Cookie Cutter Review – Don’t Sugar Coat It

Sometimes blood and guts can come off as “hardcore / metal,” and sometimes it can just come off as gross. Cookie Cutter, by Subcult Joint, rides the fine line between the two. Cookie Cutter is an intense Metroidvania platformer where you kick and punch your way through baddies as you try to save your partner from the evil forces that be. Find the right upgrades and navigate your way to bloody victory.

In terms of writing and story, there’s not much going on in Cookie Cutter. The game tries to create a gory and punk rock atmosphere and personality, but the punchiness of the dialog doesn’t hit hard enough. The dialog is both over explained and under explained. A corporation found a way to keep human souls alive in robot bodies, but turns out the corporation can control the robots and force people to work to their will. You play as one of those robots, but somehow you’re special, as it was a genius scientist that created you… then fell in love with you. The big wigs found out, however, and took her away, leaving you as a scrap. With a pretty solid opening sequence with some great art stills to back it up, I was pumped to knock some teeth in. Progressing through the levels, though, the story shrivels and dies in the corner. What are all these monsters and other creatures? If this is supposed to be the future, what caused all these things to appear, and where are all the humans? The only grasp you have on your environment are periodic terminals scattered around, but even those don’t give much depth to the world around you.

cookie cutter 1
Trust me, talking private parts, it’s not a phase

While on the topic of monsters and baddies, let’s talk about their design. Cookie Cutter’s gameplay is meant to be brutal, with blood squishing out of every punch. Some enemies, like the robot humans known as Denzels, are this interesting mix of bolts and guts, same your character, Cherry. Other enemies are even more outlandish, which fits the wacky scenery, but attacking them becomes a chore. There is a parrying system that is encouraged to be used to break enemy attacks, but defending yourself almost never lands (recent updates from the developer says they’re working on it, so the parrying may be improved). Perhaps the hit box on the enemies is messy behind the scenes. Enemy attacks strangely hurt from a far distance, making them impossible to avoid at times. The rate in which enemies attack happen rapidly and repetitively, with all enemies able to lock in your location as soon as they become visible on the screen. The player isn’t given much of a chance as they hop into a new room to gather their bearings, and I’ve been slaughtered on occasion by poor enemy RNG. Enemies are poorly balanced in Cookie Cutter. Even after upgrading Cherry’s attack power multiple times, the enemies take a lot of punches before they’re killed, but it only takes you a couple of slaps before you’re splattered on the ground. While the healing system is nice to have right at the beginning of the game, I’m not sure if it makes up for the poor enemy design.

The world in Cookie Cutter is big. You will find yourself bouncing through a dozen rooms every few minutes, and you’ll still be only exploring a mere corner of one of the areas. While the largeness is impressive, it makes me wonder what the game would be like if the world was scaled down a little. Many rooms are haphazardly filled with enemies, and there isn’t much pacing and build up to bosses. If the world was less sprawled out, there could be more focus on creating each location with a sense of place within the game’s story.

cookie cutter 2
Who was the Lost Guardian? Where did they come from? And what were they guarding?

Sliding into the art side of Cookie Cutter, while gutsy animations are cool and overall the art is pretty solid and polished, there is no sense of Cherry’s story with what’s happening in the world. As mentioned earlier, nothing is telling us what all these creatures are. Were they humans? Environmental storytelling is severely lacking in the game, especially when the cutscenes and dialog art are so good. The characters in the world are also not scaled proportionally, as their outlines become thin and start to flicker when the camera is zoomed out. The world characters also sit “on top” of the background, and don’t match what’s happening in the world. It would be more preferable if there was a sense of depth to the levels, with scenery in the foreground as well as the background.

The audio in Cookie Cutter can be a bit rough at times. Some obstacles, like electrified beams, are louder in the audio mix than other objects, and if there are multiples of that object in the vicinity their volume is multiplied. There needs to be a check to the proximity of where the player is at in the world and how many sounds are triggered at the same time so there isn’t a cacophony of sounds happening. The voice overs in the beginning of the game were a nice touch, but if you can’t have it happen throughout the entire game, just have a procedural blipping/typing noise when someone is talking, instead awkward silence.

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Some engineer intern had too much fun installing all the death blades. Will have to contact OSHA about this

In summary: solid art with minor flaws; interesting world and punk attitude, but needs work in tying in the characters and setting. Gameplay needs to be tightened up more, with better balance against enemies, though still fun to splatter baddies at times. Audio needs to be better mixed and include music that isn’t a repetitive drone.

Jordan played Cookie Cutter on PC with a review key.

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