You may not have heard of developer Subliminal. Their only title so far had been Sky Pets for mobile, but now they’re making their console debut with Button City. The brightly colored low-poly adventure tells the story of a young fox trying to settle into a new city and who ends up in the middle of a mystery that threatens their favorite arcade instead. Along the way, there’s a valuable lesson in friendships and the importance of a community too.
Fennel and his mother have just moved into the area. She’s always at work so he sits in his bedroom playing games. One day he’s sent to the local mart to fetch her lunch, but he overhears a conversation about a local arcade. Venturing over there, he joins a group who call themselves the Fluff Squad. His joy at making new friends is short-lived as the group finds out the arcade is under threat of being closed down and they need to save it.
Button City Review – Finding New Friends
Throughout the main story, Fennel meets plenty of cute characters all named after different herbs and spices, most of whom are willing to help him along his journey. Beneath the main objective of trying to save the arcade is subtle hints towards the value of friendship and working together as a community to reach a common goal, especially when you see the fates of those who only look after themselves. The greedy fat cat Peppermint Pepperbottom who is trying to take over the arcade is not a popular person and has managed to gather himself a lot of enemies.
There are plenty of bystanders who will also request Fennel’s help and offer plenty of side quests away from the main story. Some of these require him to solve simple puzzles but the majority are fetch quests. Some of these do unfortunately get a bit tedious when you’re going back and forth between two people repeatedly and you wonder why they can’t just talk to each other. None of the missions ever have a time limit although there are some days where some areas are inaccessible. As players can choose when to start the next game day, there’s plenty of opportunities to progress through side missions before moving on.
Other quests focus on the games within the arcade itself. There are three of these that are playable. The first is the most prominent and is the latest craze amongst Button City’s kids: Gobabots. Two teams of four fruit robots known as Gobabots battle to collect fruit and fill up a smoothie jug in the middle of the level. Each Gobabot has different attributes and unique weapons and attacks that can be used to kill members of the opposite team to steal their berries. Many matches of this game will be played, especially if completing all of the side quests too. All of these will take place on the same map, but the different tactics from different combinations of Gogabots on the opposing team can stop things becoming too stale.
The second playable game is called rEvolution Racer and pits two racers against each other as they drive three laps around the Watermelon Mountain track. The game sounds simple but it actually has a deeper back story that’s revealed later into the game. The final game is Prisma Beats, a rhythm game where players match button presses to the beat. The controls for this one are a little clumsy. The face buttons used by the button prompts are not displayed prominently or in what seemed for me to be a natural order. I found it incredibly easy to mix up the buttons, especially as two hands are needed to hit all of the button prompts even on the easiest difficulty. The d-pad may have worked better here.
Button City Review – A Unique World
Fennel’s adventure takes place across a series of small self-contained environments set out like mini dioramas. For the most part buildings sit in the center of a small outside world where it’s impossible to fall off the edge. Pushing the Circle button brings up a menu where all of the available locations are displayed as a repeating list of dioramas and simply selecting another location will see Fennel seamlessly transition there without any loading screens. There is a brief moment of loading whenever he enters a building and at the end of each day, but loading screens are kept to a minimum.
Entering a building is like going into a Tardis, as the inside always seems much larger than the outside. Each building has plenty of interactable objects that result in quick observations and sometimes give currency to spend. This can be used to purchase costumes, consumables and other collectibles. There is plenty of opportunity to earn this currency by challenging other city inhabitants to a match on one of the arcade games as well as observing items, although once you hit four figures it becomes difficult to see on the screen exactly how much money you have. Playing the arcade games also earns tickets that can also be traded for prizes in the arcade.
While some of these items can be used for dressing up, Fennel can only equip one item at once. You’ll have to choose between that funky hairstyle, new tracksuit or toy hammer accessory. These collectibles are more than cosmetic, though, because they also grant boosts when playing the arcade games. Players can activate three Fluff Buffs per game as long as they’re in possession of the items to trigger them. These are things like making the car quicker or adding rain effects in rEvolution Racer and can be used to make the games as easy or as difficult as you please.
It would be remiss of me not to mention that I did encounter some bugs while playing the game. One Gobabots challenge match became impossible to win when the melee hits for the two heavy characters would not register properly. Another bug prevented me from starting an espionage quest. There was also a minor display issue with a speech bubble that wouldn’t disappear and blocked a significant chunk of the screen until I reloaded the game. All of these bugs should be fixed with a patch due to be released shortly, although this wasn’t available at the time of writing and I can’t comment to its success in solving the issues.
Button City Review – The Verdict
Despite these bugs, Button City is a relaxing little game with a great storyline and characters you care about despite their faults. Players can work their way through the game at their own pace as they battle to save the arcade from greed, and Fennel from his own shy and unconfident self. The story isn’t lengthy, clocking in at 6-8 hours depending on how much time you spend playing arcade games and completing side missions, but it’s a nice little distraction for a rainy day.
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