Life is a series of changes, but what matters most is that you have a community to help you through it all. Button City is an adventure game exploring this very idea. It’s a story that celebrates community and friendship infused with some arcade action, sim elements, and a series of cute, low-poly pastel dioramas that make up the town.
In Button City, you play as Fennel, a young fox who just moved into town, who’s shy but excited to make his first friends: a group of kids known as the Fluff Squad. The initial conflict is beating the rival crew, Tuff Fluff, at the most popular game in the arcade, Gobabots. But the bigger threat, losing the arcade completely, surfaces early on. Though some elements of the plot are a bit obvious, the nuances are heartfelt and charming.
Button City’s look had the biggest impact on me. Between bright pastels, cute animal characters, and sharply shaped cookies, the art direction is simultaneously cozy and awe-inspiring. Like a kid at a carnival, I marveled at everything happening around me. Its world lore also supports this cuteness with some quirky details like the Mart Mart keeping a food called carrot dogs in stock.
Side characters are notably odd, yet lovable, which compels me to go beyond the main quests and end each day with a bit of exploration before heading off to bed to progress the story further.
Getting to dig into the sim elements of Button City were some of my favorite aspects of the experience, from earning new clothes to getting items to decorate my room.
This also personally incentivized me to dig into side quests in the hopes of getting a cosmetic reward because what can I say? I’m a sucker for cute things. You never knew where a quest would lead or what reward awaited you and that mystery was enticing.
Playing the arcade games in Button City provided some welcomed change when it came to gameplay. Drifting around corners in rEvolution Racer provided some 90s nostalgia, and Prisma Beats’ rhythm game action satisfied that part of my brain that just wants to zone out to button inputs. But by far the star was the biggest game in the story, Gobabots.
The premise is simple, two teams of robots battle each other with the goal of having a smoothie with the most berries. You collect different Gobabots in Button City and can play as them in matches, with different bots having different abilities. You can take an offensive approach and kill enemies or focus on collecting berries and b-lining for the center, where the smoothie machine is. Toss in your berries and repeat until the time is up.
But damn it if I wasn’t invested in each match. I found myself yelling when I died and feeling a rush when I got one over on my opponents. If this came out as a standalone game, I’d play it.
Though these arcade experiences are fun I found myself wishing there were more games to play and things to do in the arcade. The fact that I can’t use the crane machine still breaks my heart.
It’s worth noting that while there are only 3 games to play, you can add buffs or debuffs to the experiences and even unlock additional game modes. My biggest issue with this though is that there’s little to do out the gate with these games. A few additional modes baked in may have enticed me to explore what else remained. Additionally, while the games were enjoyable, I didn’t feel a desire to make them harder with debuffs and they were easy enough that buffs were equally unappealing.
I kept waiting for something more worth my arcade currency but I didn’t find much outside of a giant plushie (because of course I’m gonna buy a giant plushie) and side quest related items such as a specific set of Gobabots.
Ultimately my biggest issue with Button City is it’s a little boring in some of its quest construction and your movement is unnecessarily slow.
Towards the end, main missions become an annoying string of fetch quests that are dragged out by getting details piecemealed to you at an alarmingly slow rate. You’re told to meet a character who then tells you to pick up a set of items and when you return you’re immediately sent out again.
This is coupled with how unnecessarily tedious getting to some locations is. For instance, a house is attached to the Mart Mart and on the second floor. Narratively, this is a strength since their parents own the store they often work at, but gameplay wise this really drags. Getting to their house meant going through several doors in a way that felt unnecessarily convoluted.
Repetition by way of mechanics or quest structure is somewhat unavoidable in any game, but in Button City it became really noticeable with some of the optional tasks. For instance, early on I have a quest that involves me figuring out the weather to tell it to another character and later on there’s a quest where I am told someone’s coffee order and need to relay it to a barista. Both of these were essentially the same quest: get info, screenshot it (because there isn’t any in-game way to see that I’ve learned the info), and then relay the information to some character.
I also saw this kind of connection across my least favorite quests. One of them involved me serving as a mediator between two people having a conversation, this meant I had to talk to person A, tell person B what they said, then tell person A what person B said. This could’ve been okay once but it happened again for a side quest. That one was even worse because it involved a winding staircase and Fennel’s slow walking speed.
While that doesn’t take a lot of literal time, it adds up and is such a chore that moments like that discouraged me from delving more into Button City.
Narratively, Button City is a solid story about friendship and community. It’s a bit simplistic in its “feel good” nature, but having multiple narrative threads running across the main story kept me curious as I wondered what would be the fate of the arcade and who would take home that coveted golden Gobabot.
Smaller moments with side characters gave me a good feel for the town. It was really cool getting to see how Fennel’s mom’s day would go. And though we never get a deep dive into her world, we learn enough to realize that everyone has their own problems and plotlines going on, even if our days feel like the most drama-filled. It’s a good life lesson to keep in mind and a testament to the writing that I could feel so much given so little and this feeling cuts across characters.
Button City is an adorable and charming story with a heartfelt message and some genuine moments of amusement. The games within the game are a fun novelty and I appreciate all there is to do in town. However, Button City is bogged down by its slow movement, and occasionally annoying and repetitive quest structure.