Sir Eatsalot is quite possibly the best showcase of Vita technology in years. This little indie platformer is therefore exclusive to Sony’s handheld and was developed by a team of two at German developer Behind the Stone.
First impressions can be deceiving, but can also turn into big compliments. When I first saw screenshots and footage of Sir Eatsalot, I thought it was the closest thing I had seen to Cuphead and was amazed that it was coming out on the Vita. Sure, I now know that Sir Eatsalot plays nothing like the fast-paced action platformer Cuphead, but the art style and animation are excellent and evoke memories of classic hand drawn cartoons just like MDHR’s recent platformer.
As you can probably gather just by looking at the title, Sir Eatsalot is a knight of rather large proportions – a theme that continues through the rest of the game as well. He has to keep his strength up by eating, he answers to King Dietan of Gluttington and his movement is – as you’d expect – not quite as energetic as that of Rayman, Mario or Sonic. Sir Eatsalot is drawn and animated as if he came straight from a cartoon, and this holds true for other in-game characters as well. This includes antagonist Hysterica, an evil witch who threatens to poison the kingdom of Gluttington and loves to act out in cutscenes.
Sir Eatsalot is a very different kind of platformer than some of the popular names in the genre, as I’ve already hinted at. There is very little verticality in the game, and movement is mostly restricted to left to right or right to left movement with a few small jumps across gaps. This doesn’t make for very dynamic or fast-flowing platforming, so if you were hoping for a platformer in the sense of Rayman you’ll be left sorely disappointed.
The game, despite its relatively simple horizontal style, also suffers from game/level design that makes it easy to get lost. Horizontal level segments are layered in front and behind each other, with passages to travel between them. This gives the illusion of depth, but also makes it hard to figure out where you’ve been and need to go. There is no map system in place, nor is there any help with navigation to point you in the right way when you’re looking for a specific objective. Unfortunately, this can lead to frustration and hopefully this is a feature that can be added post-release (even if it’s just an arrow to help you find the shortest way to your goal).
With so many Vita releases now being cross-platform, and in most cases with the Vita release being a port, Sir Eatsalot is great in how well it demonstrates that it’s a Vita exclusive. There’s some good use of the touch screen, the rear touch pad gets some use (to push objects out of the way) and there’s even some use for that Golden Abyss trick where you use a light source in real life to illuminate the game world when you’re in a dark cave. Sir Eatsalot tends to overuse these aspects and they outstay their welcome after a while, but it’s nice to see these Vita-specific features being put to use again. In most cases, lifting the Vita up from your lap is enough to shed some light – but I can imagine it’s more cumbersome when the Vita’s surroundings are already lit up by default or you play in the dark.
Combat, like the platforming, is relatively straightforward. You can slash at your enemies or use a shield to defend yourself, but Sir Eatsalot’s self-imposed sluggishness means you won’t be bouncing across the screen as you defeat your enemies. In fact, even just a big jump can tire him out and force you to find some extra food again so he regains his energy.
So while the platforming and combat are a bit underwhelming and Vita-specific features might be overused, the audiovisual delivery and characters definitely have a ton of charm to them. It’s a shame they don’t make up for the shortcoming in game design, but I definitely hope that Behind the Stone will continue to support the Vita and apply their vision to new titles. If Sir Eatsalot really had been more like Cuphead, it would have been a Vita classic – now it’ll mostly be remembered for its beautiful visual style.