Nintendo spent the past year turning the Switch into an indie haven. It's true that any Nintendo console's trademark games will be those from Nintendo itself, as the impressive sales numbers of Breath Of The Wild and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate will attest to. Yet the Switch is no slouch in indie sales either. Dead Cells developer Motion Twin recently claimed that Switch numbers were a big contributor to the game selling over a million copies.
Perhaps it's Nintendo's spirited efforts to court indie developers after they all shied away from the Wii U. Or maybe it's because the Switch is often bought as a family console, and indie games tend to hit that affordability parents look for. It could even be the simple reason that the Switch comes with two controllers, making it a go-to for multiplayer indies. Whatever the reason, the Nintendo eShop has become a sprawling marketplace that offers indie games of all genres and price points.
She Remembered Caterpillars steps into this marketplace as a bit of a tougher sell, having already been a PC game for two years. However, with puzzles that deliver the perfect level of challenge and a captivating hand-drawn art style, it can keep the Switch audience invested if they're willing to give it a chance.
The goal of She Remembered Caterpillars is simple: guide a batch of color-coded plant creatures to their goal. Obstacles come in the the form of similarly color-coded bridges and barriers. Bridges will only let creatures of the same color pass, barriers will let every color but the matching one pass. The challenge gets more complex as the levels go by, with color fusion and other new elements being added on. I found it to be a nice bedtime game. It teased my brain enough to make me forget my daily worries, but no singular level was so hard that I got stuck for too long.
The story does that indie game thing where it sort of happens alongside the gameplay, seemingly unconnected until it drops a bombshell that ties everything together thematically. I would be spoiling it if I explained the plot, but I can say that it touches on themes of loss and nostalgia for less complicated times. For me personally, the little snippets of dialogue that happen before every puzzle didn't quite do enough to keep me emotionally involved. I do appreciate the development team's attempt to ground their mysterious setting in a relatable core, though.
That mysterious setting is a high point. The tiny characters you control are "painstakingly hand-drawn" according to developer Jumpsuit Entertainment. They're also animated in a way that calls to mind adorable pixies from a Disney or anime movie. The maps, meanwhile, look like strange lab-grown plants. It makes sense when you get deeper into the story. Overall, though, the art style is confident in its ability to be both enchanting and bizarre at once.
Every time I go onto the Nintendo eShop, I see some new indie games coming or already on sale. Nintendo is inviting everyone to come play, turning the Switch into a home for all kinds of gaming experiences. She Remembered Caterpillars might have a hard time sticking out in such a crowded market. But with its mesmerizing visual style, universal themes, and well-balanced brain teasers, it makes a good case to those who are willing to listen.
A Switch copy was provided by the publisher for this review. It's available now.
4 out of 5 stars.