game and to give you our overall first impressions of the game.
This production enters the video game world with a counter-trend proposal, and so far, our expectations have not only been met but surpassed. The gaming experience is consistently surprising and occasionally astounding, but most importantly, it’s incredibly enjoyable, keeping us literally glued to the screen.
These hours have been crucial for delving into the gameplay mechanics, gaining a clearer understanding of the developers’ vision and gaming proposition. And now, we’re ready to share with you some important details.
But first, if you’re not familiar with Cookie Cutter, you know the routine in these cases, right? Simply catch up on our main coverage before continuing to read, or if you prefer, check out our interview with the game’s director and artist, Stefano Guglielmana. Have you already done that? Excellent, then we can proceed!
The Origins of the Megastructure
The premise we make reference to when discussing the narrative component is the same one that the developers have mentioned several times.
“The Void, The Matter, The Megastructure.” A concept that can mean everything… and nothing, but one that is explained in great detail in the introduction of Cookie Cutter, as narrated by the engineer Shinji Fallon, the creator of the protagonist Cherry.
The narrative of Cookie Cutter begins with a well-executed cinematic that describes, through the words of Shinji Fallon, the origins of the Megastructure, an ambiguous and mysterious ultra-technological creation inside which lies a dormant power, somewhat reminiscent of the Death Star from Star Wars. Many have attempted to unravel its secrets, but none have succeeded, except for a certain Victor Garbanzos.
Sly, dangerous, and powerful, Victor remained trapped in the dense network of the Megastructure for an extended period, presumed dead. But something terrible was about to happen…
Emerging from the shadows with extraordinary powers, Victor Garbanzos is more tempted and determined than ever to establish his supremacy, forging his own order, his own domain. His ego knows no bounds, his mind knows no restraint. He decided to preserve humans in sentient cybernetic vessels obedient to his command. A workforce, an army of slaves, a war machine, or more simply, an army of mechanical automatons better known as Denzels, ready to serve him, ready to build his utopia, his dream, the City of Gold. A fake utopian domain with which Victor could exert his power and prevent any form of usurpation from his “golden throne.”
No one could stop his dominion. No one could put an end to this nightmare. Except, perhaps, if Victor wasn’t stopped from “within.” This is how Shinji Fallon, the storyteller, decides to “betray” the very dear gentlemen she worked for to breathe life into a new Denzel. No, not the trash out there. Not just any Denzel, but a special one… Cherry.
Created with the purpose of stopping and destroying Infonet from within and the nefarious plans of the Garbanzos family, Cherry won’t be just creation for Shinji. She is much more. She becomes life, love, a balm for Shinji’s soul. Something Shinji can no longer do without. It’s as if Cherry breathed life into Shinji, rather than the other way around…
A beautiful story culminating in tragedy. An act of rebellion, indeed, that will cost Shinji dearly. In a sudden raid by Infonet, led by Salem Garbanzos and his henchmen, the Dickheads, Shinji is kidnapped, and Cherry is mercilessly massacred, presumed dead, both by her assailants and the love of her life. An unforgivable mistake on Salem’s part, one that will unleash all of Cherry’s fury.
This event, the Horrible Night, is particularly emblematic, marking a rift in Cherry’s body and soul, causing her to experience something she never faced before—evil. This will be the starting point of our story, our journey, and quite possibly, the beginning of the end for the Garbanzos family and their damned utopia.
Upon her awakening, nothing will be as it was before. Her life, her habits, her purpose. Everything will be… a damn mess. And here’s the kicker, where players will truly immerse themselves in the action!
Am I awake? Well, it’s time to make some noise!
After waking up, we discover ourselves in an old and abandoned diner. Waiting for us is Raz, a playful and friendly mechanic who has fixed up our Cherry after the terrible and despicable kidnapping of Shinji. Here, we’ll also meet the charismatic Regina (simply called Gina), an advanced and perfectly optimized talking vagina. Gina will be our companion, guiding us through the adventure, explaining the quirks of the game world, and even teaching us how to kick the hordes of Infonet.
The gaming experience comes alive with a brief tutorial set in the seedy underbelly of the diner, clearly explaining the main game mechanics. This is where we’ll have to do a favor for Raz by retrieving his backpack and overcoming some androids and a repulsive bug that, according to Raz, he fears, or perhaps, simply finds disgusting.
