I was already a fan of Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles when it launched last year on the PlayStation 4 and PC, so its release on the Nintendo Switch could only be seen as a good thing. Its focus on relaxation and not pushing the player too much actually suits the portability of Nintendo’s console, whilst the whole ‘world is your oyster’ approach of the game and the freedom it gives the player is perfect to pick up and play in small bursts whenever you fancy. The change of system doesn’t save it from being a divisive title that not everyone might be able to appreciate, but it certainly doesn’t stop it from being a delightful one that I’m still very fond of.
The game begins with you creating your own character and then seeing them end up shipwrecked in a cave on a mysterious Island. Whilst luscious to look at, this Island happens to be plagued with a strange purple fog known as ‘Murk’. It’s up to you to help vanquish this Murk to restore the Island to its former, glorious state. How do you do this? By uncovering all the strange little Sprites that only your character can see, of course.
So it’s not the most intricate of plotlines, but it at least adds a bit of a back story to your adventure on the Island. You’ll be able to see the plot through to its end in around six hours though, so don’t expect to see the narrative sticking with you for too long. However, Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles doesn’t pride itself on giving you a story-driven adventure, but rather one that encourages exploration; you know, finding each and every collectible, looking after your own farms, completing side quests for people, and discovering what hidden secrets are on the Island.
Admittedly, a lot of the game’s side quests were unsatisfying – they mainly consisted of fetch quests, leaving very little for the player to really work for. Whilst this is often passable in other games based around crafting, the lack of combat or puzzle solving here left me feeling a little underwhelmed. Don’t get me wrong, those who love crafting or gathering resources will feel right at home, but I’d have hoped the developers might have been a bit more imaginative with how they utilised the game world.
At least the crafting goes into a bit more depth, with the game featuring an emphasis on learning new professions that enhance your crafting capabilities. Whilst it’s certainly the most intricate element of the game, it’s nowhere near complicated – the route to all materials is never a treacherous one, whilst the crafting menus themselves are incredibly accessible and easy to follow. It made it a pleasure to indulge in crafting, which is pretty convenient seeing as progression through the game depends heavily upon it. It also adds a bit more incentive to completing the often menial side quests, with the reward of extra crafting tools or resources providing you with some of the most valuable commodities in the game.
There are plenty of other creative things to indulge yourself into within the world too – Harvest Moon fans will be particularly excited about the farming elements that Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles offers, for example. There’s a focus on bringing new animals to your farm from the wild rather than just buying them though, with you able to lure wildlife back by treating them to their favourite snacks… how cute is that? It’s nowhere near as intricate as the farming systems found in the likes of Harvest Moon and Stardew Valley, but it’s still a neat endeavour that I found myself spending hours taking part in. Don’t like farming? Don’t worry, there are plenty of other activities to partake in including everyone’s favourite video game mini-game: fishing.
I’ve always been a fan of the cel-shaded graphic style, so naturally I was in awe of Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles’ colourful visuals. It reminded me a lot of The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker, or even, at a push, Breath of the Wild. There’s so much variety to the world, with each sublime vista you come across and the dynamic weather system really bringing it all to life. There’s a beauty on offer that makes you want to simply stay in the world – whilst there’s no denying that some side quests might feel menial, the fact they all take place across a luscious landscape actually motivates you to stick with them and see where they may take you next.
Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles is all about relaxation, with the experience becoming a bit of an ‘anti-game’ in a way. It’s not always about completing objectives or making your way to the ending, but rather enjoying the experience and the world around you. I’ve often found it difficult to get fully engrossed in aimless titles like this, yet the tranquillity I felt whilst playing kept me hooked in for hours on end. It’s a nice break from the first-person shooters, RPGs, or action-adventure titles that I usually find myself playing.
The Nintendo Switch edition of the game holds up well, which is always a relief – the days of shoddy ports (I’m not forgetting about you, RiME) seem to be gone. The visuals are as vibrant and stunning as before, the controls feel great, whilst the frame rate manages to hold up well too. Don’t get me wrong, there was the occasional stutter to be found, but nothing game-breaking that really hindered the experience for me.
Developer: Prideful Sloth
Publisher: Prideful Sloth
Release Date: Out Now
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, PC