Cotton Reboot! Review: Rebooting A Classic
Cotton: Fantastic Night Dreams was already an excellent SHMUP before receiving a face-lift. Cotton Reboot! brings the game up to date in more than a few ways while still providing an adorable good time. A few elements that remain perhaps should have considered updating as well, however.
You play as Cotton, a young witch just looking for her next candy fix. When a fairy named Silk finds her and begs for her help saving the fairy world, Cotton is less than impressed. Not her problem. The promise of mystical fairy candy changes things quickly, however, and soon the two are a team. They’ll have to fight through seven stages of crazy enemies to get all the candy back.
Two Ways To Play
There are two main modes here. A port of the X6800 version of the game lets you relive the series’ past. It still looks and sounds great after all these years. Controls are tight. There’s a reason this series is still around after all these years. The game also oozes personality, with wacky and fun enemies fitting together wonderfully. Cotton manages to find a nice balance of making things fun while not going too over the top.
The main attraction for most here, however, will be the updated version. This is no small upgrade. While many things are quite similar, from the levels you play to the bosses you fight, the development team wasn’t afraid to shake things up. Mostly for the better, though there are a few issues.
Cotton Reboot! significantly ups the speed of the game. It also provides Cotton with a few new ways to strike at her enemies. For example, the back of your broom now damages enemies behind you. Forgetting I couldn’t do this in the X6800 version of the game actually got me killed a few times.
Up Your Score
Scoring also has received a big update. As you kill enemies, they’ll drop a wide variety of colored gems. Some of these just provide points, while others have bomb attacks that can do massive damage. In addition to picking them up, however, you can shoot them to power them up. After enough shots, you can even get a new black gem in the reboot, which provides a huge scoring boost. It offers a nice risk vs. reward when you have to decide the right time to grab them.
If your score gets high enough, you can also power up your shots. While attacking in the original game feels fairly controlled, here, your shots spread far wider and can fill the screen when powered up. Enemies have been expanded to compensate, however.
Most of the game’s original enemies have glorious updates here. Every level looks fantastic, though, at times, I wished a few of them had been kept a bit more simple. There are certainly levels where I couldn’t tell if I was able to go into an area because it looks busy enough and like a barrier. Thankfully you don’t take damage from touching the walls here.
Stay Ahead Of The Curve
Cotton doesn’t start terribly difficult, but it ratchets up by the end. There are times in the later levels where there’s so much going on that it can be hard to keep track of. Fans of the genre will feel right at home, but newcomers might be a tad intimidated.
There’s no huge need to worry, however. If you need extra lives or infinite continues, they’re all here. There are also difficulty options. Keep in mind, though, that messing with these can disqualify you from the game’s online leaderboards. If you want to edge into those leaderboards, though, a pair of time trial modes are available, which give you a low-risk way to practice.
Can’t Fully Escape The 90s
Parts of Cotton still very much feel like they are stuck in the 90s, however. Particularly in its style. Playing both versions back to back will reveal a few enemies with problematic designs have been updated for the reboot. They’re still in the X6800 version, however. One boss late in the game, in particular, has gone from having a stereotypical tribal design to now being a knight. He still is shaped the same, but they tried to update him to make him less offensive. I actually appreciate them trying to have it both ways here. For an update, there was no need not to provide a modern, more appropriate take. Yet, for the original, they aren’t hiding from their history. Still, a few designs in the original definitely caught me off guard.
Despite updates in other areas, your fairy friend Silk still feels absurdly out of place here. Most of this game has a cute, over-the-top feel to it. The sort of game that feels like a fit for all ages. Yet Silk spends the whole game running around in a bikini that leaves next to nothing to the imagination. While true to the original, it’s another thing that perhaps should have seen an update. It isn’t simply that it’s inappropriate but that it feels so out of place compared to the tone of the rest of the game. Instead of updating this, Silk is plastered on the game’s home screen. It’s a strange choice for a game so willing to update things in other ways.
Cotton Reboot! breaks out the witch’s magic and makes a thirty-year-old game feel fresh and new. While not every update lands perfectly, and some content is worthy of a warning, this is an adorable shooter that looks and plays great. Here’s hoping Cotton can return with even more magic soon.
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: Nintendo Switch (reviewed), PS4; Publisher: ININ Games; Developer: Rocket Engine, BEEP; Players: 1; Released: July 20th, 2021; ESRB: E10+ for Everyone 10+; MSRP: $39.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a copy of Cotton Reboot! provided by the publisher.