Review – ITTA
The second I saw the trailer for ITTA, I immediately thought to myself this was an indie darling on the making. I had no idea why, but I was instantly intrigued by its mixture of hardcore bullet-hell shooting mechanics with a somber world to explore, as well as its themes centered around overcoming personal struggles. Maybe it was the mesh between a genre I love and themes that always hit so close to home to basically any of us. Regardless, I have now finally managed to play it, and I guess my intuition wasn’t wrong. This is definitely an indie darling to pay attention to.
ITTA starts off with an emotional bang. You wake up in a mysterious land, with your brother, father, and pet lying dead right next to you. To top things off, your mother is also missing. A spirit then takes over the body of your deceased pet, becoming a ghostly companion that also helps you out by providing you with a spiritual gun to defend yourself against any threat that comes your way. After meeting a handful of residents from the realm you’re currently located in, you find out that you need to defeat a handful of difficult bosses in order to attempt to go home.
The entire story is filled with discreet (and some very non-discreet) nods to overcoming personal struggles and mental issues, turning ITTA into a mix of various games and other pieces of media that culminate in a somewhat unique premise. Think of it as Furi meets Shadow of the Colossus meets Celeste meets Spirited Away, and you’ll more or less get the jist of what’s going on. Although, there’s more than enough in here to make ITTA feel unique when compared to the rest of the most recent indie releases out there.
You’ll spend most of your time in ITTA just casually exploring its beautifully realized world. It’s a nice mixture of calm and unsettling, as the world you’re in isn’t exactly the friendliest out there. Most of the NPCs you’ll meet have either lost their minds or are in the process of. Very few people will actively help you or even treat you nicely at first. There are also a handful of hidden items and powerups to search for, giving the game some subtle but noticeable Zelda-esque vibes.
The combat is where ITTA shines bright, though. There aren’t many instances in which you’ll actually fight, but just like in Shadow of the Colossus, every fight will become memorable. In true bullet-hell fashion, they constantly shoot a barrage of bullets at you, and it’s up to you to either evade them, slowly filling up an invincibility bar if you stand close to a bullet and don’t get hit, or dodge them with a roll mechanic. The dodge roll basically lets you become invincible to any shot or physical attack by an enemy. Whether that was intentional or a small glitch actually helping you out, I appreciate how this balances the combat to be hard, but completely manageable with proper planning. The only main issue here is the fact that, as previously mentioned, there are only a handful of bosses to fight against, making the entire experience a bit too brief.
ITTA‘s gameplay might be good, but its presentation might actually be the real star of the show, even though it’s not particularly flawless. Its visual presentation is strong, featuring a pixel-based art style that looks like something in between an 8-bit and a 16-bit game, but with even more detail and elements onscreen. That’s both a good and a bad thing. The world might be beautiful to look at, but that also means that some areas might look like a mess. There will be way too much detail onscreen, and the simple act of deducting whether that thing in front of you is a wall or a ramp will become an occasional issue.
The soundtrack might actually be ITTA‘s greatest highlight. The compositions are great, and they always show up at the most appropriate moment. The game knows when to calm you down with a soothing, yet slightly uncomfortable tune when you’re exploring, when to present you with a sad and slow ballad during an emotional segment, and when to hit you in the head with an epic and intense song during boss battles.
I love when a little indie shows up from out of nowhere and wins me over like this. ITTA features all the key ingredients to be an indie darling, such as a strong art style and soundtrack, a gameplay loop reminiscent of classic games from back in the day, and a story that will hit close to home to anyone who decides to pick it up. Thankfully, in no moment these elements felt like just “game award bait”. This is a well-crafted title I can easily recommend to anyone who owns a Switch. When the main problem a game has is the fact it doesn’t last for long, you know it’s something worth giving a look.
The art style is striking and the animations are fantastic, but the sheer amount of unnecessary detail, as well as the lack of defined lines, will confuse players as to if the thing in front of you is a ramp or just a beautifully decorated wall.
Intense bullet hell combat and some slower-paced exploratory segments mash together as brilliantly as peanut butter and jelly.
It’s spooky and serene at times and it’s incredibly intense when it needs to be. The soundtrack is possibly ITTA‘s greatest highlight.
Fun Factor: 8.5
The gameplay is excellent, the level of challenge sits at the perfect middle road between brutal and fair, and the story is captivating and relatable. ITTA is an easy recommendation, even though it’s quite short.
Final Verdict: 8.5
ITTA is available now on Switch and PC.
Reviewed on Switch.
A copy of ITTA was provided by the publisher.