The kingdom of Gluttington was at peace… until one day, Hysterica poisoned the Isotonic Waters with sour lemonade. That evil witch! The kingdom’s crops are withering, but this plague has yet to befall all the lands. There is still hope! King Dietan III dispatches his greatest, bravest, stoutest knight to save the kingdom from certain ruin: Sir Eatsalot
Sony’s handheld doesn’t get many games made exclusively for it anymore. However, a small team from Germany, Behind the Stone, have put together an exclusive 2D side-scroller for the under-loved handheld that has a lot of charm and colour, but also drastically overuses Vita’s features and suffers from some major gameplay choices.
Sir Eatsalot is -- as you may have guessed -- a Knight who must save the Kingdom of Gluttington after the evil witch Hysterica poisons it with sour lemonade. The plot is ridiculous as you can tell, but the game runs with the theme of food and lollies in some really interesting and charming directions outside its gameplay (I’ll get to that.) Most the characters you’ll meet will be animal based, or food-based and they're all designed really uniquely like something out of an early morning 90’s cartoon -- other vibes I got were Tim Schafer/ early LucasArts era games.
Gluttington empire and surrounding areas all feature interesting and colourful characters both in design and personality. Cutscenes with Hysterica explaining the over-dramatic villainous plot can run a little long in the text, however. Meeting and talking with the various other characters along the adventure to stop Hysterica was always interesting and offered moments of fun and the game never takes itself too seriously.
Sir Eatsalot is, put simply, quite overweight. As such he controls like H.R Puffinstuff attempting to log-jump like Frogger. It’s floaty and slow. The platforming for the majority of the game is rather simple until the final couple sections. You will find you need to do a running jump for nearly all gaps, however, and to run you need stamina which, unfortunately, doesn’t replenish automatically. You have to tap on sweets in the background of the world to eat them to replenish Eatsalot’s stamina -- which you will be doing a lot. You do this for health items also, but it’s less often and not as tedious as having to constantly spam the screen for stamina items.
Combat wise, Eatsalot is just as slow with his sword-play and the gameplay is designed as such. You have a simple sword attack and block button at your disposable, and although enemies get a little stronger as the game continues they're all handled the same: hit them, and if they attempt to hit you, block. Combat becomes most annoying when integrated with platforming sections where you have to use the touchscreen. There become times where you’ll have to touch the screen to set off a trap, then jump to the next platform and quickly attempt to handle some enemies before the trap goes off, and jump to the next and quickly set the trap off that awaits you there. It’s a combination that can leave your hands and every finger and thumb hating you.
Sir Eatsalot faces off against a handful of bosses which are all handled differently. The first of which is the only one that stands out as being fun and designed well around the game's world and character. An attempt is made to have a battle more akin to usual 2D action/platformers but because of Sir Eatsalot’s speed and handling it is more tedious than hard.
My first couple hours with Sir Eatsalot was a joy. I thought I was in for a rather casual, but charming and colourful journey -- then got to a section in underground mines, and I nearly stopped playing the game altogether. Firstly, Beyond the Stone commit a Vita sin by implementing something I haven’t seen since (and hated then) Uncharted: Golden Abyss -- you have to use the camera with a light source. Yes, you get handed a carrot which must be recharged to act as a light source and to light it up periodically must hold your Vita camera towards a light source. Which does mean if you're like me and you come across this section laying in bed in pitch darkness you will find yourself having to turn a light source on (or even grab your phone) which is rather annoying.
What makes the underground mine section of Sir Eatsalot even more tedious is it introduces a lot of backtracking in a game that doesn’t feature any sort of map. I was very close to drawing out on paper my own version of not only the mines map but also the main world so I could back-track to past sections easier. It was in my peak frustration here trying to find my way around the mines; holding my camera up to a light source; spamming the screen for stamina items, that I nearly gave up.
When you reach the final area of the game you receive a message that it’ll be the ‘point of no return.’ Either turn back now to look for any collectables you may have missed or start a new game at this point. But the game’s lack of any fast-travel system and no map makes the idea of mindlessly trying to find your way to an area where you might find a missed collectable simply seem like a nightmare.
It’s a real pity about the back-tracking issues because the collectables are an interesting part of the game. You see different animals throughout the game (including your enemies) and when you tap on them you have a timer countdown as you quickly attempt to trace around them. Completing it will give you a sticker, which is a close up look at the games wonderful and inventive art and also gives you descriptions and lore for the world.
If Sir Eatsalot had made a more consistent approach to its initial casual tendencies, and implemented some better travel systems and ditched the lamp -- I could see it being a lot of fun. Instead, it was a frustration that I only saw through to the finish to offer a proper review. It’s disappointing because there is a really fun game in here amongst an overload of attachments to ideas, quirks and the PS Vita’s features.
The world and characters are honestly quite enjoyable and the art is the best part of Sir Eatsalot, but the gameplay is too cumbersome, tedious and painful at times. I pointed my Vita at a light source lost in those caves and nearly pointed Sir Eatsalot, much to my disappointment, at my bin instead.
Developer: Behind the Stone
Publisher: Deisling & Rider GbR
Platforms: PS Vita