Two things that I love in life are otters and video games. It’s not every day that these two cross paths (unless you’re a Pokémon character), so when The Otterman Empire was revealed I was rightfully excited. This game looked to have it all: Splatoon-like gameplay, third-person shooter, Nintendo Switch, AND it of course had lovable aquatic critters. It wasn’t until I actually got through a majority of the game where the hype began to die down, though, and the real problems became apparent. This game’s shooting and flying mechanics, level objectives, and overall feel of the game didn’t drive this idea home. There is, however, a foundation for an incredibly fun title, yet it falls short of doing so.

The Otterman Empire Review

Otterly Interesting Campaign

What makes this title more than just a simple party game is the fact that it includes a single-player campaign. Now, the story can be played with more than just a single person but being able to play through it all solo is greatly appreciated. Each chapter comprises three levels which can be completed with a one to a three-star rating. 58 stars are required to unlock the final boss with smaller prerequisites needed for each chapter. It sounds like a lot since you need to three-star all but five levels in the game but it isn’t too bad. Once players are accustomed to how each animal works and what the objective is, it gets less challenging and more accessible. The roughly five-hour campaign has users visit various locations in order to ward off the evil otter, Tiko, and his troops. Neither Tiko nor his troops are particularly scary, though. Tiko usually shows up to kickstart the enemy forces and then disappears into the air. Once he leaves the troops come out and they are incredibly dull and annoying. They consist of turrets, tanks, and laser bots with the occasional airship that drops bombs. None of these are unique nor do they go away after they are defeated. I could shoot down every turret or laser bot and they would respawn almost immediately. The only reason to shoot them was to help garner extra points toward more stars but even then it felt hopeless.

Objectives aren’t that appealing either. Players are either zooming through hoops, shooting down aircraft, capturing a zone, or a variation of these. They just didn’t add enough flavor to the game as a whole since the enemies weren’t really fun to engage with. As chapters go on, the objective becomes a bit more difficult to achieve as there are more enemies but they only become more annoying. Mostly because the laser bots slow you down when they lock on to you and eventually kill you. Deaths are coupled with a respawn timer which can hurt you in the long run as each mission is timed for completion. Knowing which character works best for objectives is key. You wouldn’t want to tackle a mission where the objective is destroying aircraft carriers with a sniper, instead, you’d want the character who uses an RPG. It’s almost a guarantee that you’ll revisit certain levels to mop up whatever you couldn’t do which can come off as padding but it isn’t enough to fully turn you off from the experience. There is a bit of pay-off in the end, though, as the final boss fight feels unique and challenging. Not only that but the ending is worth checking out even with the story being less than memorable.

The Otterman Empire Review

Otter Ways to Play

There isn’t too much to say about the game’s local multiplayer option. Users are able to sync up four controllers to duke it out in split-screen madness. It can be really fun with friends so long as everyone knows how the game controls and works. Objectives can be turned on or off depending on what your group prefers but it’s plenty of fun just running around and shooting each otter. There are quite a few improvements that could be made such as adding power-ups or anything that shakes up the gameplay to feel unique. When you’re just running around, it isn’t going to last too long especially if one player is way more dominant than the rest. What holds this versus mode back is how there isn’t much incentive to keep playing round after round. With other party games or local options, there’s some sort of driving force that can make each match feel special. Here, this just isn’t the case. Fortunately, this feature is a lot more fun to utilize in the campaign portion of the game. Having another person helping to achieve stars and high scores is much more rewarding as there is a sense of uniqueness to these runs. Also, you can unlock more customization options this way and create a more personal atmosphere.

The Otterman Empire Review

Wonky Controls

Besides the poor enemy design and weak level layouts, where this game truly hurts is with its own gameplay mechanics. The jetpack is one of the key aspects of the game and can have players zooming around the map taking down enemies from above and completing various tasks. Except, this isn’t the case. You only have one real way of moving and that’s up. Once you boost up, there isn’t an option to float in the air, go from left to right smoothly, or even drop a few feet. Players will be left waiting to lower a few feet in order to go through hoop sections or dodge to get around quickly. Dodging isn’t so much a problem as it is the only quick way to get around but rarely did I ever use it for its intended purpose of avoiding enemy fire. While speaking on firing, the gunplay is downright bad. Aiming is incredibly cumbersome as it can only be done by moving the camera around. It doesn’t sound so bad on paper but once there are waves of enemies coming your way, you’ll quickly notice just how difficult it is to do anything. Why the game doesn’t utilize the Switch’s gyro controls here is beyond me as this was something I found myself begging for and is much needed.

The problems don’t necessarily end here, however. I noticed that there would be plenty of times where my own character’s shots wouldn’t come off. While playing as the Croc, his punches wouldn’t land which made me useless until I switched characters. Sometimes this would happen as I controlled the RPG-wielding otter as well. It’s tough to pinpoint how this happened but nonetheless, it wasn’t something out of the ordinary. Performance issues were no stranger to this experience as slowdowns appeared in later levels when more enemies were nearby or when moving too fast. Levels also feel empty and bare as there isn’t much to do or see. They feel sort of just there and aren’t worth checking out. After you’ve seen them all there’s little reason to want to revisit them. Since this game also has plenty of Splatoon vibes, it’s sad to note that the soundtrack is less than stellar. Playing with the sound off or at a low volume made no difference to the overall feel. It would’ve been great if more wacky noises or musical tunes were included but there was none of that.

The Otterman Empire Review

Tri-Heart Interactive’s first title is one that has a ton of heart. I have a huge amount of respect for the team to come out and release a multiplayer shooter for various systems. There are the makings for a great game here which I would hope to see in future works from the team. Unfortunately, The Otterman Empire falls flat with its gameplay, objectives, and controls. The game does stand out with its local multiplayer functionality and being able to play through the campaign with a friend. Its campaign may have problems but being only five hours and having the option to play with someone else could make it worth your while. I did have a good time playing like a bunch of different aquatic critters, but if that isn’t your thing, you may want to look elsewhere.

Thank you to our friends at Tri-Heart Interactive for providing us with a review code.

The Otterman Empire Review (Nintendo Switch)
The Otterman Empire presents some incredibly fun concepts but does little to live up to its expectations.
Overall Score6.5
  • Varied Cast of Characters
  • Full Single Player Campaign
  • Local Multiplayer
  • Little Jetpack Mobility
  • Plain Level Objectives
  • Wonky Shooting Controls
Reader Rating: (0 Votes)

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