Taking one look at Button City, one word will most likely come to mind: adorable. Which is exactly how my experience was with this very adorable and lavish indie game, despite some issues that could have been ironed out.
Developed and published by Indie studio Subliminal, Button City begins with the adorable fox Fennel, who is the new fox in town. Fennel is shy and does not have any friends, but quicky makes up for that and meets new people at Button City’s local arcade. Here, all Button City inhabitants love to play a game here called Gobabots, the most popular arcade game there is to offer. Unfortunately, the arcade is at risk of being turned into a retail store, something that causes much panic to Fennel and his newfound friends. Who all share a deep love of the arcade and video games. Fennel and friends take it upon themselves to decide to save the arcade from a greedy businessman’s desire to turn it into his retail store and will do anything to make sure the arcade stays.
There is absolutely no denying that Button City is very charming in its presentation. With its very lovely saturation of colours splashed all across the characters and locations for you to explore and intentionally low-poly 90s aesthetic, this game ticks all the boxes for its style and presentation. You definitely cannot help but feel happy and smile when you boot up this game to experience it. Even the way the characters talk to one another and their conversations together are just all-around cute, especially Fennel’s obsession with video games and making new friends. The dialogue is also funny and just plain adorable. One of Fennel’s new friends is obsessed with a TV show involving aliens and believes conspiracies of aliens being the reason as to why something is happening, is an example of a fun light-hearted conversation that takes place early on in the game, which made me chuckle.
I was surprised to find that Button City’s story was disarmingly heart-touching and dabbled in some issues that can hit home for some, with topics such as family issues, sibling rivalry, things that I was absolutely not expecting this cutesy little adventure game to take and guide me through. While I don’t want to spoil anything, I thoroughly enjoyed the themes and story this game presented to me. With some witty writing and all-around emotional moments, Button City will be sure to take you by surprise, too.
While Button City has its presentation and style nailed down perfectly and the story and issues presented decently, it’s more the technical things and gameplay I had problems with. One thing that bugged me throughout my entire playthrough was having to adjust Fennell in an exact spot in order for him to interact with a character or item so I could talk to them, or pick said item up. It took some getting used to before I could press the X button at the right moment to action the interaction, but it was very finnicky and could have done with some more refining on this part.
The minigames that you also play in Button City, while cutesy, also get repetitive quickly. Gobabots, the main minigame from the arcade that the story is mostly centred around, gets pretty tiring after a while, and I would only want to play the game against an NPC if I really needed to, in order to progress the story or gain points. The gist of the minigame consists of you and your teammates controlling little robots in a virtual map to collect the most berries and take them to the blender under a time limit, whilst also watching out for the other team who can potentially destroy you and vice versa. If they do happen to destroy you, you are slowly summoned back to your starting point via a transportive bubble.
You can make this bubble go faster by pressing the X button at the right moment over a circle that perfectly overlaps, requiring you to be brought back to the teleporter to where you started the minigame while wasting previous, valuable time. It’s fun, don’t get me wrong, but only in spades before you get tired of it. Especially when the opposing team can somehow annihilate you with one or two hits and you’ve got to wait until you are teleported back to your respawn point. The same can be said for the other mini games, such as a racing car one and probably the harshest mini game that could have had a lot more time to be worked over, was the dance rhythm mini game, which was just difficult and hard for no real unfortunate reason. In saying this, one mini game I did enjoy, and a rather small and quick minigame at that, was one where you cut up lemons to make lemonade, to raise funds for the arcade. While these minigames are repetitive and the novelty wears off fast, they still manage to show a real charm and adorableness (it’s really the only word to describe this game) in their presentation, which is what Button City has going for it.
Aside from mini games, there are also objectives you can complete in your diary by talking to townspeople and friends to help them with any queries they may have. These goals are fairly simplistic and easy, such as getting a character a particular drink, informing someone what the weather will be tomorrow, or even picking up a certain amount of trash you can find on the ground. It’s a nice addition to the game and a good breakup from the mildly lacking minigames. I found myself enjoying tasks these more than I should.. Something about picking up all 50 pieces of rubbish in the game was very satisfying to me (again, this game is just adorable)!
Despite the mini games that can be a little repetitive and a minor finnicky character interaction mechanic that could have had more time to be fixed upon. Button City is a very cute and adorable time for anyone who wats to play something laid back, relaxing and chilled out, with gorgeous colourful 90s style visuals and a lovely, surprising story.
Button City is available on PlayStation 5, Nintendo Switch, Xbox Series X/S and on PC via Steam. A PlayStation 5 code was provided by the publisher for review purposes.