Little Reaper | PAX AUS 2018 Preview
by Dylan Blight
Little Reaper from developer Little Reaper Games reminded me quickly of the Genesis/PS1 era of Disney side-scrolling games with its visuals and level design. Which made more sense when Cherie from the Explosion Network later told me that someone from Little Reaper Games she had been talking to had told her Disney games had been one of the inspirations.
You play as Ollie, the Grim Reaper’s little skeletal assistant who accidentally sets free a jar of souls and then sets off to retrieve them before the Grim Reaper returns from their holiday to find out. It’s a fun and simple plot that lets Ollie set off on a globe-trotting and colourful adventure to save their career in death-dealing from ending abruptly.
The art-style and design of the Little Reaper is what grabbed me easily. Ollie is a charming and cute character, which proved even more evident when Cherie and I were told they had sold out of the plushies they’d brought of Ollie very quickly and were unfortunately out of stock (I would have bought one.) The level design is also fun and simple, but I was quickly into the rhyme of searching for any secrets and collecting everything I could see, feeling very at home in Little Reaper’s genre.
Ollie pops on the screen, even as such a small character, thanks to their stock standard ‘I work for Death’ purple cloak. It helps because Ollie is a small character and the level I played through does a lot to make sure you’re aware of how small Ollie is compared to the big world they’re travelling through. The level I played through at PAX seemed to take me through something of a mansion than included chandeliers above in giant living rooms and a green-room as well. I’m not sure if it will be the first level in the game’s final release, but it definitely was designed to teach the player Little Reaper’s mechanics — all of which feel really great.
Being the assistant of the Grim Reaper, Ollie, of course, has a scythe to use for taking down enemies that may get in the way, but its use in traversal and platforming is what makes Little Reaper feel so good to play. Pressing a button Ollie will throw the scythe up in the air at the 90-degree angle and pressing the button again Ollie will travel to its location. It’s introduced as a means to travel upwards and over a piece of furniture in Ollie’s way, but soon I had the feel of the scythe down and was jumping off platforms and using the scythe to travel a further distance throwing it mid-jump. Towards the end of the level, I arrived at a mountain section and some pesky spider enemies were hanging above flinging toxic spit at me and blocking my path forward so I threw my scythe at the spider getting rid of it and then quickly teleported to the location which felt bad-ass for my little Ollie taking down the enemy with style.
The enemies I encountered required simple slash attacks to take down and I didn’t find any huge collectables outside of coins throughout the level. I’d hope the full game has some more secrets to find in each level to give it that true flavour I grew up with. I’m interested to see how the boss fights play out as well since I think you can do a lot of interesting things with the scythe.
I’m looking forward to learning more about Little Reaper and helping Ollie keep their job.