The “Megastructure” – a massive, dystopian world ruled over by INFONET. They promised the world a utopia; they promised immortality and tireless android servants, Denzils, to build a utopia. Of course, it was all lies and now a unique Denzel, Cherry, has paid the price. After being horribly brutalised by INFONET when they kidnapped her creator and lover – Dr. Shinji Fallon – Cherry is given a new lease on life thanks to mechanic Raz. Brought back from the brink of cybernetic death, Cookie Cutter begins in earnest as Cherry sets out to get her girlfriend back and murderise anyone or anything that gets in her way.
Rage and love go hand in hand in Subcult Joints’ Cookie Cutter – a gory, violent story of love and revenge set to the backdrop of a massive dystopian Metroidvania. Part cyberpunk adventure, part splatterfest, and full on platformer, Cookie Cutter drops into the stratospheric depths of the Megastructure with enough charm and addictive design to make it a standout in a crowded genre.
That said, Cookie Cutter doesn’t try to reinvent the basic Metroidvania formula, and there’s no need to as it’s a template that still stands the test of time. Instead, it plunges into the design philosophy with some addictive platforming gameplay that throws quite a few enemies at you, along with massive environments and plenty of environmental hazards to keep you on your toes.
Labyrinthine design coupled with unreachable areas until you gain a new skill is the order of the day. Secret rooms hide behind cracked walls, electricity arcs along the floor and giant saws line the walls. In short, it’s just your average Tuesday for Metroidvania fans.
Cookie Cutter does bring its own flavour to the party though, with plenty of irreverent dialogue and a narrative that is easy to grasp, with your next objective always in plain sight. Hidden across the world are plenty of Easter Eggs to other famous games, whether in the form of a poster or an item in the background. Cookie Cutter celebrates the games that came before, and inspired it, while still making excellent use of their mechanics.
The game also adds its own flavour to the combat and how you interact with enemies. Combat is violent, fast and brutal – flowing between been a hack-and-slash game and a 2D beat-em-up. Cherry has basic, though weak attacks that can be augmented with power-ups and a variety of other, over the top secondary weapons, ranging from a Stratocaster guitar to a chainsaw to a motorcycle. The visual flavour of these attacks is complimented but how they work in combat, providing plenty of options to eviscerate anything in your path. Secondary weapons and Cherry’s self-healing ability are powered by “void” – little orbs that you gain from beating the snot out of enemies.
The combat rythym involves stringing together combos that mix your standard punches and kicks, special abilities, and secondary weapons – weapons that aren’t just more powerful but also capable of interrupting enemy attacks at the right moment. You can catch enemies in juggles, exploit the environment to your advantage by knocking them into environmental hazards, and perform brutal finishers on them reminiscent of DOOM’s (2016) “glory kills” that drop more void and health orbs.
Cookie Cutter loves to lock you in challenge rooms and throw a wide variety of enemies at you at once. These start of simple but quickly become more complicated as they make use of moving pillars, jump pads, environmental hazards, and enemies that chuck various combos at you. It’s not uncommon to get overwhelmed here and even Cherry’s simple back-dash and dodge-roll not likely to save you.
This is also where Cookie Cutter‘s most important combat ability comes into play: the parry. Each enemy has their own parry tell and, if you do execute one, it leaves them staggered and open to a finisher, which also deals splash damage when executed, helping to stagger more enemies or give you valuable breathing room. Learning to parry and mastering it is essential if you want to survive the Megastructure, because while you can self-heal, it’s still a slow ability and difficult to pull off in combat – even when upgraded. Parrying thus becomes essential to surviving fights, whether against singe enemies or mobs, if only for those sweet health pick-ups.
If, like me, you suck at parrying, Cookie Cutter can become very challenging in later sections. Thankfully, Cherry’s arsenal of moves and weapons does help to keep you alive if you play smartly, even it’s not as efficient as parrying your way to success. Short of bosses, who can also be parried but not staggered, it’s worth trying to parry just about every enemy.
And those finishers? Well, they’re satisfyingly cathartic to watch and execute, as Cherry employs some seriously over-the-top moves worthy of a Mortal Kombat game. Most of the gore, including Cherry’s violent deaths, happens at a pretty quick pace though, probably to keep the momentum and adrenaline flowing forward. That they’re so beautifully animated is a bonus.
Which brings us to Cookie Cutters‘ hand drawn visuals and animation. It’s safe to say that this year alone, the quality and visual pizazz of 2D game art has really gone through the roof. Cookie Cutter is no exception.
It boasts some truly stunning 2D visual in its backdrop and world design, creating a dystopian future of a corroded world full of enemies, garbage, and neon signs. The sense of scale is wonderfully handled through the games backdrops, whether you’re running through a Denzel factory or looking at massive towers disappearing into the distance of a cityscape. Character design and animation benefit from the same level of fidelity. From the way Cherry moves, to the various enemy attacks, and the electricity arcing along walls, Cookie Cutter is a gorgeously violent visual experience.
Wrappig up, Cookie Cutter pairs a interesting story and setting with traditional Metroidvania and platforming, polished to an addictively high standard. While I do wish there was less emphasis on parrying, the smart and flowing combat, coupled with gorgeous hand drawn visuals, more than makes up for any of the games shortcomings as you slash, bash, and crash your way to the top of the Megastructure. It’s easily one of this year’s essential Metroidvanias.
Cookie Cutter was reviewed on Xbox Series S|X using a code provided to gameblur by the publisher. It is also available on PC and PS5.
Cookie Cutter (Xbox Series) ReviewCookie Cutter (Xbox Series) Review
- Excellent combat
- Great platforming
- Gorgeous hand-drawn art
- Too great an emphasis on parrying
- Self-healing is a little too slow to use in hectic combat or during boss fights