Here’s one unusual title for once. No killing enemies, no solving complex problems, just a simple story and setting to relax and enjoy. In Lil Alligator you play a young alligator who is on a quest to impress his big sister. His sister used to be her best partner for games when he was a small child, but she is now too busy with high school tasks and homework and frequently tells him to “play by yourself”.
But that won’t do! Lil Alligator sees it as a challenge and sets on a quest to get the interest of his big sister. Along the way, he must explore a large, open-world island, solve puzzles, and help the other animals on the island. You play in third-person view mode, with the camera following your back like in most games these days.
The game’s graphics are simple and use beautiful, solid colors. It reminds me of games like Wind Waker or more recently A Short Hike. The island is beautifully rendered, with lush vegetation, sparkling water, and towering mountains. The game’s music is also relaxing and dynamic, changing with the different parts of the island you find yourself in. It does a great job at setting the tone for the game’s whimsical story.
You don’t really have enemies in the game, except the ones placed by the kids on the island, using carton boxes and by drawing on them. You can easily destroy it with sticks or an actual wooden sword that you get later. Some quests require you to “clear the area of monsters”, and is self-aware. They are multiple references to what heroes are supposed to do and how they are supposed to behave - they make for funny lines between the different characters.
The gameplay is simple and effective. Players control Lil as he explores the island. Lil can swim, climb, and glide (inspiration from Zelda there again), and players must use these abilities to reach new areas and solve puzzles. As you collect some crystals throughout your journey, you can spend them to make your abilities stronger - one important ability is for example to be able to climb vertical walls for longer, making it possible to reach new places.
Some of the quests or missions involve finding other animals, reconnecting water pipes that make a funtain work, finding supplies to find new playground buildings, and more… Lil Alligator’s puzzles are easy, but require that you explore the place. There is no map, and it’s easy to get lost or to be unsure what to do next - the games does not hold you hand, for good or bad. This can lead to some trial and error, especially if you’re picking up the game after leaving it aside for a few days.
It’s not a very long title, and will last only a few hours - it’s on the short side, but not sure if it would really benefit from being much longer either.
Overall, it’s well designed, original, and runs very well on most configurations. I also confirmed that kids like it!
That’s a great title for consoles like the Switch, and it feels completely at home on the Steam Deck as well. The controls are excellent on it, the text is easy to read, and the performance every at 6W is good enough to stay at 60 FPS most of the time, except when there’s a lot of trees around and the frame rate drops a little.
If you are interested, you can grab it on Steam for about 20 USD - it has an Overwhemingly Positive rating as of now, and despite its couple of flaws (no map or quest tracker), its excellent execution deserves it.