Cutouts! A game made entirely from felt. Run, duck, jump, and throw objects at your enemies! Collect buttons for extra lives! Nine levels across three worlds! What awaits you at the end of your adventure? Play now to find out! A true indie project, all art, music, and programming made by me!
Robert J. Louie says his game is "made entirely from felt." This is a lie! There are clearly buttons visible all throughout the game. The developer may be a big, fat liar, but his Xbox Indie game is no slouch. Cutouts! presents a solid if rather basic platformer via a storyless excursion through nine levels and three worlds constructed from scraps of felt. It's interesting to note that both Cutouts! and Kirby's Epic Yarn were released on the same day, seemingly conspiring to start a trend of fabric based platformers. Given the excellent reviews of the Wii game and based on my time spent with the Xbox 360 title, this would be most welcomed.
Cutouts! is a fairly simple nine level platformer presented in three acts. Players guide a nameless blond character to the right while jumping on enemies and over obstacles while collecting buttons along the way. Collecting 100 buttons grants an extra life, and the game grants one sole bonus, a hat, which allows the guy to absorb one hit before dying. Falling into water or any other environmental hazard will kill him instantly, but the hat affords some protection against the half dozen enemies which populate the game. The player begins the game with a hat, but any other hats must be found hanging from branches on tree stumps scattered throughout the levels. Unfortunately, the caps don't stack, so coming across one while already under its protection still leaves the player with one "shield" to use before dying. The game does provide a checkpoint midway through each level, but these are sometimes put in odd locations where respawning leaves the player to contend with immediate threats from enemies. Hatless respawns, questionable positioning, and only allowing players to continue from level four or seven can make for a frustrating and annoying games at times, but fans of platform games will likely embrace the challenge and enjoy Cutouts! regardless of the odd spat of "unfair" design.
Tolerating the few debatable design flaws in Cutouts! is easy thanks to the game's tight controls and terrific presentation. The nameless one runs and jumps with ease, popping his felt enemies and leaping from platform to platform, effortlessly taking on all challenges ahead. That's not to say the game is easy, however, because while the trial only allows a taste of the first two easiest levels, players soon will find themselves navigating narrow platforms over bottomless pits, bouncing on invincible rock monsters to cross dangerous spiked ground, and leaping from enemies to clear otherwise insurmountable gaps. Cutouts! will certainly prove to be a challenge, partly due to some difficult platformer gameplay, partly due to the memorization required to avoid a few cheap deaths. For example, the bats introduced in level four will home in on the player, forcing him to stand still until they drop low enough to jump on. This isn't much of an issue until the player is caught off guard while leaping across narrow poles, unable to react to the bat in his face as the screen scrolls right and reveals the threat. A handful of such incidents prove to be annoying once discovered but are easily remedied with cautious play aided by knowledge of what lies ahead.
Although the gameplay of Cutouts! may be familiar, the style is rather creative, not entirely original but little seen until recently. The felt cutout levels and characters look great and are mostly well animated; the main character runs smoothly but is devoid of personality (simple Mega Man blinking would have helped give some life to the flat cutout). There are a few times where enemies blend in with same colored backgrounds, but beyond that small nitpick, the levels look great. Layers of parallax scrolling give Cutouts! visual depth where none would be expected due to the medium. There do appear to be some issues with collision detection as enemies think nothing of walking along the water after running out of ground, errors which look bizarre but hardly impact the game negatively. While I like details such as how the bunny tail players can pick up and throw at enemies gets progressively smaller as it rolls and knocks out threats, I do wish that the game took more advantage of layering the felt to give objects a more detailed and realistic 3-D effect seeing how plain the shapes look, giving the felt game a construction paper look more times than not.
Cutouts! is a nice looking, sounding, and playing game, an excellent platformer albeit one that's fairly short. It took me a couple of playthroughs to complete Cutouts!, and I enjoyed it while it lasted. I noticed that the game didn't save my progress when returning to it later, and with no score or other challenge to be had, I see little incentive to revisit the game again. Cutouts! may very well be a play and forget game, but it's fun while it lasts and should be worth the 80 points to platformer fans looking for a new challenge.