by Joseph Leray
When "Darksiders" was released in 2010, critics and reviewers tripped over themselves to remind is that Vigil's debut was a high fantasy, grimdark version of "The Legend of Zelda." Well -- THQ went bankrupt, Crytek hired what was left of Vigil, and the "Darksiders" series went to Nordic Games.
"A Hat in Time," the recently-Kickstarted venture from Gears for Breakfast, might have lifted "Wind Waker"'s cel-shaded look, but its bones seem to have more in common with "Mario 64." A good "Zelda" clone is hard to find, so they say.
A more straightforward homage can be found in Ludosity's "Ittle Dew," a cartoony hand-drawn action-adventure game complete with block puzzles, smashable urns, whackable villagers, and a green-tunic'ed hero(ine).
As the launch trailer suggests, "Ittle Dew" seems like a straight riff on any number of "Zelda" games, but it has a certain amount of self-awareness -- if not outright cynicism -- and a sense of surrealism that sets it apart.
For starters, the titular Ittle is a lady, something "Zelda" fans have been clamoring for of late. She also collects heart pieces but, uhh, cannibalizes them, which seems a little outré for Link's more delicate -- and kid-friendly -- sensibilities.
Each of Ittle's monologues about pushing blocks around and looting villages is a not-so-subtle wink to remind us that if "The Legenda of Zelda" is a two-and-a-half-decade long setup, Ludosity has the punchline.
While I haven't played "Ittle Dew" yet, the "Zelda" structure is so refined, so internalized, that the game still promises to be a fun little action-adventure, even if it doesn't actually change any of the things it's making fun of. The game's official website promise plenty of experimentation and multiple paths through any dungeon, with online leaderboards to track speedruns.
"Ittle Dew" is currently available for PC (here) and Ouya, with a Mac port coming out later this week. By the end of the month, it'll be on Steam, with Linux, iOS, Android, and (appropriately) Wii U version to follow this autumn.
Joseph Leray is a freelance writer from Nashville. Follow him on Twitter