Lil Gator Game is the latest release from publisher Playtonic Friends, who have published some really amazing indie games (Demon Turf and Blossom Tales 2, to name a couple). It says a lot about the work of developer MegaWobble, that this might just be the best game they’ve brought out yet.
To describe Lil Gator Game in a nutshell: it’s like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild meets Animal Crossing – a combination that makes it one of the best indie games I’ve ever played. On the one hand, Lil Gator dresses up like Link and explores an open world using items and mechanics that are very similar to BotW: you have a glider you can use when jumping from ledges, you have a stamina bar that goes down as you climb walls, you have a sword for smashing pots and wooden enemies, and you have a shield that you use like a sled (along with a bunch of other fun items).
On the other hand, your biggest objective is to make friends with a cast of quirky characters who are like more fleshed-out Animal Crossing villagers – each has their own distinct personality. You have to run errands for them in order to win them over (or complete ‘quests’ that they’ve created for you) and these might be finding a lost item, catching a bug, or one of countless other objectives. When you’ve made friends with them, they come and hang out in a base that you’re building and expanding over time.
The game’s story is also a high point. Lil Gator remembers the days when they would go out on ‘quests’ with their Big Sis, which she set up to be just like the adventures in their favourite video game (which is Zelda without being Zelda). Sadly for Lil Gator, as their sister got older and went to university, she had less time for playing games with them, so Lil Gator endeavours to get as many new friends involved in a big game as possible, in the hopes of winning her over.
I’m not going to spoil anything, but I really enjoyed the climax of the story. Not only was it so deeply moving that it brought tears to my eyes, but it was also filled with a number of little Zelda references that actually served to heighten the emotions. It’s a nostalgic story about moving on from your childhood, and it’ll be that much more impactful for anybody that actually had Zelda as part of their childhood – but don’t let that deter you if you’ve never played before.
One of the best things that can be said about Lil Gator Game is the fact that it’s just plain fun to exist in its world. You can just have fun turning on ragdoll physics and watching Lil Gator flop around, or you can go surfing on your shield, or try and climb up to high seemingly inaccessible places. Lil Gator controls so well and with so much freedom about what you do, you can easily pass a lot of time just experimenting and messing around.
The game’s only real ‘flaw’ to speak of is its length – I was able to do absolutely everything in five to six hours. That time was absolute bliss, but I wish it hadn’t come to an end so soon. This might be disappointing for some players, but aside from extra time you can get by just mucking about in its open world, it’s something you’ll probably want to replay in future. I reckon I’ll be playing through every year. It definitely has a lot of replayability.
All in all, this is a new favourite of mine. A beautiful game with a wonderfully wholesome ethos that’s as fun as it is moving. The gameplay is nicely varied, there’s nice representation with non-binary and disabled characters, and there’s a level of sincerity throughout that makes it all the more lovable.
Taking many of the best elements from both Animal Crossing and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Lil Gator Game tells a beautiful story and provides countless enjoyable experiences along the way. This is easily the most wholesome game of the year, if not the decade.