Review: Later Alligator
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This game was selected as one of our November 2019 Reader’s Choice Reviews. Learn more on our Patreon page.
When it comes to games, I’ll shoot dudes, I’ll conquer kingdoms, and I’ll face my fears, but all I really want is to be happy. Some of my favorite games in the world are ones that don’t challenge your morals or fortitude, and instead just seek to put a big, goofy smile on your face. Later Alligator is surely one of the most effective I’ve ever played at making me grin like an idiot, from its charming, exuberant animation to its impossibly clever writing. It’s the kind of game that’s an absolute joy every moment you’re in it, and sure to leave you wanting more once its concise adventure concludes.
Pat the alligator has a big problem. There’s a big event happening tonight, and he’s got every reason to believe it won’t end well for him. Every one of those reasons is wild-eyed paranoia, but still, a plucky little gator can’t be too careful. That’s why he enlists you, the sharply-dressed, highly-visible, otherwise-unoccupied protagonist, to help save his scaly bacon. Your job is to figure out just what the heck his family is planning for him in the ballroom that night, and if it’s something unseemly, help him out of a jam. To accomplish this, you’ll need to travel the mean streets of Alligator New York City, track down the extremely conspicuous members of Pat’s family, and interrogate them as to the nature of their nefarious scheme.
What ends up happening when you meet a family member, though, is that you play some mini-game to help ease their burdens or prove a point. This can be anything, from fly swatting and crane games to seances and executing a last will and testament. There are some incredibly deep cuts here, like sifting through anime alligator pictures and one adventure that’s sure to please the Yakuza 0 fans in the audience. Each is prefaced by a charming little title card, and many have some unexpected twists in the middle placed for maximum hilarity. When you get to the three cups and ball game or the old knife-stabbing between fingers routine, you’ll know what I mean.
The draw here isn’t really the mini-games, and it’s good too because a few can be a bit frustrating in the trial-and-error style. No, they just serve to give you something to do while you drink in the absolutely precious atmosphere of the game. Every alligator you meet is rendered with simple but intensely emotive animations, telling you all you need to know about their demeanor at a glance. The writing is laugh-out-loud hilarious almost without exception, each character being an entirely irreverent and charming friend to learn all about. There are no dark surprises or moments of reflection here, it’s just you in a big silly city of silly alligators and their jokes that are sure to hit surprisingly close to home.
You don’t have much time before Pat’s big event in the evening, which means you’ll probably only meet about half of the kooky characters in the game before it comes to an end. That’s okay because you can always go back and fill in the rest for a different ending, but all told even that won’t take you more than five hours or so. It won’t be enough when you see how relentlessly upbeat this adventure is, or how funny and engaging every single one of the characters is. That shouldn’t stop you from enjoying what’s here, though, because what’s here is some of the most clever writing and charming gaming you’re likely to find anywhere.