It is sad when you can tell something is fundamentally wrong with a game from looking at the icon on your 3DS dashboard. Turtle Tale is a cheap, basic, poorly produced platformer, the likes of which were churned out in their zillions during my formative gaming years. The kind of stuff you could buy on cassette at a petrol station, or to give a latter day example, spunk an impulsive 69p on using an Android or iOS device, only to be disappointed as balls at what you have done. Yup, the strangely unlovable anthropomorphic turtle just screams into your face: this isn’t going to be very good. And it isn’t. So why do I feel like history’s greatest monster in delivering a damning review?
Because it is colourful. It is cheerful. The nice multi-layered backdrops are more colourful than Mr Tumble’s Spotty Bag, for goodness’ sake. Someone out there believed in the pun-tastically named Shelldon, the hero of the piece. And for about half an hour I almost believed, too, as I worked my way through several of the short, not-particularly-challenging levels, just to see what would happen. Nothing much did. The aim is simple – get from one end of the side-scrolling stage to the other, using your water gun to shoot the unimaginative enemies whilst looking to collect all 100 pieces of fruit that are placed so obviously, so within easy reach, that it is probably harder to avoid them than it is to snaffle them all.
The platforming physics are unforgiving and rigid – touching an enemy will knock you instantly backwards, leading to some ridiculous deaths in areas where enemies do not actually reveal themselves until you are right on top of them and they pop out of the ground. There is no incentive to pick off all of the enemies other than the occasional health boost, but even if you decide you do want to kill each and every last one of them, your pathetic water pistol gun – which never gets powered up – can only shoot horizontally in a downwards-arcing trajectory, like you’re taking a whizz. Some of the enemies are airborne, and while they may feature swooping downwards among their limited movement repertoire, it is just a pain in the arse to try and time it so your water shots connect.
There is no variety – later stages have environmentally diverse themes, but these are bog standard platformer 101 material, and generic in the extreme. The enemies may look different, but you soon realise they are palette-swapped, rendering the different environments meaningless. The lack of effort stretches past the design . While the game looks pleasantly cartoon-like, someone forgot to do the sound properly. I actually thought there was something wrong with my 3DS until I realised that the game has inherently quiet, tinny sonics that can barely be heard above the general hubbub of a family home.
VERDICT: It is admirable that small independent developers like Saturnine Games are in a position to flog their wares on the Nintendo eShop, but you have to question how a game with such poor production values and deathly dull gameplay managed to find itself sitting alongside the likes of Kirby Triple Deluxe or even the old-school likes of Super Mario Bros on the list of current downloads you can snap up for your 3DS. Even at just shy of three quid, this feels like poor value. Small developers should be taking these opportunities to create interesting and worthwhile ideas, not pointless relics like Turtle Tale that belong on a Mastertronic cassette in the darkest recesses of gaming’s past.
BAD. Ugly, lazy, and unpleasant, if we’ve scored a game so low then it has serious issues. A 3/10 game will suffer from a combination of uninspired, lacklustre design, unfixed bugs and poor presentation.
Review code provided by publisher.