April 23, 2020
Armor Games Studios
ITTA is a game about contrasts. It is partly a hectic boss rush action game with strong bullet hell shooter elements, and partly a tranquil isometric walking simulator with some light puzzle solving. While it may seem like these two gameplay styles should not go together, ITTA makes the two styles compliment each other, and delivers a surprisingly engaging and contemplative experience.
ITTA begins with the titular heroine waking up surrounded by the bloody corpses of her dead family members. Finding herself in a mysterious land of purgatory, Itta is aided by the spirit of her family cat to take down vicious spirits and find a way back home.
About half of your time with ITTA will be spent travelling around the environment. The game’s highly detailed pixellated art style is very nice to look at, and the decaying landscapes and populace give a great sense of the gradual destruction that the setting has been undergoing. Players can also discover optional weapons and health upgrades by investigating hidden areas.
Very little about the plot is spoon-fed to the player, and you only get hints of backstory from dialogue and hidden notes. As Itta encounters denizens of this strange place, she begins to piece together its history and the events that caused its steady decline. Fans of From Software games may enjoy the somewhat oblique storytelling. Although even if you don’t have a handle on what is going on, it’s always clear what to do next in gameplay terms.
The bosses themselves are kind of a mixed bag in terms of design. There are 18 of them, and while some are very distinct and memorable, others tend to blend together somewhat. Itta herself has an excellent design, displaying her innocence and purity, while also always being easy to detect in the middle of hectic gunfights. The soundtrack as well deserves positive mention, maintaining an eerie ambience during the exploration sections, then ratcheting up the tempo during the boss fights.
When you aren’t exploring a morbidly tranquil overworld, you are combating bosses in frantic bullet hell showdowns. Itta starts off with a puny revolver, but gains access to new weapons over time.
There are probably too many weapons considering the game’s short length. I also wish changing weapons mid-fight was more convenient. As it stands, you will probably pick one or two weapons as your favourites to stick with, rather than make use of your whole arsenal.
Overall, I found the bosses to be well-balanced for challenge (one or two really cheap ones notwithstanding). The player returns quickly after death, making further attempts less frustrating. One aspect I noticed on the Switch version was some slowdown when enemy bullets REALLY started to fill up the screen.
Players get to choose which order the bosses of ITTA are challenged, for the most part. This has both positive and negative outcomes. On the plus side, if you are stuck at a certain boss, it can be helpful to focus on other bosses and come back later with more upgrades. On the other hand, it leads to a very inconsistent difficulty curve. Bosses later in the game aren’t necessarily harder than those at the start. Some of the late game bosses even feel easier than some of the earlier ones, although that may be because of health upgrades found throughout the game.
I also appreciated the accessibility options in ITTA. Similar to Celeste, the player can tweak Itta’s damage output, and toggle invincibility on or off. If you are only here for the story, or just can’t get past a certain boss, the game at least gives you the tools to progress if you are looking for an easier way forward. The game doesn’t shame the player or withhold any progress for using these options as well. If it helps more players experience the story and get to the end, I call that a 100% positive result.
- Detailed and gorgeous pixel art
- Intriguing yet minimalist plot and setting
- Mostly smooth and challenging bullet hell gameplay
- Helpful accessibility options
- Inconsistent difficulty curve
- Weapon switching could be more convenient
- Occasional performance issues on Nintendo Switch
Glass Revolver have a strong debut game with ITTA. Its haunting yet hands-off plot and setting tell a sad tale of grief and moving on from loss. The bullet hell combat is also well executed, even if weapon switching could be less of a hassle. Rather than feeling like two disparate games in one, I felt the changing pace made for a more engaging experience, providing calm before each storm.
Fans of bullet hell shooters will likely enjoy ITTA, and even for those that don’t, the game’s accessibility options make getting through the challenging fights more of a possibility. I can quite strongly recommend ITTA as a short but dynamic experience that will stay with you for a while.