In the most positive sense, it’s amazing what gets approved for release on the Switch. Raindrop Sprinters is an indie title that could well be a mobile phone game in everything except its aesthetic, which accurately resembles an early ’80s arcade title.
You play a cat represented by a bobbing paw, tasked only with crossing a screen from one side to the other, on repeat, 40 times to finish the Standard game. During each brief transit, raindrops fall from a corrugated overhead roof, dripping randomly, with enough gaps to allow you to make your crossing unscathed. With one life only, it’s simplistic, but there’s a core scoring game here that’s both utterly compelling and unapologetically brutal.
The raindrops rapidly pick up speed. Spend long enough on the first screen and the patter soon becomes a hell of a deluge. Lingering can have a scoring advantage, with each screen dropping a set number of stars at intermittent intervals. Most are yellow, and a few pink, netting a double bonus. But, with the tempo of the rainfall on a constant increase, dawdling for points makes things exponentially tougher. After a few minutes, it’s already thundering down, a torrential threat to kitty’s survival. Fulfilling hidden objectives such as catching all the stars, clearing a set number of screens, etc., grants badges, with seven unlocking “powerful skills”. The element that will really separate the scoreboards, though, is the last-second dodge. The closer a drop is to taking you out, the more score bonus you get, up to what appears to be a maximum of 500, signified by a burst of green bubbles appearing near your paw. Think about it almost like a parry; a cat playing chicken with droplets of doom.
It’s tough to clear 40 screens, but by hitting a button you engage a slow-motion mechanic that can save you in a clinch. Governed by a power gauge that, when reduced, will refill slightly with each screen cleared, the effect slows the rain and slightly boosts your speed. The gauge drains fast, however, requiring it to be used both tactically and sparingly. TATE mode is available for an extra level of arcade authenticity, and there are additional gameplay modes, too, including ‘Endless’ for pushing your limits, and ‘Cats and Dogs’ for instantaneous rain-related havoc. There’s also a Customise mode, allowing you to spend accrued points on protective bonuses to make the game easier or harder, depending on your skill level, and what appears to be a couple of other unlockable variations on the theme.
Raindrop Sprinters is as pure an arcade experience as one could wish for, its base simplicity underpinned by a deep scoring game that can be approached in a variety of ways, ultimately presenting a bottomless reflex-based affair that will wash out the impatient and reward the dedicated in a shower of euphoria. It’s not a game for everyone and will hold little appeal or longevity for the vast majority, but it does what it does well, and its construction is a little bit clever. When you reach that moment of dodging zen, where you’re weaving those drops against impossible odds, you run a real risk of just-one-more-go addiction.