Summer Catchers (Switch) – Review
Follow Genre: Endless runner, arcade game
Developer: FaceIT
Publisher: Noodlecake
Platform: Switch, PC, Android
Tested on: Switch

Summer Catchers (Switch) – Review

Site Score
7.0
Good: Engaging atmosphere and a cast of endearing characters
Bad: Gameplay is heavily RNG-reliant and feels unbalanced
User Score
8.0
(1 votes)
Click to vote
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 8.0/10 (1 vote cast)

It might still be winter at the moment, but if you’re longing for summer, then you could give FaceIT’s Summer Catchers a shot. This runner title sees you chase the season of longer days and sweltering weather. At first glance, Summer Catchers seems like just another dime-a-dozen endless runner, but when we got to grips with the game, we found that looks can be deceiving.

Story

In Summer Catchers’ opening scenes we meet the adorable Chu. She is a young girl that lives in a world that is perpetually covered by a thick layer of snow. Her dream is to experience what summer is like. In order to do so, she’ll have to travel to faraway lands. Thankfully, a friendly old wolf -whom Chu refers to as “Bear”- gives her a wooden car, so that she can set out on her journey. On this journey, Chu will meet a cast of weird and wonderful characters that will ensure her road trip to summer is unforgettable.

Graphics

While pixel art has been overdone in recent years, Summer Catchers manages to breathe some new life into its art style, thanks to excellent use of color and light effects. The game’s character designs are simplistic, yet imbued with personality -which can partially be attributed to the fantastic writing as well, of course- and the environments feature some of the best sprite work we’ve seen in recent years.

Sound

There is a surprising amount of depth to Summer Catchers’ soundscape. While there is no true voice acting, character dialogue is underscored by gibberish and muttering sounds, which add a layer of emotion to the character’s responses. Chu herself is especially endearing thanks to the sounds that she emits. Add a fantastically catchy soundtrack that really encapsulates the relaxing atmosphere that the game embraces and you’re looking at a winner when it comes to sound design.

Gameplay

With Summer Catchers, developer FaceIT takes the classic endless runner formula and adds a few twists to it, with mixed results. The meat of the gameplay is in the action-driven endless runner sections (although endless driver is a more apt description). These alternate with narrative-driven gameplay that feels somewhat like a 2D RPG or visual novel. While there is a clear distinction in gameplay between either section, they are still very much interwoven, both from a story perspective as well as strategically, as you’ll earn rewards in the story sections that will boost your performance in the driving sections.

The driving sections see you take control of your wooden car as you make your way through procedurally generated obstacle courses. In typical endless runner style, your car will continue to keep going as long as possible, and it is up to you to avoid obstacles in order to move as far as possible. Unlike most games in the genre, there is no score to keep track of, and your goal is to just make it to the next area so that you can continue the story. Obstacles come in a variety of shapes and sizes and in order to overcome them, you’ll have to use the right tools, such as rocket boosters to increase your speed, bumpers to clear the road or jumpers to hop over obstacles. There are of course also tools to deal with the enemies (and even bosses) that populate some of the courses.

The tools are consumable and come in card form. You’ll need to build a deck with which to clear the course you embark on, with up to three cards on-screen at any given time. Tapping a card activates it, and uses its ability. The deck-building mechanic offers a unique element to Summer Catchers. It’s also the most frustrating thing about the game, as you can’t really strategize given that the levels are randomly generated. There will be instances where you run out of the right cards to clear a course or where you’ll encounter an obstacle that you just don’t have the right cards for. It’s a good idea in theory, but the execution leaves a lot to be desired. We also recommend using the touch screen here, as tapping on-screen cards allowed for much quicker responses to the obstacles rather than selecting them with buttons. Selecting cards with the buttons can be a chore as you’ll need to select the card with your analog stick, then press to use it, something that can really throw a wrench in your run as it takes a fraction of a second longer and timing is key in this game. There is no limit to the number of cards your deck can hold, and this has both upsides and downsides. The upside of having more cards is that you won’t run out of powerups during a run, but the downside is that you might not always be able to quickly select the right tool to make it past an obstacle.

Cards are bought in the game’s narrative-driven sections, and are purchased using mushrooms that you pick up during your runs. The narrative sections are where Summer Catchers really shines. The game’s humorous dialogue in these sections is endearing, genuinely funny and probably the biggest reason to pick the game up. In these sections, Chu has to interact with a fantastically quirky cast and perform small jobs for the characters she encounters, such as feeding deer. Helping out characters will of course reap Chu a variety of rewards, with the most interesting earnable upgrade being pets that will aid you on the courses.

The story sections are the main driving force behind Summer Catchers, and thankfully, they are good enough to make this a game worth playing as there is very little incentive to return to the driving sections. The game really fails to strike the right balance of difficulty in these. RNG may screw you over, but you’re never penalized and can easily start over, if only to pick up some additional mushrooms to buy new cards. The driving sections often feel like a game of luck rather than skill as a result, and will probably not satisfy those looking for a balanced endless runner.

Conclusion

All in all, there is a lot to love about what Summer Catchers sets out to do. The character interactions are genuinely endearing, the sprite work is fantastic and the soundtrack is the icing on the cake. It’s a shame that the core gameplay experience is so poorly balanced, but everything else present here is so good that it’s still a title worth picking up if you’re looking for a cute and relaxing game. If you have concerns about the gameplay issues, then you should still give the game’s free demo a try, if only to experience just how charming Chu’s adventure can be.

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Rating: 8.0/10 (1 vote cast)
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Summer Catchers (Switch) - Review, 8.0 out of 10 based on 1 rating
SebastiaanRaats


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