Gaming’s history is filled by shooters, but outside Splatoon, few titles within the genre have been geared towards a more kid-friendly setting. Looking to fill this void, Tri-Heart Interactive now brings us The Otterman Empire, seeing a team of otters defend the empire from mad scientist Tiko. Set within the depths of space, it’s designed as a four-player party game. With a plot reminiscent of older cartoons, there’s personality here, but Otterman is let down by poor gameplay.
It’s tedious to go alone, take friends
When it comes to multiplayer, you can play locally through a co-operative campaign and separate versus mode; there’s no online option. Despite my best troubleshooting efforts, however, Otterman wouldn’t register additional controllers, despite other Steam games remaining perfectly playable with them. I can only conclude this is a bug, so right now, we cannot provide a fair multiplayer assessment.
Within Otterman’s main campaign, you’ll travel across eight different locations in a mission-based format. Your primary objective varies, but Tiko will fight you at every step, deploying minions which either attack or slow you down and most levels involve objectives like destroying his machinery or attacking his ship. To accommodate for younger audiences, targets are clearly mapped, so it’s easy to stay on track.
Trying to stop Tiko, your otter rushes into the frontlines, armed with a standard gun and jetpack for quick movement. Both will require regular refilling, but this can be done by diving into nearby streams, much like Splatoon. Missions are time-limited and award your performance out of three stars, ranked by how many points you get for destroying enemies and completing objectives. There’s no challenge to completing missions, but when you’re tasked with stopping Tiko’s ship yet again, repetition quickly sinks in.
They don’t stop coming
As a shooter, it works well, and there’s a lot of enjoyment in taking out Tiko’s robotic minions from afar. There isn’t a huge variety in terms of enemies, which isn’t necessarily an issue but the larger problem is how quickly they respawn. They’re back almost as soon as you killed them and some enemies actively slow down your speed. So when faced with a group of them, it just becomes a rather tedious affair.
Initially, only one otter is playable, but there are up to eight unlockable characters, each with their own customisation options and unique playstyle. For example, Geo can launch powerful shots but at a slower firing rate, whereas Astrid’s quick shooting compensate for lack of damage. Everyone also possesses a unique special ability, available once you’ve charged your gauge through separate eliminations and it launches a devastating attack when filled.
One for the kids
It’s hard not to come away from The Otterman Empire feeling disappointed. It’s got a cute aesthetic, and the mere concept of space otters should sound appealing. Ultimately, however, Tri-Heart’s latest title gets let down by flawed gameplay. Whether its an experience redeemed with friends is hard to say, though missions provide some degree of fun. Parents looking for a new game will find some joy here, but for anyone else, Otterman is best avoided.
[Reviewed on PC]