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Review: The Sundew (Nintendo Switch)

As a dystopian point-and-click title by a one-woman team, The Sundew delivers a story that will stay with me. It does a lot of things right, but there are a few areas that could use more attention. It’s a good game whose growing pains will hopefully lead to a great sequel.

And I hope there is a sequel because The Sundew feels, in a way, like the opening chapter of a bigger story. You play Anna, a cyborg police officer in Japan, over 30 years in the future. “What starts out as a normal day quickly becomes something else and soon a lonely policewoman will hold the fate of the world in her hands.” What can I say, the description on the Nintendo site describes it as best as I could .

Anna is a capable main character surrounded by diverse and fascinating characters who are always beneficial to games like this one. They make the areas you visit on your detective hunt interesting, if not necessarily on repeat visits. While there isn’t always a lot to interact with, there is a lot to click and watch.

You start in a small area (Anna’s apartment) before moving on to larger locations. The retro pixel visuals create diversity without anything looking out of place. I especially enjoy the couple of times the game zooms in for a closer perspective. The “dark” nature of the game does not extend to the arts, insofar as I never tried to see myself due to the lack of lighting. Some objects in certain areas are small, but that goes without saying in this genre. The sundew never really stumbles into a pixel hunting situation.

Despite all the good words I’ve written, The Sundew falls flat on the face with faulty audio, or shouldn’t be. With one brief exception, there is no talk, which would undoubtedly have benefited the game. I’ve longed for it, especially with less expensive genre entries that achieve that goal. The lack of music is even worse. The music I heard was good (albeit soft), but the game certainly needs more cool melodies. It promises to be “impressive sound design,” but The Sundew’s less-is-more approach didn’t deliver!

The puzzles are mixed, but mostly good. Occasionally the game is burdened by a peculiar rhythm and flow. I think it comes from the objective list that gives an impression of freedom. However, a trigger system requires things to be done in a specific order. Fair enough, I suppose, and I appreciate the point of reference. But it can make a few puzzle completions unsatisfactory and probably require a little more thought.

For example, Anna once said that she had to go to the toilet. But when I went to the bathroom, I found it locked. It wasn’t until I returned to police headquarters and got a bottle that I had missed that the booth suddenly opened. With no context in the game to warrant it, it just seems strange and a bit inexperienced. Closer to Sierra Entertainment of the 80s than LucasArts of the 90s.

The sundew took about five hours to finish at a very relaxed pace, played alongside my wife and got stuck twice. But there are extras that you can find on your travels. And multiple endings give this game a degree of replayability that the genre is not known for. I like it.

While part of the puzzle flow can be hit-or-miss, The Sundew offers a fun graphic adventure. While I hate it when the sound design misses the mark so badly, genre fans should enjoy clicking their way through the surprises of this story.

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