Summer Catchers is a gorgeous 2D indie game which takes the player on the journey of a lifetime. You play as Chu, a young girl on an adventure to see summer for the first time, by traversing through various beautiful areas on her car with the help of quirky friends made along the way.
The core gameplay is essentially that of an endless runner; you buy tools which you use to overcome different obstacles found in each area’s level, with the aim of getting as far as you can before taking too much damage and crashing. There isn’t an end to the levels, but you won’t find yourself going for long either as your tools are all single use, meaning your resources are finite, and when they run out, you’re not going to last much longer. You can also encounter random events with different mini-games and beautiful sights to see, which keeps the adventure exciting.
To progress through each area, you have to complete a number of different quests for a character who lives there. These often involve using a different tool for something like chopping trees, or collecting a set number of items like berries. Once these tasks have been completed, you’ll be shown the way out, but will have to escape a boss before moving on. These give you more obstacles to dodge, and may take you a good number of attempts depending on how good your luck is.
This brings me onto my next point, which is about the luck and RNG based elements in this game. To use your tools, you have to select them from the side of your screen. Only three of these are available at once, they’re random, and there’s no way to get a different one without using another one up first. This means you can (and will) get stuck with three of the same thing on many occasions, not be able to use them up fast enough to get something that you need, and basically be put into a situation where you’re forced to lose. It’s worth noting that the obstacles are also randomly generated each time, so you can’t plan ahead by only buying certain items that you know you’ll need the most.
This isn’t the worst when you’re just doing your quests (albeit still frustrating), but it can be an absolute nightmare when put in the boss fight situations. To win, you have to last a certain amount of time, dodging all the random obstacles you’ve already been faced with, as well as extra ones provided by the boss. The thing is, these aren’t even really all that difficult, but having a good combination of items at all times to deal with these things for long enough is rather rare, and the times you don’t will force you to lose more times than you can count. Retrying over and over wouldn’t be so bad if it were due to your own error, but when there’s nothing you can really do about it, it becomes very tiresome.
It’s really a shame, because the pixel art style of the game is incredibly pretty, the soundtrack is fantastic, the characters are cute, and the writing just oozes charm. It’s one of those games where I really, really wanted to enjoy it, but the gameplay just left me feeling sour. I think that this could be vastly improved if there was a “shuffle” option to jumble the items you have in your sidebar, as this still relies on luck, but the upside is that it won’t have you backed into corners quite so often.
Overall, Summer Catchers does a lot right, but the RNG elements of its gameplay really let it down. An update of some sort could really help improve this, and there may potentially be one in the future, in which case I’d be rating it higher. Summer Catchers could be great, but it just falls below the mark.