Button City is a low-poly narrative adventure game where you follow the adventures of Fennel and his new friends to save the local arcade! Lets get into it.
You play as Fennel, an adorable fox who has just moved into town. Fennel drops by the local arcade ‘ Button City’ to be pulled into the middle of an arcade battle. (AHA, I bet you thought that was what the town was called? You would be wrong my friends!) The Tuff Fluffs and the Fluff Squad are head to head in a tournament. Obviously trying to win first place for a chance at the Shiny Golden Gobabot Trophy. Luckily for you, there is a spot on the Fluff Squad, so here you are Day 1, making friends and trying to win the prize.
When you open the game, the game starts with a really funky cute rhythmic theme song, which showcases all the characters. Of course at the time this means nothing to you just yet. However remembering back that this happened, is such a cute cool and quirky way to introduce the game. I remember feeling really excited to get stuck in.
Once arriving in your area, you are taken under the wing of Sorrel, who vows to show you the ropes of your new found place in the Fluff Squad and wants to teach you how to play the epic arcade game Gobabots. The charming thing about this game is that it has a lot of its ‘own language’.
So let me explain. Gobabots are similar to say, living Tamagotchi’s that you use to fight in games. Players collect them, and they all have different traits, some are better at defense or attack, whilst some may be better at a more balanced approach. Each Gobabot has a different style and a special attack.
Gobabots is one of three arcade in-game games. Yes you read that right, an in-game game, now don’t make me say that out loud quickly too many times! Gobabots is set in two teams of four. The aim of the game is to collect as many berries as you can throw into the middle to make one giant smoothie. The team with the most contribution to the smoothie at the end wins. You can hold as many berries as you like, but if you are attacked by the opposing team, you will drop all your berries sacrificing them to the other team.
Your play style is up to you, you can choose to defend your team mates who may be holding lots of berries, or be the berry buster yourself and collect as many as you can to help your team win I went with a more balanced approach which you can also do! This game is actually quite addictive, and if they made this into an app on your phone, I would certainly invest.
Your mini game playing is not just held in the arcade, there are various animals around the world that you can challenge to a Gobobots match, should you have collected enough to make a team. This is where I did encounter I needed to hard reset, as I didn’t realise at first you needed to have four gobabots yourself. I couldn’t escape from the menu despite pressing every button known to man. This was not a frequent issue and did not happen again, I luckily did not lose any progress either.
Additionally, there are two other arcade games that you can play and challenge other players too, all at varying degree’s of difficulty. One game is a car drift game, which graphically screams those 90’s breeze jackets you used to have. It’s a short game of 3 laps, drifting and boosting down a mountain with one other car in play. Be first, or try again! Personally, this is not my type of mini game, just as I imagine the next one I explain won’t be for some people, but it was great they chose to include a few ‘classic’ arcade type games you could find if you took a trip to the beach or pier and jumped into the nearest arcade.
The final game is essentially the well loved dance machine / mat game you find in traditional arcades. You can play this either on the d-pad or using the right side buttons, whatever you prefer. These games are not easy either, they do take practice and skill. Don’t expect that just because it looks cute that it is easy!
There is also a shorter mini game about a lemonade stand that happens in the main story, and that is personally my favourite. The controls for this are very fun and it was very accomplishing to see how much lemonade I made by the end. Whilst delving in to the story and tasks, you will be met with a few puzzles along the way. These are not difficult puzzles, they may require you moving objects to get to your location or pulling levers but it adds a nice dynamic to a linear story narrative.
As the story unfolds you will soon be met with the conundrum that Mr Button’s, who owns the arcade, is selling it. He is selling it to ‘Money Bags’. A mean looking business cat who goes by the name of Peppermint Pepperbottom. In fact, all the characters are named after herbs and spices which is quite sweet. The Tuff Squad who are your arch nemesis rivals for the trophy are named after more spicy or oriental herbs such as Saffron, where are the Fluff Squad, more herbs and plants like Lavender. This is a nice touch on adding extra detail to character personalisation.
The game also touches on inclusion of disabilities and gay marriage, without rubbing it in your face that they have done that. Which I always applaud any game/movie/series for doing. It doesn’t say HEY HERE IS THIS WE DID THIS AND NOW WE ARE COOL. It mentions it as it should. #ally.
Another note on the characters is that they all have really distinct personalities. There is no voice acting, but the script does make up for that wholeheartedly. With pleasantries, tongue in cheek dialogue that points to the cliche of some games, and very funny jokes between characters. At one point, I had to complete a questionnaire choosing between if I preferred video Games or being in a blanket burrito. Its certainly a hard choice, but one I respected them for asking. (Obviously I chose Video Games).
Your job is then not only to win this gobabots trophy but to help somehow save the arcade from closing down. How the story unfolds from there was surprising to me, I didn’t expect what followed and it takes a wee bit of an emotional turn. I won’t spoil what happens, but it was a surprise to me within the story which arc was played and one that did keep me intrigued to keep playing.
