Button City review: The Power of friendship

Subliminal Games' latest title is a cute and endearing story about friendship and arcades.

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Developer Subliminal Games first hit the scene with Sky Pets back in 2015, an arcade game that let players customize animals and use them to collect stars. The studio’s latest release, Button City, was revealed back at the Wholesome Games Showcase and once again finds cute animals at the core of its design. With some interesting characters and a cozy art style, it’s hard to walk away from Button City without feeling warm inside.

A new animal in town

Button City follows the story of Fennel, a young fox that recently moved to the titular town of Button City. Filled with other anthropomorphic animals, Fennel is a bit of an outcast, spending all of their time locked away in their room playing video games. Fennel then discovers the arcade, which is home to a rivalry between two groups in the town. When it turns out one of these groups, the Fluff Squad, is in desperate need of a fourth member, Fennel is called into action.

A lot of the charm and appeal in Button City comes from its characters. On their journey, Fennel meets a lot of animals, all with uniquely distinct personalities. From the over-the-top quirkiness of Lavender the panda to the heavy metal yoga antics of Sorrel the cat, everybody in Button City is bursting with character. It’s a game that makes you meet and interact with a bunch of characters, and it’s always a joy.

The characters in Button City also play off of each other pretty well, thanks to some pretty excellent writing. The characters can be archetypal, but there’s a level of awareness to it that makes it endearing. In most instances, I was entertained by simply watching NPCs banter back and forth with each other.

Arcade allies

When Fennel first joins the Fluff Squad, they’re introduced to Gobabots, a popular game in which players collect berries and score by putting them in a blender. There’s a lot of Gobabots to play in Button City, and it’s a minigame I quite enjoyed. It’s practically a MOBA within a game that you get to play against NPCS, with its own unique sense of style. That said, I did enjoy Gobabots more than some of the other minigames featured.

Outside of the coveted Gobabots, there are other games in the arcade for players to jump into as they progress through Button City. These minigames range in genres, including a rhythm game and a racing game. These felt much shallower than Gobabots, with mechanics and controls that felt far from refined or fair.

I also felt like the game was at its weakest when I was completing quests that required me to go fetch random items. It felt far less interesting and engaging compared to the intense moments experienced in the arcade.

A city as cute as a button

A lot of the cuteness and charm in Button City also comes from the environment itself. The art style is warm and welcoming, a stark contrast to the personas of some of the characters you come across during the story. The use of pastel colors also works to emphasize the sense of coziness that’s constantly present in Button City.

The music in Button City helps to set the tone for the experience. Music changes depending where in the city you are and is always quite groovy. It’s even integrated into the story and character interactions, such as when Sorrel is doing yoga to rock music.

The friends we made along the way

Button City is a pretty decent second outing from the team at Subliminal Games. The fascinating characters and hilarious dialogue make the story really endearing, and it’s all bolstered by the game’s art and music. The minigames are hit or miss, but it’s not enough to ruin an overall joyful experience.


This review is based on a digital Steam code provided by the publisher. Button City launches on August 10 for PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, and Switch for $19.99 USD.

Contributing Editor

Donovan is a young journalist from Maryland, who likes to game. His oldest gaming memory is playing Pajama Sam on his mom's desktop during weekends. Pokémon Emerald, Halo 2, and the original Star Wars Battlefront 2 were some of the most influential titles in awakening his love for video games. After interning for Shacknews throughout college, Donovan graduated from Bowie State University in 2020 with a major in broadcast journalism and joined the team full-time. He is a huge Star Wars nerd and film fanatic that will talk with you about movies and games all day. You can follow him on twitter @Donimals_

Review for
Button City
8
Pros
  • Unique characters
  • Excellent dialogue
  • Warm and welcoming art style
Cons
  • Minigames can be hit or miss
  • Fetch quests are not engaging
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