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Later Alligator Review: Bite-sized and Beautiful

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Later Alligator will love you, but inevitably leave you wanting more.

Few would be able to resist the robust charms of Later Alligator, a new adventure game packed with humor, absurdity, and no shortage of reptilian puns. While developer Pillow Fight’s previous work seems to have been primarily situated in the visual novel genre, their newest game detours into a kind of Professor Layton-like, a straightforward point-and-click adventure punctuated by one-off mini-games and hunts for collectibles. The entire experience is bite-sized and beautiful, and while some players may bemoan the relative scarcity of content, you can’t stay mad when being serenaded by an animated alligator playing a mandolin.

Alligator New York City is an urban, noir-tinged environment populated entirely by alligator people (and possibly a few ghosts). Interestingly, the game is played from a kind of first-person perspective, and determining who exactly the main controllable character is or what they are doing here is a persistent mystery that hovers on the periphery. Regardless, they have come at the whim of Pat the Alligator, an adorable nebbish convinced that their family is plotting some nefarious scheme. Pat tasks you with reaching out to each of them to determine if a sinister plot is indeed afoot, and otherwise retaining your services as protector. You’re then off to wander a few different areas in ANYC to question the locals and get up and personal with family gossip.

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Later Alligator is entirely hand-drawn and animated in spellbinding fashion. Most of the backgrounds are drawn in shades of gray (which helps the gator denizens stand out), and while the level of detail is always fairly minimalistic, every character is a flurry of vibrant personality. While there isn’t any voice acting to be found, all of the dialogue text is amusing when it’s not laugh-out-loud funny, and it’s all bolstered by brilliant art design and characterful reactions. A single conversation can elicit a half dozen or more different character animations, which floods each interaction with whimsical energy. It’s sometimes altogether saddening when you realize that you’ve exhausted a single character’s span of dialogue, only because it means a given character cannot be engaged with them further.

Later Alligator Review Slick Mickey

The humor is generally lighthearted but perceptive, relying on puns and banter as well as insightful social observations. For instance, Pat’s father stands chuckling by his trusty grill as a fountain of dad-jokes, but also interjects them with solemn self-aware qualifications that somehow make them even funnier. Or the “Eat-Mergency” stand in the park, which combines fast food with a themed commentary on the sorry state of health insurance. So, there’s some pointed teeth to the humor, but it’s generally light, accessible, and enjoyable, based purely on the very high writing standard.

The minigame portions are, expectantly, hit or miss. The game’s trailer boasts “over 25 minigames,” which is an extremely generous take, as quite a few of the games are essentially luck-based or silly busywork. The first one you will probably “play” is a three-card monty game with Slick Mickey outside Pat’s hotel and is essentially impossible to lose. Will you laugh when you play it, anyway? Most certainly, but some players might see this and some comparably shallow minigames as little more than padding.

Later Alligator Review Old Maid

Still, much like Professor Layton or Puzzle Agent, there is also magic to the sheer diversity of encountering multiple types of games that never really overlap with each other. In one instance you might be spotting the differences between a work of art and a forgery, and later on you’re protecting a sleeping baby gator's crib from ghosts. As a matter of fact, both of these specific minigames are considerably more involved than others, and a higher percentage of these types would have been welcome, but there remains a pleasantly anarchic, box-of-chocolates quality to what the next family member might be tasking you with this time.

However, not quite everything in the game feels fully-baked. There’s some weird under-explored thread about insects, whether as something alligators eat or possibly as a type of fuel for the trolley? There’s also a low-hanging-fruit ongoing joke of putting “Alligator” in front of proper names which confirms the game's goofy fictional universe (as in “Alligator Long Island” or the “YACA” instead of the YMCA), but then other situations will inconsistently reference real-world things nakedly, like the restaurant Sizzler or the internet handle “Gandalf Da Bey.” Usually, the inherent absurdist energy does justify anything getting tossed into the blender for a laugh but, in such a short game, minor worldbuilding inconsistencies as these seem more noticeable.

Later Alligator Review Barbershop Quartet

These are all admittedly nits being picked, and the rambunctious atmosphere and hilarious irreverence makes playing Later Alligator a constant joy. A given playthrough should only take about an hour and a half, but there are a few things to go back for in pursuit of the complete ending. There’s even something of a time mechanic, where playing mini-games and traveling to different areas ticks down a clock, but it’s manageable and unobtrusive unless you really get in the weeds, which is doubtful.

There’s also a swinging and addictive soundtrack, which does as much heavy lifting as the writing and visual design. Almost every screen in the game contains its own bespoke theme, and there are little exclamations and murmurs in the audio mix that add even more color and life to certain characters. An upcoming announcement for a physical soundtrack release seems thankfully unavoidable.

Later Alligator Review Grandpa

Later Alligator is the perfect Sunday afternoon game, many miles away from considerably more epic and demanding time-sinks, and most any player will want to return to its world to fully rinse the breadth of content to be found. Pillow Fight has made a real gem, and their outstanding creative instincts and sense of humor can be found in every clickable corner of the modest little world they’ve crafted. Overall, Later Alligator will love you, but inevitably leave you wanting more.

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Later Alligator is out now on PC/Steam with a suggested retail price of $17.99 (a limited-time launch-event sale reduces that down to $14.75). A digital PC copy was provided to Screen Rant for purposes of review.

Our Rating:

4 out of 5 (Excellent)
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