ITTA for the Nintendo Switch Review – In A Word, Beautiful
The indie game market can almost be seen as a box of toys you find at a yard sale. Sometimes you’ll get something chewed up, torn apart and incomplete, while other times you’ll find something immaculately well kept. You don’t know if what you take out will be worth even thinking about a moment later, leaving nary a trace of remembrance in your head. This is the kind of thing I think about, and as I started up ITTA on my Switch, I wondered how things would fare.
ITTA is a bullet-hell, boss rush style adventure game developed by Glass Revolver and published by Armor Games Studios. While it sets out to give a fun and tense gameplay experience, it also attempts to show us something deeper.
A Stranded Child
In ITTA, you play as a young girl named Itta that awakens in a strange chamber, finding her father, brother, and cat murdered before her, while her mother is nowhere to be seen. In the confusion of such a horrific scene, a spirit emerges from nowhere, taking the form of a cat. This spirit tells Itta that it’s an astral guardian, summoned by her deceased cat to assist her in the journey ahead of her. So, armed with her father’s revolver, Itta sets out to find answers.
Stepping out from the chamber, ITTA introduces you to a world with gorgeous pixel art, made with painstaking detail and well-imagined visuals. Every area you explore is sure to inspire awe as it’s nothing short of breathtaking.
Beauty Amidst The Chaos
In relation to that, the environment design is something to behold, with architecture reminiscent of civilizations long past. You spend a lot of time exploring these areas, so they put a lot of work into making sure there’s always something to look at, whether it be the cracked statues lining one hallway, or the well-animated waterfalls cascading down into the unknown.
However, it’s not all serenity as in this world lays horrific imagery. While the artstyle of ITTA’s characters lends itself more towards cutesy and simplistic, it’s juxtaposed against the dark nature of the world, setting the tone rather early with the disturbing scene in the beginning.
Exploration is a key part of ITTA’s gameplay. As you explore more of this strange world, bits of information, be it through brief conversations with the locals or the environment itself, begin to come out. Secrets lay in every alcove you find, like a grounded stone golem telling you its life, or a book that explains the history of the world. Everything is mysterious and slightly uncomforting, yet intriguing all the same.
The soundtrack only does more to emphasize this point. In the beginning areas, the score lulls you into a sense of hope and peace, only to grow darker, heavier the more you discover places to explore further. Then, when it gets to the combat, things start picking up, contrasting the smooth melody with a fast-paced rhythm.
Combat in ITTA is your standard bullet-hell shooter. In some ways, I would almost compare the controls, and the way it feels, to Enter The Gungeon. You aim to shoot, and you dodge to avoid. Dodges can avoid all projectiles and enemies, a rather generous advantage even if it leaves you with little room to breathe as more and more bullets come to take you down.
Though you start only with a revolver, you can gain more weapons through exploration, giving you more ways to play, whether it’s the spread-heavy shotgun or the rapid-firing automatic gun. However, you find these weapons in their physical forms, meaning you can’t use them, requiring you to bring them to a Spirit-smith to transform them into spirit weapons.
Your arsenal isn’t the only thing that you can upgrade in ITTA. Once again, exploration is key, as through it you’ll find ways to increase your health, change the look of your spirit cat (doesn’t seem to have an effect on gameplay), and obtain a special ability called Spirit Overload. Spirit Overload is an ability in which, once the meter is completely full, you become invincible and you deal greater damage. The only way to fill this meter is to narrowly dodge projectiles, rewarding players for a more risky playstyle.
Spirit Overload is almost a constant, considering the amount of projectiles thrown your way from the bosses. The bosses in ITTA all come with interesting and unique designs, making sure each one is a spectacle. While they do start out simple, just shooting bullets your way that can be easily dodged, as you whittle down their health they change phases often, adding more and more to avoid. You can even mark down at what amount of health each phase begins if you throw yourself at it enough. Each fight becomes a beautiful chaotic mess that keeps you on your toes, never letting you get used to the current phase for too long.
With a couple of exceptions, the fights never felt too unfair or punishing. The fact that death places you outside the boss arena with full health and however much energy your Spirit Overload meter had is actually quite generous. Never does a fight take too long; there’s no attempt to pad things out. You fight, you die; or you kill them, then you move on.
That’s not to say the game is without challenge. As I’ve said, the fact that they add more things to avoid in the fight keeps the pace running high. Sometimes, however, things seem to be a bit unfair, but it’s only on a few occasions.
For example, if you get hit by the enemy and not a projectile, there’s no indication you got hit, while if a projectile hits you, the game flashes the edges of the screen red. Also there was one boss that had an ability where they teleported to my area and could damage me. However, there was no discernible message to tell me they that were about to do it. In fact, multiple times, I got damaged as soon as they started to teleport. And the lack of tells is a bit prevalent throughout ITTA, and it did ruin the experience somewhat. No longer was it about reading the enemy, but just dodging when you think damage will happen.
And that’s not the only problem. A couple of boss arenas had this weird issue where you enter them, and then they just bring you back out, only to work the second time you enter. It wasn’t too big of a problem until I got to some tough bosses, and it started happening multiple times.
Also the Switch version crashed on me twice, but ITTA is so good with saving that it never disadvantaged me.
What Comes After
Yet through all of that, I came out of ITTA loving the experience. My play time was about four hours, maybe five, and I enjoyed every second of it. Even with all that time spent, there were still a couple of bosses I didn’t fight and some weapons I didn’t collect.
As a bullet-hell, it plays like a dream, but ITTA provides more than that; telling a story about personal struggle, death and acceptance. Its themes are as beautiful as its world, and managed to get me to tear up a bit at the end. ITTA is something special to behold in a sea of indie games, so I hope it doesn’t get lost in the void.
The fact that it was made by a single person is a testament to the talent of its developer. And as his first commercial release, I am intrigued to see what he makes next, because ITTA is a great start.
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Reviewed by Freelance7 on the Nintendo Switch. Game provided by Armor Games.