The diner also functions as our primary hub area in the game—a safe zone where Cherry can teleport to modify her components or simply take a break. Once the tutorial is completed and the backpack is returned to Raz, he will grant us access to the previously locked external areas, where we can finally begin our actual journey and rescue Shinji.
We’ll stop here in recounting the game’s events, as we aim to avoid spoiling or providing unsolicited spoilers. any surprises or unsolicited spoilers. Therefore, we’ll move directly to outlining and explaining our initial impressions in these first hours we’ve spent with Cookie Cutter.
A Great Beginning
In these first hours of gameplay, Cookie Cutter has showcased a lot of its impressive repertoire. The first thing we noticed and appreciated is the almost psychedelic style of the game world, sprinkled with punk elements and references that harken back to Subcult Joint’s background. From our point of view, it’s one of the most visually stunning Metroidvanias we’ve played in 2023 so far.
The game world is rich, layered, and, although we’ve only uncovered a small part so far, it’s chock-full of points of interest, secret areas, dungeons, and enemies that will give you a run for your money. The structure of the areas is well-crafted and filled with deadly traps that will pose various challenges, but they also provide opportunities to ease the combat system, using them as aids or supports against hordes of enemies.
The interactions with the game world and environmental elements are excellent. In Cookie Cutter, (almost) everything is destructible. We admit that every now and then, we took a moment to admire the beauty of the settings and backgrounds.
To put it bluntly, combat is the standout feature in Cookie Cutter, so far. It’s dynamic, enjoyable, a bit old school (and that’s why we absolutely love it), and incredibly satisfying. And, in the rare chance that kicking and punching enemies might seem a bit repetitive, you can rely on a demonic arsenal of brutal weapons that will turn your foes into mush. The hit feedback is excellent, with only a few extremely rare hiccups, and the animations for brutal finishers have been crafted with meticulous detail.
We know what you’re thinking. Is it a challenging Metroidvania, recommended only for genre veterans? No, it’s not. In our opinion, Cookie Cutter is a game accessible to everyone in terms of gameplay and combat system, thanks to the numerous checkpoints strategically placed by the developers in various game areas.
But heed our words carefully. Accessible doesn’t necessarily mean easy. The gameplay has a learning curve that’s not too steep but still something you need to get used to and master, especially for those who are new to this type of formula and aren’t familiar with the key features that make up a Metroidvania.
If you’re passionate about bizarre stories or surreal situations, well, Cookie Cutter has plenty in store for you. The developers have indeed crafted a fantastic cast of eccentric and singular characters that will delight you by recounting their strange adventures, of which Cherry often couldn’t care less. But maybe you do, right? In this case as well, we feel compelled to commend Subcult Joint for the excellent character design, in addition to the exquisitely unique characterization of NPCs.
First Impressions and Considerations
So, what are our initial conclusions? Up to this point, Cookie Cutter has proven to be an excellent Metroidvania, leaving a positive impression on us from various perspectives. The visual design and art direction, coupled with the combat system, are undoubtedly the standout features of a well-conceived and superbly structured video game that not only convinces and captivates but also impresses and, above all, entertains!
Considering that we’re talking about an early build, the achieved result in terms of performance and technical aspects is outstanding. The enemy AI, which was indeed our primary concern, is responsive, exhibiting optimal reactions to dangerous situations and punctual response times. We were also pleased with Cherry’s combat animations, particularly the parry, which convinced us both in terms of animation quality and timing.
The only recommendation we have for the team is to add additional accessibility options in the settings and make some minor refinements to certain animations that aren’t always perfectly in sync. However, these are issues that can likely be addressed with future patches and updates. On the other hand, we are talking about a very young team in their first real project, and the result seen and experienced so far are truly impressive. Therefore, let’s afford them the time and understanding they deserve.
Besides that, if Cookie Cutter continues to uphold the excellent standard set thus far, we could potentially be looking at one of the best Metroidvanias of 2023.
Cookie Cutter is now available on PC (via Steam and Epic Games Store), PlayStation 5, and Xbox Series X/S in digital format. Stay tuned here, very soon, for the review.
Have a great Day One and enjoy the devilries of the Megastructure!