When it comes to indie games (especially those published on Switch) there are two titles that many seem to draw inspiration from. Animal Crossing, with its peppy art direction and laid-back gameplay inspires what I like to call the ‘chill farmer’ genre of games, where the goal is never anything more than to tend the land and relax. Alternatively, games drawing inspiration from Breath of the Wild aim to be an action-packed adventure full of great exploration mechanics.
When games execute these inspirations well, they can be just as fun, if not more fun, than the originals they draw inspiration from. When they fail, however, you end up with a so-called relaxing game that isn’t and an open world that doesn’t feel worth exploring.
Lil Gator Game is a new indie title that draws inspiration from both, and I have to say it does it well. While lacking any farming elements, it’s impossible to call Lil Gator Game anything but relaxing, and the art style is obviously inspired by Animal Crossing or similar titles.
The Breath of the Wild inspirations are far easier to see, being an open-world exploration title that incentivizes and encourages exploration. The game even makes use of the same stamina meter as Breath of the Wild, so it’s hard not to point out the similarities.
As similar as Lil Gator Game may be to its inspirations, however, it also does plenty that they do not. The gameplay inspirations are used to help Lil Gator Game’s unique experience, which I can honestly say I haven’t seen in any other titles.
The plot of Gator Game is simple; You play as a young, bored Aligator, inspired by your older sister’s idea for an epic fantasy game. Seeing her for the first time since she left for college, you want nothing more than to play this game with her; However, your sister is far too busy with classwork, and it’s up to you and your friends to inspire her to go on an adventure with you.
Gator Game sees you climbing mountains, traversing rivers, and battling through hordes of enemies on an epic quest, except not really. The enemies are made of cardboard, and the rivers are more like streams, all part of a great game the Lil Gator is playing. There are no health bars or threats to be wary of, you are simply a little gator exploring and having a great time.
And it works. You have friends you meet along the way to interact with, and there are some heartwarming stories as you complete their “quests.” Beyond that, there’s nothing more to do than to run, climb and explore the world around you as you see fit. and the lack of pressure creates a uniquely relaxing experience.
Beyond that, there isn’t much to say about Lil Gator Game, because there really isn’t much to it. The game wants nothing more than to give you a carefree, relaxing time as you explore the world of childlike gator innocence.
The game’s strongest quality is its writing. Each character feels unique, alive, and interesting. I enjoyed getting to know each character, especially the Lil Gator’s friends, who each had more below the surface than they initially let on.
It really does feel like you’re a kid playing a game with your friends, which would be easy for a writer to make feel ungenuine. Small moments, like the Lil Gator having to text his friends for money because the Ice Cream man isn’t playing, actually brought me back to my own childhood.
The game isn’t just about childhood. Rather, the themes delve into the whimsical feeling of being and child, and why it’s important to hang on to those feelings into adulthood. It can be easy to wind up like Lil Gator’s sister, distracted and overwhelmed by work and the stresses of life. Lil Gator Game reminds us to take time to be a child again, and because of that serves as a great source of escapism on its own.
The premise of Lil Gator Game is great, and is executed incredibly well, but it isn’t without its flaws. Lil Gator Game wants to be your escape, giving you something to do in your free time to release the stresses of the day, but the game only runs about three hours — A great experience, while it lasts, but one you probably won’t be replaying a lot.
For that reason, I think the price is a little steep too. I don’t like complaining about the price of indie games — These indie developers deserve to be rewarded for their hard work. However, I just feel like $20 is a bit too much for the length of the game, and I think it should hover more around the $10 mark.
The Final Word
Lil Gator Game is a cute, fun experience, good for a relaxing night after work. It reminds you to let go of the stresses of adulthood and to reconnect with your inner child, and the relaxing gameplay is complimented well by the charming writing. If you can get past the price point and the short length, Lil Gator Game is a fantastic little indie title that you’re sure to enjoy.
Our Lil Gator Game review was written based on the PC version of the game. Find more detailed looks at popular and upcoming titles in the Game Reviews section of our website!