Later Alligator Review $17.99
Title: Later Alligator
Developer: SmallBü, Pillow Fight
Platforms: Windows, macOS
Release Date: 2019-09-18
Game description: "Later Alligator tells the story of Pat the alligator, a (mostly) harmless and (probably) innocent reptile at the center of a conspiracy that could bring down the biggest, scariest family in Alligator New York City: his own! Explore the city, meet the Family, and try to save Pat before the clock runs out." - https://pillowfight.itch.io/later-alligator
Too Scared To Die
With a Saturday morning cartoon quality opening cinematic, Later Alligator makes a strong first impression as you’re introduced to the world of Alligator New York City. It’s Pat’s birthday, but it’s not so happy. He may have squealed and revealed some family secrets and is afraid he is about to be “rubbed out.” Well, Pat is afraid of a lot of things, but that certainly isn’t helping.
Making your way around the city, you’ll encounter Pat’s very large family and try to uncover the evening’s plot that has the young alligator so spooked. To do this, you’ll need to complete some mini-games for the alligators you talk to in order to gain their trust. These range from getting a high score on a simple pinball table, to a dating sim.
These mini-games are mostly goofy short breaks in between your interviews, often eliciting a chuckle or two. Some overstay their welcome though. Because the game is primarily played with the mouse it can be a little tedious to drag around the screen during games that require a bit of precision. Two mini-games, in particular, were exceptionally bad; one involving a barbershop quartet and the other a ouija board. What the game asks you to do in these games is fine, in theory, but imprecise controls and lack of clarity make them unpleasant to play.
The barbershop quartet game tasks you with putting a spotlight over each singer to coincide with their solo. The problem is, the placement for the spotlight is very specific on each character, and if you light the wrong one or don’t get there in time you’ll get a mark against you. There was essentially no actionable feedback to use to improve. Time also advances while you do this activity, so it can feel like wasting time when you fail a mini-game without understanding why.
Some of the other mini-games are just annoyingly long, like a sliding puzzle or the aforementioned ouija board. Because they take so long to complete, they start to detract from the rest of the game. Aside from the few instances where the games are overly long or obtuse, they provide a nice way to get to know the characters through their interests.
While the game has its general comedic tone, each character is allowed to breathe and develop their own personality and style of comedy. It feels like a complete cast that you would find in an animated show like SpongeBob Squarepants or Fairly Odd Parents. A personal favorite was Pat’s dad, Two Ton Tony, an alligator who uses dad jokes to distance himself from thoughts of his own mortality. Hi unceasing passage of time, I’m Dad!
The animation and art also help to bring the world to life and make it distinct. In addition to the writing bringing the characters to life, the distinct way they move also develops the personalities, making it easy to understand the kind of character you’re talking to. The game was hand-animated by SmallBü Animation and really stands out from other visual novels because of it. Their experience as animators shows, with every animation and scene being unique. There is so much detail packed into tiny areas of the world it is impossible to find it all in a single playthrough.
Another element bringing Alligator New York City to life is the original soundtrack by 2Mello. The jazzy sounds of the opening set the tone for the game. But the soundtrack also branches out to other genres and styles when the game calls for it, changing tone as the way you interact with the world change. The jazzy sounds of the streets of New Alligator City are very different from the music pounding from the off-brand DDR machine in Adult Bar. It is easily one of the best soundtracks for a game this year.
Later Alligator is a fantastic visual novel for those who are fans of cartoons like SpongeBob Squarepants. It features a wonderful cast of characters that I would gladly watch on TV. The art is superb, and the writing quickly communicates the personality of the characters and maintains consistent humor, with a variety of styles and jokes. I would have loved to have each character voice acted to make them more fully realized. That paired with mini-games that are fine at best and annoying at their worst holds the game back from reaching its full potential.
- Hand-drawn Art
- Funny Writing
- Excellent Soundtrack
- A large cast of characters
- Some poorly executed minigames
- No voice acting