Cookie Cutter is as challenging, unique, and persistent as is their protagonist, Cherry. Subcult Joint and Rogue Games’ color and rage-filled metroidvania, Cookie Cutter, is truly one of the highlights of 2023. From Cherry’s self-healing Sailor Moon-like animation, her Samus Power Suit-like ability, and the gruesome and gnarly brutality moves, there isn’t a split second where this game doesn’t feel like Cherry’s world. With challenging gameplay, a rich lore-filled world, and stunning art direction, Cookie Cutter is sure to slice its way into your heart.
It’s Cherry’s World and We’re Just Living In It
Set in a dystopian world, Cookie Cutter follows Cherry, a Denzel who sets off to find her kidnapped creator, Doctor Shinji Fallon. To understand Cherry’s bloody motivation and world, let’s rewind to 200 years before to the creation of The Void. The Void, a strange glowing matter that garnered attention when it developed into Matter, and soon enough a Death Star-like creation called The Megastructure. While many people sought to understand it, only one person was able to truly determine what it was: Victor Garbanzos. After reappearing several years later, Victor returned with new technology, knowledge, and most importantly, power. Victor would use this to attract ‘worthy’ citizens who would never have to fear death, all due to INFONET being able to preserve them inside the metallic human-like bodies called Denzels. At his command, the Denzels created the Golden City, the utopia promised to the Denzels.
However, that was a lie. Two hundred years later, the Denzels are enslaved by INFONET. But one cog in the corporation’s machine would begin to fight back – Doctor Shinji Fallon. Determined to discover the secrets of the Megastructure and INFONET, she creates an independent Denzel – Cherry. Through Cherry’s creation and life, Shinji finds herself loving the Denzel, delaying the expedition. But, one day, INFONET comes to Shinji’s lab, kidnapping her. With her guttural screams, pleading for Shinji’s life, Cherry is almost destroyed. But this isn’t the end of Cherry’s story. She gets repaired by a rogue mechanic, Raz, who finds the abandoned lab. Although Cherry can’t recall her primary function, she does know she must find Shinji – whatever the cost.
Fighting Back In a Not-So-Straight World
While Cherry’s primary function is to find Shinji, the player’s primary function is to get Cherry there. Cookie Cutter pushes the player to consistently change their play style when approaching new biomes, bosses, or fight rooms. Whether it’s providing you a new component to air dash that prevents Cherry from taking damage from enemy attacks or providing you regenerative Void Energy to evade bosses and strike just when the time is right, no two fights are quite the same.
However, occasionally the balance in mandatory fight rooms or bosses pushes the player out of their flow. This makes the once fun, engaging, and challenging game into a frustrating experience. While the mandatory fight rooms help to encourage the player into using their arsenal of abilities, the hyper-pop explosion of colors and enemy animations can cause the player to lose track of Cherry’s whereabouts. This also applies to the variety of enemies that spawn in the rooms. When navigating through the biomes, facing these enemies one-on-one or in smaller numbers is easy, often leading you to use environmental elements like spinning saws or instant kill spikes to finish them off. But in these rooms, it quickly becomes overwhelming, leading you to escape to a far-out corner to heal and reevaluate.
It can be even trickier when aerial-based enemies can navigate through walls and attack without the ability to retaliate. Or even track Cherry throughout another part of the biome while other land-based enemies fail to do the same. Enemy tracking can be finicky, but also a saving grace. While the flying insects can follow you until the next room entry, land-based adversaries can behave a little strangely or dog pile.
Then, once Cherry goes down in a fight, it often takes a while for her to get back up. With limited iFrames, it leads to getting ping-ponged back and forth between enemies. While the insects will pursue you once on screen, the land-based guys will often not become hostile until Cherry is almost in punching distance. However, watching the enemies try to path themselves to Cherry while crossing a row of spinning saws, and watching them kill themselves can be a strange reprieve after an exhausting fight.
A Bloody Masterpiece
While fighting against strange creatures and mutations is satisfying, the visuals are where Cookie Cutter slashes through its competitors. Every second, every step, every pixel there’s something stunning that catches the player’s eye. The attention to detail for the environments, characters, and creature design constantly changes, encouraging the player to continue seeking out every nook and cranny. With art inspirations from rock bands and pop culture (thank you for that Ramona poster), it only solidifies the punk aesthetic that Cherry lives and breathes. Plus, finding those secret rooms – some themed or hosting strange phallic-like creatures – will never get old.
Following a prologue detailing the rise and fall of Cherry’s world, there is no shortage of lore to find. As you dash around the biomes, you can find data stations or bio tanks following the stories of different citizens. From worker’s paranoia in unraveling the truth to a tearful last goodbye, these tidbits help ground Cherry’s over-the-top world.
While fights can grow to be frustrating, Cookie Cutter is superbly fun. Yes playing against the same boss over and over trying new abilities may seem irritating, but you always come back, ready to put up a fight. Players new to metroidvanias may experience some difficulty here especially when trying to utilize the parry system. Timing the parry ability requires a split-second reaction that this reviewer could not grasp (skill issue). While these issues may impede certain players, the developers are actively addressing players’ concerns.
Players will never tire after watching Cherry’s aptly named Brutalities. The finishing moves will surely put a smile on your face and make you root for her as she saws her adversaries in half. Or quite literally rips them to shreds.
While named Cookie Cutter, this game doesn’t fit into that mold. Like its protagonist, it’s loud, unapologetic, and at the end of the day, a bloody good time.
Cookie Cutter is now available for PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, and PC via Steam.
With challenging gameplay, a rich lore-filled world, and stunning art direction, Cookie Cutter is sure to slice its way into your heart.