GAME NAME: Turtle Tale
DEVELOPER(S): Saturnine Games
PUBLISHER(S): Saturnine Games
PLATFORM(S): Nintendo 3DS, eShop
GENRE(S): Action, Platform
RELEASE DATE(S): May 22nd, 2014
Platformer action games come in lots of shapes and sizes. Some are incredibly challenging, while others are comically easy. Saturnine Games’ Turtle Tale falls somewhere in between. There is a certain simplicity in the design, but underneath that lies a pretty solid platforming experience.
Our reptilian hero treks through the various stages of Turtle Island blasting enemies with his water gun. The weapon shoots in a squirt-like arc, forcing the player to tread carefully while shooting. Unfortunately, you can only shoot in the direction you’re facing. No shooting diagonal or above you. If you want to hit anything above you, you will have to time a jump to get them in range. This can become increasingly frustrating as flying enemies will be out of firing range most of the time; only sporadically swooping down to meet a watery death from the player.
The only other object is to collect the 100 pieces of fruit laid out in front of you in each stage. The fruit is practically impossible to miss as they are strewn out in a linear path along the stage. Sometimes they serve as a clever distraction from burrowed enemies lying in wait for you on the edge of a gap. There is knockback when you are hit, so one misstep could send you into the abyss. There is no consequence to missing a jump or getting hit too many times other than repeating the stage until you get it right. There are checkpoints throughout the stages that allow you to retry from the last one you found.
The infinite number of retries and number of times you can get hit shrink the difficulty of this game down to a childlike level, but every time I found myself taking it too lightly, I would be unceremoniously dumped into a gap by a sneaky crap or swooping seagull. The stages are also surprisingly long. The bottom screen displays how many pieces of fruit you have collected so far, which I use to determine how far throughout the current stage I have progressed. I cannot tell you how many times I have looked down at my fruit-o-meter, hoping to be at least half way through, but only to find I had collected a measly 30 or so pieces of fruit.
Each sprite seems to only have two or three frames of animation, including your turtle. This is the area where the game really could have used some help. The backgrounds are admittedly kind of pretty and the use of parallax scrolling really makes it pop, but the lifeless main character and enemies take away from what could be a much more engaging experience if only there was some personality to be found.
The sound effects and background music have just as little to mention about them. There is no reason to play this game with the sound on, and with so much jumping you will quickly get tired of the jumping sound effect that seems to be louder than every other sound in the game. In the third beach stage, the game introduced an unkillable jumping fish enemy (think the jumping lava balls in Super Mario Brothers) and they make an obnoxious, high pitched wooshing noise every time they jump. At one point you come across three or four of them in a row and once they’re all on screen the sound is very overbearing.
Turtle Tale does make use of the 3D capabilities, but for some reason it does not seem to work as well as other games. When turned all the way on, the 3D function causes the background to split away from itself and legitimately gave me headaches while playing. Turning the slider only half way solved this issue for those of you determined to play in 3D.
I originally described this game as ‘bland’ to Anthony, but I think that is a huge disservice. Underneath the simple graphics and straightforward objective lies an unexpected charm. It finds a way to tap into the nostalgia of the platformers of the past, and the retro styled gameplay honestly reminds me of early Castlevania titles where you could only attack in front of you and enemy knockback was likely to send a Belmont to an early grave. It is easy enough for children to play, but difficult enough to earn their respect for the platforming genre.
Turtle Tale is most suitable for a child’s first 2d platformer if you don’t have access to all the classics my generation grew up with. There is a lot to improve upon, like some form of aiming or any kind of power ups to look forward to. Turtle Tale may have fallen short compared to what we might be used to, but I do hope a sequel comes out to address these issues, eventually. That game will be wonderful.