During the gameplay you can go to all sorts of different locations like a park, or Mini Mart, each with their own set of quests. There are people in the environment who may give you side quests to complete. These will range from seemingly normal like decorating Button City, to quirky and fun like playing messenger between two people who are too anxious to leave their apartment. I do love random tasks attached to games also, they have also incorporated a small bite of a collect-a-thon, with fashion and trash on the floor which just satisfies that itch in an open world game.
Fennel has a ‘Petbot’. Button City’s version of a phone. It holds everything you need, a diary to keep track of your quests, your backpack for inventory, and communication to your friends. There was one small typo in this, but it is very handy to keep track. It separates between main story and side quests so you can choose how you play and what you prefer to focus on. You also collect points for playing arcade games which you can trade for prizes, or gobobots. There are in game coins also, which help buy fashion and drinks. This can also buy you power up effects to play during Gobobots to give you special advantages for you and your team.
The Art Style is not like one I have played before, and it reminds me of if a Polly Pocket was open world! Which is just adorable. The graphics are very poly-geometric, but the detail is super cute to be surrounded in. It is stacked open world, which means all your locations are stacked on top of each other. Like any open world game you do not have access to everything right away and as the game and story unfolds, your stack will get higher to travel too. They call this ‘Zoomies’ in the game. If anyone has pets, this is the cute way to say an animal is running like crazy from one place to another!
The fast travel aspect is great and it adds to the charm. However, I wished whilst I was playing it, Fennel’s movement speed was a little faster or there was a ‘run’ option. It was very reminiscent of playing old school Pokemon on the Gameboy Colour, before you get the bike. In fairness, the area’s are not huge and this is not a game breaker, more of an enhancement I would have personally preferred. Especially as there are a couple of fetch quests that leave you coming back and forth between two locations.
This did de-motivate me a little to continue after all of the side questions once I had finished the story, knowing some of them would require me to search and scour chatting to characters which would take a lot of time due to my speed. Interaction with objects did take a bit of getting used to, as it at first appeared a bit clunky. Having to stand in front of something, press the action button and then have Fennel shuffle around a bit until he interacts with it. You do get used to this however, but it can be a bit off putting at first.
The music gives me techno disco vibes and is really catchy. The pace will change in different scenarios and locations too, so it doesn’t feel like your ear worming the same boring track over and over again. I did have a few instances where the music would just stop dead and would stay like that for a while. But this would be rectified if I travelled around a few times.
There was an instance where it felt like I had completed a few hours of the game, and I had a task where I needed a significant amount more coins than I did have. It either did not say at the beginning or I had completely forgotten how to even get coins. The only way I knew how was interacting with random objects in the environment such as envelopes or the fridge. However, this was random to how much you actually received, and would not always produce coinage.
Due to my movement speed, and the amount of coins I needed, I spent a significantly long time, slowly traipsing around the locations touching everything, talking to everyone. I looked everywhere for a small reminder on how to collect coins, and eventually I was able to reach the allotted amount by going back to the main quest area and speaking to someone who offered me 10 coins to look away and make money. It had just been reprimanded me in doing so in the main story, so I didn’t think bothering this character would help me in my endeavours. I sunk hours into touching everything, and so I did get very accommodated with the world.
To say I was angry was an understatement. I had just wasted SO much time. This was nearly it for me. I did nearly give up here knowing I had to go around the whole world touching everything again in the hope to gather more coins. Maybe that was my fault for not immediately taking his bribe, because I had just been ‘told off’ by him. I thought I would get ‘into trouble’ with my other friends or change the story by doing so.
Other than this and the technical hitches mentioned the game is charming and pleasant. This is the thing about Button City, there is no danger, or lurking around every corner to see if something will jump out. You don’t have to anticipate losing all your stuff, or how many times you might ‘die’. This is a casual explorative narrative, where you follow the story and do as many rounds on your mini games as your heart desires. Whilst fulfilling the tasks of the members of the city. It feels like a pallet cleanser to all games that serve the shot of adrenaline with danger or enemies, and it was a real relaxing experience to follow a narrative knowing this.
Overall, Button City has more depth than I anticipated and the replayability is high if you fall in love with the mini games. Main story can be completed in under 6 hours, but there is more fun to be had after with the mini arcade games, and finishing side quests. The story is touching and has a really emotive meaning behind it. The characters are designed well, and are utterly charming and I can imagine some good merch coming out from their cute faces. The music is a bop, the art style is charismatic but there are a few hitches along the way. Movement speed can slow your game down a lot. There are a few technical bumps, but I would recommend for anyone who wants to free flow through an adventure narrative of Fennel and his Friends.
Button City is available now on PS5 (reviewed), PS4, Xbox One, Xbox Series S|X and PC.
Developer: Wings Interactive / Subliminal
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a promotional copy of the game. For our full review policy, please go here.
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