Cookie Cutter Review (PS5)
Don’t worry, this won’t hurt…much.
Publisher: Rogue Games, Inc.
Cookie Cutter starts with a narration from Shinji Fallon. She uses this time not only to give us an introduction to this world’s lore, the tyranny and lies the family in power are guilty to, as well as her own and what she was doing before everything turned upside down. It seems like this game takes place on a strange mechanical planet that formed around an energy sphere known as VOID. It came to be known as the Megastructure. Many ventured into it to discover the secrets it held, but many failed and died in their pursuit to satisfy their curiosity. That is, until Viktor Garbanzos and his Infonet corporation explored and came out with incredible knowledge and something immeasurably powerful that he grabbed from the heart of the Megastructure. He used that to leverage him, his family, and Infonet into power all while making the general public think all they were doing was for them. It turns out that the Megastructure held technology and the needed resources to put people’s souls into robots known as Denzels in the guise of letting them escape death if they’re deemed worthy. However, what they don’t know is that becoming a Denzel isn’t blissful as they become slaves that do what their owners command. The Garbonzos family and Infonet are still in power and while human and robot citizens work tirelessly, they sit pretty on the surface in their Golden Tower.
This is when Shinji comes in. She was actually an engineer that worked at Infonet and was privy to this information. For whatever reason, Shinji was done sitting back letting Infonet get away with their lies and crimes. Instead of joining the rebels who are slowly being picked off by Infonet’s army, Shinji took another route that only someone like her could. Taking them out from the inside. She decided to make her own Denzel, one that Infonet couldn’t control, named Cherry. Though, Shinji got sidetracked as she fell in love with Cherry and Cherry fell in love with her creator. However, the short blissful time they had were abruptly crushed (literally) when Infonet came. Salem Garbanzos, the current Infonet President, came personally to have Cherry destroyed and to take Shinji. Luckily, Cherry is tougher than she looks and Raz, Shinji’s friend, was able to fix her. Raz was able to fix Cherry up so she’s battle ready, but her memory system was damaged, causing a lot of memories were lost as well as what her primary function is. Don’t worry though, as Cherry won’t be venturing into the Megastructure alone as another robot, named Regina, is attached to her. She’s exactly where you think she is and she acts as a guide and as a friend.
While the story never really goes past Cherry getting her revenge, you do get to learn some more about the history of the Megastructure and the people that live here and those that came before through the various terminals sprinkled throughout each area. You’ll also be able to talk to various characters, read Shinji’s logs once Raz decodes them (aka after each boss), and even look into a few of Cherry’s memories. Honestly, I didn’t mind that the story never strayed too far from the revenge plot. I did find the lore interesting and it would have been nice to learn more, but the revenge plot was enough for me to be invested. Probably because I mainly came for the gameplay.
Exploring the Megastructure was crafted pretty well here in Cookie Cutter. Each area, while having the same, mechanical looking core, each have their own unique look to set them apart. Areas are designed as you’d expect in a metroidvania as areas feel like labyrinths as your going through, but also having shortcuts you can open up within the same area so you can quickly pass through the next time your here or as another entrance to a different neighboring area. Checkpoints are also expertly scattered around so you won’t be too far from a respawn point. Denzel Stations, which act as teleporters and a place to edit Cherry’s Components, are sparsely placed in contrast. Denzel Stations need to encompass a wide enough area for when you go back to grab anything you missed and I feel the majority does a great job. Cookie Cutter also does a good job at teasing you with areas in a map you can’t yet access as it requires an ability or weapon you don’t have yet; which you remember once you’re finally able to. The map does a good job with map icons, but I do wish it did mark areas blocked by a closed door or gate you need to unlock from the other side. There were a lot of times where I looked at the map, wonder why I didn’t go down a hallway, and discover it was a closed door I can’t get to the other side yet.
As you explore, you’ll encounter a lot of trap rooms which locks you in until you defeat all of the enemies. Some are pretty hard, but you do get a reward at the end. There are also platforming challenge rooms and some puzzle(-ish) rooms that can be quite challenging. And of course, there are hidden little spots in each area’s map either hidden by a breakable wall or a cleverly hidden hole that only a keen eye can spot. Exploring every nook and cranny will grant you chests. Yellow chests give BITS and blue chests give materials, but the most important ones are the red chests as they give Components or Energy Cells. Though, a good handful does give materials which was a big bummer every time it happened and I feel was a bad mistake. I think these are the rarer drops, but still it was a big disappointment as your conditioned to expect either a Component or an Energy Cell.
