In Space Otter Charlie, you play as an otter… called Charlie… in space… on a mission that takes him through a galaxy of fictional planetary levels. Charlie is part of a team of otternauts (that’s what they call them in this game, I didn’t just make it up) who are sent away on an intergalactic adventure for the greater good of mankind. The gameplay focuses on zero-gravity movement which gives an interesting spin on the usual adventure/platformer formula, and makes for some fun and original gameplay concepts.

Gameplay

OK, the zero-gravity concept is not wholly original of course, but is certainly under-utilised in games and potentially difficult to execute. The developers have grasped it with two hands however, and I’m pleased to say that it has come off pretty well. Space Otter Charlie is a 2D platformer which takes place on a flat plane but rather than jumping your way through a level, you choose a direction with the joystick and then propel Charlie through the air in the direction of your choice. The zero-gravity means that you can either propel Charlie from wall A to wall B in a straight line or if you hold down the jetpack button, you can direct Charlie freely through the air and deviate from the straight-line A to B trajectory; however the jet pack has limited fuel, which slowly replenishes, meaning the free-movement is cleverly yet fiendishly limited.

Charlie also carries gun-type weapons which can all be upgraded as you progress through the game. You begin with a small laser cannon but you can later collect additional guns like powerful missile launchers or a reflector ray for which the bullets reflect off certain surfaces, meaning you can shoot around corners; this becomes handy in both combat and puzzle solving situations. There are numerous item blueprints to find and in-game currency in the shape of nuts and bolts; the currency can be exchanged with the Build Bot (found at various locations throughout the levels) in order to build and upgrade items that you’ve found the aforementioned blueprints for.

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On the matter of puzzle solving, there are constant little puzzles to solve as you progress through any given level. There’s never anything particularly taxing but it normally involves shooting a certain button to open a timed door. There are also air currents to work against and other intriguing obstacles that come in your way; some surfaces are heated/lava and cause damage to Charlie, meaning you have to be careful with where you land him. All of the different puzzles and environmental obstacles combine nicely along with a steady difficulty curve, meaning that the experience is balanced perfectly between challenge and frustration.

World / Level Design

The game is broken up into levels/planets with a hub spaceship where your otter crew hangs out. With an element of non-linearity which I really enjoyed, there is always the next objective to follow which progresses the story, however throughout the game, you can find maps for new planets and you can take your ship to said planets once discovered. This means that instead of the main objective planets, you can choose to explore alternative ones for extra items and currency. For clarity – the actual gameplay progression within any given level is quite linear but it’s when you choose which planet to go to next that the game really opens up.

Story / Personality

I feel as though I haven’t reviewed any indie games with a solid story recently, but I’m pleased to say that Space Otter Charlie is an exception to this trend. The story is very emotive and relevant with today’s environmental challenges that the world is currently experiencing – it begins with a cutscene whereby the humans have left Earth, having saturated it with rubbish and plastic-filled oceans. As a result, the animals are left to fend for themselves and the otter species take it upon themselves to start a space programme to explore and find alternative planets to inhabit. The story is vividly told and is both funny and sad at the same time, providing some welcomed depth. The otters are also extremely cute which compels you to help out Charlie and his furry friends.

There are also a number of data logs/bits of lore to find which both give you more backstory as well as cute facts on otters. It goes without saying but if you’re an otter fan, you must play this game and hey, you might just learn a thing or two!

Graphics / Sound Design

Space Otter Charlie's graphical style is simple but effective, with surprising detail where required. Any given level can look a bit samey as you progress but once you move onto the next, you’re greeted by a new and colourful style which reinvigorates your interest. The character design is really strong as well and forms a unique personality for the otter clan.

The music serves a purpose and doesn’t irritate, which is the main thing in games such as this. If you’re not going to make a stellar soundtrack, then at least don’t make it annoying, and the developers ticked that box. I’ll admit that that doesn’t sound particularly flattering but honestly, functional is the best way to describe the music in this game, and that’s not a criticism by any means.

Final Score: 70%

Space Otter Charlie kind of blindsided me, but I’m pleased that it did. I didn’t know much about the game beforehand so I approached it with an open mind. It rewards you with solid gameplay and a fairly sizable single-player campaign relative to its price. The emotive but cute story is also a very welcome addition to the Switch. My only criticism is that the game can get a bit repetitive at times but all-in-all, this is a fun twist on the platforming genre.

Thank you for checking out our Space Otter Charlie Switch review, thank you to The Quantum Astrophysicists Guild for providing the review code and thank you to our $5 and up Patreon Backers for their ongoing support: