I can’t fault Tri-Heart for their ambition; the multiplayer scene is pretty packed right now with some top tier level games sucking up most of the oxygen. There’s always room for that next surprise hit though, and The Otterman Empire seems to feel confident in broaching that area; at least based on its achievement list. From requiring players to hold a key objective in a round for an hour total for one character, to hoping people will play it for over 100 hours, Tri-Heart are clearly confident in their creation. There’s potential here certainly, but sadly I’m not sure even truly dedicated players will reach many of these milestones laid out.
Multiplayer is the main draw here, and is definitely the best way to play the game. Up to four players can battle it out across a handful of arenas in both deathmatch or objective based game modes. If you choose to add an objective to a round, it falls to a bit of a confusing screen, where each player picks 3 modes, with the final playlist determined by an average of those picked. This seems like an unnecessary step in what is a solely offline, local party affair, and isn’t clearly explained.
Either way, character selection is next and again, there’s a distinct lack of easily parse-able information going on. Each character has their own weapon and special ability, but it’s unclear what they do until we get in game. Perhaps this is to encourage players to experiment but even just a brief description outside of the name of the weapon/move would have been a nice add; especially when there’s so much screen left unfilled. I do like the character designs though, each offering up something unique and fun looking. Bubbles emerged as a clear favourite of mine, thanks not only to their weapon set but also – it’s a fish, in a bowl, on top of a rocket-powered robot! There are extra costumes and the like available to unlock via the campaign mode too, though these seemed to be dished out with no real clear reasoning. No microtransaction store though, so yay!
Once in game, I can’t see The Otterman Empire becoming much more than a short lived filler title 0okunfortunately. The action is fun to a degree, in the way almost any game played with friends can be, but lacks any real atmosphere or long term engagement. The shooting itself isn’t all that rewarding, feeling quite loose and inaccurate. Shots that do huge damage don’t look or feel any different to those that don’t and it’s all too easy to abruptly die from unseen attacks. Movement feels a little stilted, even with a jet pack that allows us a decent amount of time to fly around the arenas and a dodge that sees us cover a fair amount of ground quickly.
Both weapon and jet pack are governed by meters that drain as used, and are refilled by diving under the water of one of the streams dotted around the levels. Some stages feel a bit under-served here though, with not enough streams resulting in players congregating around the same areas. It’s also a bit fiddly, with our characters getting stuck on small pieces of scenery while running, or simply not diving under without multiple button presses.
Objectives feel equally underwhelming too, and even a little confusing when first starting out. Icons dot the screen to show us what to aim for, but outside of a quick blurb before a round starts it’s not overly clear what it is we need to do. Some are simple enough admittedly, being a single icon at a time, but others require a couple of steps; collecting the correct type of battery, that also then needs charging before putting into the receptacle, for example. There’s a lack of feedback dictating what battery you’ve got, whether it’s charged, and whether or not it’s in the right holder. I’m sure over time this would become less of an issue, but as I said, I can’t imagine too many players sticking around long enough to find out.
A solo or co-op campaign rounds out the package, acting as more of a tutorial than anything, though there is a brief tale told to set things up. Again, the presentation of this is instantly forgettable and adds very little to the overall experience. Stages take the form of objective based rounds, with a very mobile title-style 3 star reward system, used to unlock further stages. Tri-Heart seemingly set the bar for progression high – we pretty much need to 3-star everything to proceed – but in reality it’s probably harder not to get all 3. Despite endlessly respawning, annoying AI enemies, there’s no penalty for death, so it becomes a battle of attrition to simply grind out the required points from completing objectives to win. Often, I found I had all 3 stars with minutes left on the clock, defeating the purpose of playing any further until the rounds end. It is more bearable in co-op – again, as most things are – but it loses any appeal quickly, outside of any desire you might have to unlock more skins for characters.
I came away from my time with The Otterman Empire feeling very little at all. Despite some good looking character designs and multiplayer ideas, there’s a distinct lack of atmosphere or excitement to the whole affair. Vague, tricky to decipher mode mechanics lead to confusing opening rounds, the shooting feels inaccurate and unresponsive and despite the dev’s best intentions, I just don’t feel it’ll be sticking around many people’s gaming night playlists for very long.
This game was reviewed based on Xbox One review code, using an Xbox One console. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.