April 20, 2012 8:00 PM | John Polson
[Guest reviewer Colin Brown of Backlog Journey looks at each title in Indie Royale's Spring Bundle, available now. Today he profiles Tobe's Vertical Adventure, developed by Secret Base, and available on Steam for Windows.]
Tobe just wants to stay at home and play video games, but his ladyfriend Nana is insisting that he come on a treasure hunt adventure with her. First world problems, am I right? Luckily, said treasure hunt adventure comes in the form of an absolutely delightful platforming game that can be played by your lonesome or with your very own Nana or Tobe. The wonderful pixel art, the slow but tight platforming controls and the solid level design makes for a great platformer with a retro look and a modern feel. There's a lot to love about it.
The basic structure of the game sees Tobe (or Nana, or both) descend into a cave to find a treasure map. Each cave is basically a lengthy vertical tunnel built out of tile based platforms, vines, spikes and other such fun stuff. All you need to do is hop and bop your way to the bottom of the map, collecting treasure, chests and baby animals, and then open the big chest at the end. At that point, the level will collapse and shift, and you then have about a minute and a half to reach the top of the level and grab on to the escape rope. It's a clever shift from slow methodical treasure hunting to fast paced escapes, and puts a nice little twist into the design of every level.
Tobe and Nana are both fairly agile, but in different ways. Tobe is faster and he run up walls for a limited distance, while Nana uses her feminine wiles to break the laws of physics with her double jump. Both can run, bounce off enemies, kick off walls and roll through cracks, and both use deployable ropes to get a leg up or balloons to lessen a steep fall. You can play as either of the characters through the same set of levels (and the game tracks your progress for both characters separately) or you can team up with a friend and play the levels together. While there's very little co-op specific content, simply sharing the experience with someone else serves to make the game a lot of fun.
The game takes a slow and methodical approach with the tile base system and the ease of control, while the generally forgiving difficulty keeps Tobe's Vertical Adventure from dipping into the realm of twitch based platformers. The escape sequences crank up the twitchiness and difficulty slightly, but the open ended level design ensures that you have a variety of options for your escape route, allowing mistakes to turn into new opportunities.
The game is clearly not lacking in terms of fun, but Secret Base have also made sure it's plenty charming as well. The pixel art used in game looks fantastic; many games that use a retro aesthetic occasionally forget to make the game look good, not just look old. Secret Base avoids this and creates an art style that looks modern, even though it's building from a retro aesthetic. It's clear the developers have a ton of love and nostalgia for the platformers of yesterday, but they don't get bogged down in paying tribute and are willing to cheat on the visual limitations to make the game look better. The cutscenes are animated in a far sharper style; though they can get slightly repetitive by repeating animations between worlds, I was utterly charmed from the very first cutscene onwards. Topping off the beautiful cake is the soundtrack, which is catchy and well done; one particularly cool aspect is the alternative sped up versions that play when you have to make your quick escape. Even better, the bonus soundtrack for a different but similar Tobe game is thrown in as a perk to all Indie Royale customers, and it certainly found a spot in my soundtrack library.
I wasn't sure what to expect with Tobe's Vertical Adventure, but after playing it I find myself quite taken with the game. It's retro without becoming archaic, and through its fluid and methodical gameplay it manages to be an excellent choice for anyone with a platformer itch.
[Tobe's Vertical Adventure, Unstoppable Gorg, and 4 more titles are available now in the Spring Bundle on the IndieGames co-created site Indie Royale.]