Tri-Heart Interactive’s latest release The Otterman Empire is a third-person shooter that takes place in “otter space.” No, that’s not a typo. In this game you take control of a variety of space otters in the fight against Tiko: an evil scientist who’s only dialogue is robotic laughter. After hearing it just a few times, you’ll have no qualms in destroying not only his ships but his entire army. The Otterman Empire for Nintendo Switch has a couple of redeeming qualities; however, it ultimately fails to deliver a unique and polished product.
Players start The Otterman Empire with one playable character, Astrid, and the default skin. There are an additional 7 characters which you will unlock as you progress through the worlds. Every character has a unique weapon, ranging from pistols to rocket launchers, and a special ability that you can use to complete your objective. Throughout the game, you will also randomly unlock cosmetics for each item on your character. While you’re shooting down droids, tanks, and turrets, you can also fly around the maps with your jetpack. You are limited on ammo and fuel, but both can be replenished by diving into a nearby body of water.
Playing The Otterman Empire on my Nintendo Switch, the gunplay and mobility felt incredibly clunky. Specifically, I found aiming accurately to be quite difficult. Oftentimes, I would place my crosshairs on the screen and just move my character to get my enemies in place. This made shooting anything in the air feel almost impossible. The other movement controls also needed some polishing.
The jetpack is a cool idea, but I found a simple press of the jump button is likely to send you lower or higher than you wanted. There is also a dodge option while flying that quickly shoots you in whatever direction you’re facing. This was another cool idea that fell short, as you have little control of where you actually end up. Combine both of these faults with near-constantly-respawning enemies and you get gameplay that feels unfinished and unsatisfying.
Just from The Otterman Empire start screen, I could tell something was off. The game replaced the A button with the B button for normal actions. Traditionally the A button is your action/interact/progression input, whereas B is used for backing/exiting in terms of menu navigation. While it’s a small change, imagine kicking or throwing a ball with your left hand all your life, and now you must kick it with your right. It feels awkward and throws you off your game.
You start off The Otterman Empire in a tutorial level, where the game guides you through the basic mechanics of the game and then gives you a space to utilize everything you just learned. I thought this approach to teaching the player was quite helpful and more enjoyable than a target practice/move here tutorial. Kudos to you Tri-Heart Interactive.
Once you have completed The Otterman Empire tutorial, there are two game modes to choose from Campaign (Solo or Co-op) and Versus (Co-op). Out of these, I was only able to play the solo campaign. For whatever reason, the game would not allow me to play versus or to add an additional player, regardless of how many controllers I had connected.
The campaign tracks you through 8 different worlds where you face Tiko. Each world has 3 levels and every level a ranking system out of 3 stars. The levels average about 5 minutes to beat. While the beginner levels are not difficult, they rapidly become difficult, as the objectives are both hard to understand and to execute. The result is it’s not a very rewarding system. One improvement might be to give players a clear idea of what they are unlocking with each level in terms of cosmetics and characters.
The Otterman Empire’s visuals look to be inspired by Fortnite and Splatoon, but without the attention to detail. The level designs are visually engaging but functionally confusing. I lost track of how many times I got turned around during a challenge. It’s clear that the designers had a vision for how the game would look and feel; however, I don’t think it was fully realized. The sound effects of everything are a little lacklustre. Often, I wasn’t sure what enemy was shooting me because most of them sound similar. The audio for the player weapons and abilities are ok, but nothing special.
The Otterman Empire overall thoughts
It’s clear that the developers put a lot of work into creating this game. That being said, the game feels rushed and incomplete. Tri-Heart Interactive might have been a little ambitious in this instalment, but I do hope to see some fundamental improvements. With smoother gameplay, accessibility, and a clearer objective, The Otterman Empire could be hard to put down.
I was fortunate enough to get to play this title too, and I found myself in a similar boat. I really wanted to like it, and the idea was there, but it’s like a jigsaw that doesn’t fit together too well and you’re trying to force pieces into the wrong places. I felt at times gameplay was a little jagged, and although Dillon liked the tutorial, it left me confused, especially when it teaches you to roll. This is because you see an image in front of you performing the action, but when you go to do it yourself, it’s completely different. Almost like it’s an attack as you destroy the same thing you’re told to jump through.
I also think the temp of the game is so quick, you never really get to grips with what you’re doing. I mean, I like a game with a challenge and that has a good pace to it so you can play multiple games quickly, but this almost takes it too far. Especially when, as Dillon said, objectives aren’t always clear. Still, I think with some polishing up, maybe with a couple of updates somewhere down the line, this game could well and truly be the game Tri-Heart Interactive envisioned. It’s just not quite there yet.