Of course, Cherry does get upgraded through various means as you progress through the game. I thought whether to put this before or after talking about combat, but I thought it would be best to put it here. Aside from finding or being gifted new weapons and abilities that help you explore the Megastructure, like a double jump and a dash, there are also Components and Energy Cells that are quite important. Components are basically upgrades you can install in Cherry that enhances her in some way; like giving her an extra jump, increase enemy drops, or increasing her damage. However, you need enough Energy to equip them. Cherry starts out with a measly 2 Energy, but you can find Energy Cells as you explore to increase it. You won’t be able to equip them all, but
You can then also upgrade weapons and certain Components by going to Raz or a NPC you helped with the needed BITS (the currency here) and material that drops from enemies. For weapons, it makes them stronger and adds more moves (like an uppercut) while for Components it makes them more effective without raising its Energy cost. For example, one Component starts out with adding 25 health to Cherry, but fully upgraded it adds 100 health.
Now onto the combat which you’ll do a lot of as you’re exploring the Megastructure. Fighting as Cherry feels great and responsive, which is great considering how fast paces this game is. Cherry has her basic quick attack, which she can combo, where she uses her fists and feet to beat any Denzel or mutant that dare attack you with fast combos. You also have a heavy attack which brings in a weapon that hits hard, but will consume VOID. There are 5 weapons and they all do have a different feel to them. My favorite has to the Nitro Bunny motorcycle which you have to work for, but is worth it. There are also abilities that consume VOID as well, which are used both for traversal (don’t worry, the game placed VOID spheres that respawn for those occasions) and combat. Some weapons also have a secondary purpose of clearing away blockages as well. Don’t worry though, as you gain VOID when attacking enemies and when they die along with BITS. Once an enemy has critical health, they’ll also be stunned for a moment where you can do a cool, brutal finisher which will net you more VOID and health than normal. At first, you’ll be limited by the few movesets you start out with, but as you get further into the game and unlock more, Cherry is absolutely brutal towards her enemies and the already fun combat gets even better.
When its attacks coming at you, you can either dodge out of the way or parry their attack which can absolutely be OP if you master it. Each enemy has GRIT which basically tells you how many parries they can take before they get stunned and open to a finisher despite barely or not even taking damage. There are some attacks that can’t be parried, but a lot of attacks are. Generally, there are enemies that attack without a windup and those who do. You just need to learn the timing for both. I found that you need to parry right as the flash and sound cue comes in for quick attacks and wait just a hair after before parrying for those that does a windup. Granted, though, I never parried if it was a group of enemies. Enemies often attack more or less at the same time and I just didn’t want to risk it. You do get a short window of invincibility for your parry and the finisher though, which I took advantage of if I was up against two or three enemies.
Cherry can also heal herself, which is helpful in a game with no health pickups outside of finishers. Healing does take up VOID though, so not only will you have to strategically find a time to heal (if you’re in mid-combat), but think about how much to heal so you feel comfortable while still having VOID left to do your heavy attack. You do get a free heal when you teleport though, so use that knowledge to your advantage.
I have heard that the parry was inconsistent when Cookie Cutter first came out, but the game has since been patched to fix it. I didn’t play the game until after the patch, so I can’t say how it used to be, but I can say that it now does feel consistent the majority of the time. The final boss only gave me the feeling of parry inconsistency. It took me a while to get the hang of parrying and it didn’t take me long to not only get it, but also being able to parry new enemies. And I’m someone that stinks at parrying.
Parrying is amazing for bosses though. For bosses, you can either defeat them the old fashion way by whittling their health down or defeat them with style by parrying them. Bosses are quick, so you’d have a hard time finding a moment to heal, and hit hard. Sure, you can learn their attack patterns, but you can try to parry their attacks. The GRIT bosses have do increase as you get further in, but if you stun them your finisher will kill them even if they were on full health. Letting you completely pass over the fight and having to learn their second phase where they get faster and add in a new attack or two. And let me tell you, it felt amazing when I parried a boss to death.
