Photography games seem to be all the rage lately. We have bigger titles, such as New Pokemon Snap, and smaller indie titles, such as Umurangi Generation. It’s quite safe to say that Cellular Harvest is more like the latter – and in more ways than one. Not only is this an indie photoshoot-em-up, but it also offers free movement too.
Can the game stand out from the crowd, or is this more of a disposable camera game?
Many thanks to Miketendo64 for the game code.
Check out https://miketendo64.com/ for his content.
In the game, you play an Auditor who has been sent to an alien planet in search of lifeforms. Landing on PlayStation Planet, with its 32 bit visuals, your job is to document all life that inhabits there. There are fourteen different types of creature, and there are only a small handful of each. When I say your job is to photograph all things, I mean all things. It’s not overly clear at first, but the game expects you to take document every living organism.
Armed with your camera, you can aim and shoot as you would expect, as well as zoom in and out if need be. The reticle turns green for anything you can photograph, but it’s a little bit wonky – occasionally turning green momentarily for no reason when you draw your camera. It’s a little confusing at first, but you’ll just accept it after a while.
After taking a photograph, the picture you have taken will appear on screen along with a small description of the creature. It’s a cute detail, even if it remains on the screen for a tad too long. These photos can be viewed in your album, but the menus in the game are so slow and clunky that you’ll probably only ever try to once before you realise that it isn’t worth the effort.
It’s a cute world and the PS1 visuals and ambient soundtrack suit it perfectly. Even the creature designs, whilst not particularly varied are well thought out and show some real imagination. It’s just a shame that there are so few of them about. The world is genuinely fascinating to explore, even if it can be a chore to explore given how slow your character moves about – even when you are forced to hold in the thumbstick if you want to run. There’s some rudimentary platforming too, but the clunky movement means that it rarely feels great and you’ll occasionally fall off through no real fault of your own. There’s not too much platforming though as the world itself is pretty small and surprisingly very linear, with only the occasional bit tucked away to try and fool you into thinking the world is bigger than it is.
The biggest issue really is the lack of save functionality. There’s no auto nor manual saving present, meaning that you have to complete the experience in one sitting. It’s short, sure, but the slow nature of everything makes it somewhat tedious to replay – especially as the creatures mainly just sit there and don’t do anything particularly exciting. There’s no way to manipulate anything like in other games in the genre, you just run up to it and take a photo. Photographing 75% of everything, which is the requirement for triggering the ending will only take around half an hour, but the game crashed on me just shortly before hitting this arbitrary number – thus forcing me to start completely over. Needless to say, I just watched the ending on YouTube instead. Not having any way to save is frankly unacceptable in a game that isn’t 100% stable, and this is a perfect of example of why that is.
Cellular Harvest isn’t a terrible game. The world and creatures are well designed and it does have a certain charm, but the slow movement, clunky menus and controls, and lack of save functionality stop it from being worth purchasing. If they can tighten things up a little and add manual saving, it may be worth experiencing on a deep sale, but otherwise I’d just get one of the other photography games on Switch instead.