I didn’t think my game of 2022 would star a googly-eyed alligator with a trashcan-lid shield and a wooden sword, but here we are.
In my opinion it was kind of a quiet year; not in that there weren’t good games galore, just that nothing really stuck out at me as being notable or inspiring. At least until MegaWobble introduced me to the charismatic Lil Gator (you can name him whatever you want, as is tradition in Zelda games, but I couldn’t not call him Lil Gator) and his journey to convince his sister to let loose and play. Regardless of whether his ploy works on Big Sis or not, it sure made me think about how I approached not only games, but life in general. Deep, I know.
The game opens with Lil Gator and Big Sis inventing their own LARP inspired by an adventure game they pine over in a gaming magazine. Fast forward a few years, and Big Sis is now an overly busy college student who needs to finish a project and pays no attention to her little brother. He wants to recreate their adventures of yore and devises a plan to have his tight-knit group of friends help him lure Big Sis by giving her an adventure to go on. What happens is a small tutorial teaching you how to do adventure gaming 101: find treasure, complete quests and search every nook and cranny for secrets and cardboard currency. After failing spectacularly, Lil Gator thinks big, literally, by going to a bigger island to recruit everyone to help with his cause.
Lil Gator Game evokes a style very reminiscent of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker in its simple yet beautiful visuals and island theming. It adds a lot to the playfulness of your overall mission, feeling like something out of children’s media, and begging to be explored with the same sense of wonderment.
There is no combat in the traditional sense; Lil Gator smashes cardboard cutouts of familiar-looking enemies such as slimes or killer venus flytraps. Considering it’s all built by a bunch of kids in a playground, they have this colorful charm to them that, while not the type of fighting some folks might be looking for, does go a long way towards making you want to seek them all out and take in the gorgeous landscapes. Quests might seem underwhelming at first, because often the people helping out are only doing so half-heartedly, but after a while you sway them into letting loose a little bit and taking part in the fun.
This is where the endearing nature of Lil Gator Game kicks in – the important thing to remember isn’t the quest at hand but in how you talk to and nurture relationships with everyone on the island. There are three main quests (and plenty of side quests to boot) in which one of your good friends hangs out with their clique and you have to help them solve their quarrels, both group-wise and personal. You’ll help a “cool kid” raise up a tree that rooted in the wrong spot, help a “drama geek” live out their dreams of being a vampire and trick a “science nerd” into thinking their metallurgy homework would benefit the town you’re building by becoming a blacksmith.
They’re all truly relatable moments and make the game shine. They’re situations that have real gravity and aren’t really talked about in games – and sometimes not in real life, either. Being as happy-go-lucky as it is, Lil Gator Game never side-steps its positivity, and its all the better for it. In a year that beat me down, it was a wonderful way to cap off 2022. It made me smile throughout and build a little optimism of my own.
I am by no means a cryer, but the end of Lil Gator Game got me. I’m not about to spoil the experience because I believe everyone reading this should give it a go, but the amount of introspection and understanding quite frankly blew me away. Even in a game with so much love to give, it still manages to up the ante.
Put whatever preconceived notions you have to rest and play Lil Gator Game. It’ll scratch that exploratory itch and melt your heart all the while.
Lil Gator Game was developed by MegaWobble and published by Playtonic Friends, and it’s available on PC and Switch. We played the Switch version.
Disclosure statement: review code for Lil Gator Game was provided by Playtonic. A Most Agreeable Pastime operates as an independent site, and all opinions expressed are those of the author.