Combat can get a bit messy, but I found it was easy to keep an eye on where Cherry was. There were only a couple times I lost sight of Cherry, which were in the more chaotic trap rooms like the few that spawns in a lot of enemies that attack you immediately and the one with a bunch of trampolines.
Aside from the normal annoyance that really only stems from needing to learn a boss’ moveset or trying to get through a tough platforming challenge room, there were a few annoyances I had. There were a good handful of enemies that were manageable alone or in a small group, but difficult when they were in a big group of enemies. They usually were fast attacking enemies and the enemies that have a combo attack as enemies usually will attack at the same time (or close to) and you will get hit with each hit in an enemy combo as it ignores your invincibility. I’m not sure if you can parry the second or third attack in a combo, but I know I never could as well. Enemies that had long ranged attacks also became annoying, especially when there were multiple enemies that had quick, multiple projectiles as its attack. This was mainly annoying in rooms that have you platforming and especially the rooms with the insta-death red spikes. If you get hit in mid-air or over a trampoline, Cherry will be stunned until either you hit the ground or after a certain amount of time. It also doesn’t help that an enemy type has projectiles that go through walls.
Performance for Cookie Cutter on the PS5 is great. It only stuttered when it was saving and when a bunch of enemies were spawned in, but it never caused me to be hit. Though, I did get some glitches. One of the blockage icons didn’t disappear when I destroyed it. There were a handful of times where I was put into a totally different room, whether it was clipping me there when I walked through the door or when I respawned (once it was behind a locked door and I had to restart and lose some of my progress). There was also one time I had to totally restart due to being stuck on the map, which was also due to a weird respawn) and when a door just wouldn’t let me through in the last area. Luckily, I didn’t have to redo too much, so it was a momentary annoyance before I got back to having fun.
To finish it all off, I really liked the artwork and the music this game had. Everything looks great, from the backgrounds to the various enemies, with only a couple things looking weird. I’m sure it also helps that I liked how Cherry looked (and honestly kind of reminds me of Studio Killers’ Cherry). Her hair still bothers me, but she honestly looks cute in the diner outfit. I love how girly her outfit is, especially as someone that always dresses her characters in the cutest outfits even if it means it’s not as powerful as other, ugly, clothing/armor. Her underwear does show a lot with this outfit, but it’s honestly not noticeable as you’re playing (and even then, the camera is rarely close enough to see). Cherry simultaneously looks soft and tough at the same time, which probably was the intention. I have to also mention how great Cookie Cutter is animated, especially the brutal finishers. While enemy variety is the usual “same enemy but different color and bigger”, with a few area specific enemy outliers, they all do have different finishers. The music was good as well, being calm as you explore (with some added ambience the area had) or at the Hidden Diner and ramping into rock music as you’re in a fight. And I swear the battle music ramps up as you kill more enemies in the trap rooms.
I really wished Cookie Cutter had more voice acting as well. I loved the small bit we got in the beginning and I was really hoping we’d at least get voice acting during important scenes (which, sadly, didn’t happen). I loved the voice acting Regina had and I surely missed the weird, unique way she talked.
It’s always a great moment when you feel you’d love a game just based on its trailer and, once you finally play it, you ended up loving it just like you thought. Even more so when you end up loving it more than you thought you would. This was definitely the case for me with Cookie Cutter. There are still some bugs and the cliffhanger ending is disappointing, but the game is so fun. It plays as great as it looks, which is a huge plus, the parrying feels consistent the majority of the time, I loved how brutal it was, and I liked reading up on the logs that gave you a window into this game’s world. The difficulty was also just right as it was difficult enough to give you trouble, but not too much that you get stuck for more than 30 minutes. All in all, I definitely recommend Cookie Cutter. I had so much fun playing Cookie Cutter, so much so I 100%’d the game, and I’m really glad I played it.
I do hope we get a Cookie Cutter 2, both to finish out Cherry’s story and to get more of this combat. Thinking more into it, it does feel like there’s enough for a sequel to delve into, especially since it looks like it’ll focus on what was only hinted at in this game based on the teaser.