I love boss-battling gameplay and the chaos of schmups, so the blend of both in Armor Game Studios’ ITTA massivelyappealed to me from the get-go. Who doesn’t like taking on a stream of nasty baddies whilst the screen around them filled to the brim with bullets, right? Well, the game has just launched on the Nintendo Switch and I got my hands on it, and boy… it’s tough.
ITTA tells the tale of a young girl who awakens to find that her family have been murdered under mysterious yet brutal circumstances, though her mother’s missing body and a trail of blood leaves her hope that she survived. She also has the help of a spirit companion that takes on the form of her dead cat, who doesn’t only offer advice but also arms her with a neat handgun. I mean, that’s the ideal gift to give to a girl who’s grieving the loss of her family, right?
Thus, you set out on a journey to find out why your family was murdered and what happened to your mother. There’ll be plenty of small tid-bits of information to uncover about what’s going on, the world, and its inhabitants along the way too, though the cryptic presentation of the narrative does leave a lot of it to the player’s imagination. I actually found myself pretty invested in ITTA’s tale and the quirky NPCs that I encountered helped feed that intrigue with their enigmatic murmurings, though I’ll also admit that I didn’t fully understand everything by the time I reached the game’s conclusion. Still, I enjoyed the tale and it accompanied the action-packed boss battles nicely.
At its core, ITTA is a twin-stick shooter that sees the player working through a mysterious world as they look to conquer eighteen different bosses. These bosses make for some difficult showdowns and you can expect the screen to be filled to the brim with bullets as you try to take them down, though fortunately you are equipped with a swift dodge ability that makes you temporarily invincible whilst in the rolling motion. Believe me, you’ll want to master the use of that dodge because it will be VERY important if you’re hoping to survive through to the end of your journey.
The boss encounters are the highlight of the experience, with each providing players with a spectacular battle against foes that are menacing and varied in design. Of course, they’re also tough as nails, with each bringing multiple phases of attacks to the fray as their health slowly dwindles away. There’ll be times when you’ll be incredibly close to nailing that killing blow, only for them to introduce a powerful new attack that’ll completely wipe you out. It sounds like it’d be annoying, but it actually makes for a really satisfying cycle where each bit of progress you make through an encounter reminds you that you really can take them down.
They’re entertaining battles, though ITTA’s bosses could begin to feel a little bit samey from a gameplay perspective – especially since most of your enemies’ attacks will simply result in the screen filling with bullets. There’s very little diversity required in how you approach each battle, with a repeated formula of simply dodging, shooting, and repeating making up the bulk of the experience. It’s not a bad thing since the game itself is a whole lot of fun to play and each boss encounter is certainly intense, but you can expect some repetition the further you progress through the game.
Whilst ITTA’s main gameplay consists of taking down bosses, there’s also an element of exploration in place that sees you explore the vast world, interact with its NPCs, solve simple puzzles, and discover the many secrets that are littered around. These could be new weapons for you to use, cat statues that change the form of your spirit ally, or even whole new pathways to follow – you can actually use bombs in a similar vein to Link from The Legend of Zelda and blast open walls to uncover hidden nooks and crannies. Some areas are simply inaccessible until you beat certain bosses or unlock specific weapons too, so exploration is tied to your progression through the game.
One example of this comes with the cannon, which you can then use to blast through the pillars that are blocking your path. It’s also handy in combat too and it’s easy enough to switch weapons on the fly with the shoulder buttons, though I must admit that I spent most of the game simply using the shotgun. Sure, some of the other weapons can really help you out in some cases, but the spread of the shotgun proved most effective when trying to dash around and fit in sporadic shots here and there.
Presentation-wise, ITTA runs really well on the Nintendo Switch. I loved the look of the sullen world and the music felt fitting of its mysterious vibes, whilst a consistent framerate ensured you’re never off the mark when it comes to avoiding gunfire or blasting some of your own. The only real performance issue I came across was the fact that the game didn’t seem to recognise me walking through doorways at times and would instantly teleport me back to the same area, but that was just a minor (albeit weird) problem that occurred on a very rare basis.
One thing I will mention is that the Joy Cons can get a little uncomfortable to use during extended playthroughs of ITTA. There’s a heck of a lot of running around in circles and aiming all over the place, so your thumbs will be bouncing all over the Joy Con sticks with each battle you enter. However, their small and slightly uncomfortable shape just made it feel a little fiddly at times and I noticed that my thumbs were slipping off the sticks on multiple occasions. Now this is the console’s fault so I’m not holding it against ITTA or letting it affect our score of the game, but it’s something that’s worth bearing in mind if you’re looking at picking the game up on the Nintendo Switch and playing exclusively handheld.
Something that I think deserves mentioning is that ITTA is a tricky game and it doesn’t come with multiple difficulties. However, it does have accessibility options for players to give themselves a helping hand during tough encounters, meaning players of any skill level can enjoy its adventure through to the conclusion. These accessibility options offer ‘2x Damage’ and ‘Invincibility’ to players – I wouldn’t recommend the latter as it’ll eliminate ALL of the game’s challenge completely, but that ‘2x Damage’ did come in handy a few times for me. You can activate and deactivate these perks as you please too, so you can just use them if there’s one boss that’s causing you trouble if you like.
ITTA’s unique blend of the boss-rush formula and action-packed schmup gameplay makes for a really enjoyable experience, though a lack of depth stops it from striving towards greatness. I found that a lot of the boss battles just started to feel a bit too samey in design over time, whilst the fact that I spent the majority of my time just using the shotgun shows that the weapon variation wasn’t necessarily up to much either.
That’s not to say that I didn’t have a really good time with the game though and I had a ton of satisfyingly challenging fun seeing the intriguing tale through to its conclusion. I just wish there could have been a little bit more variety on offer across each showdown with the game’s epic foes.
Developer: Glass Revolver
Publisher: Armor Game Studios
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PC