|PC, Mac, Xbox One, Xbox Series S|X, Nintendo Switch (reviewed), iOS
|April 22, 2021
Did I scare you? It sure seems like even the mention of taxes causes some people to go nuts, and that’s nothing new. Taxation is a fact of life for any organized society, and one that has caused some…disagreements throughout history. But what if there was a game that just made fun of the entire principle? Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion by Snoozy Kazoo does just that and more in its rather short runtime. So with its sequel, Turnip Boy Robs a Bank (I’m sensing a certain monetary theme here) about to release, I thought I’d do an audit of my own and check out the original.
Violence: Turnip Boy uses a Soil Sword as his main weapon. You attack various enemies, including snails, rotten sweets, and pigs. All violence is slapstick and cartoony. At one point, you kill a snail named Jerry for a fellow vegetable in order to get his rent money.
Various newspapers depict nuclear bombs dropping. One boss is a mutated human girl, with fairly realistic grunts and cries of pain while you fight her. A human ghost is seen briefly. A main plot point involves two mafia families fighting each other.
Spiritual Content: The vegetables use the phrase “mush” and “mushroom” in a similar way to “God.” A cave drawing depicts the creation of the vegetables, with them worshipping a giant mushroom cloud. The final boss says that they have “become God.”
Language: No strong language, but as mentioned before, characters use the word “mush” as an epithet. They also call each other “dumb” and so forth.
I’ll be honest, Turnip Boy is by far one of the strangest games I’ve ever played. I had no idea what to expect going into it, but it certainly wasn’t a Link to the Past clone with an anti-establishment theme.
The game opens with Turnip Boy receiving a letter from Mayor Onion, informing him that he owes an unbelievable amount of back taxes on his greenhouse. Enraged, Turnip Boy rips up the letter, only for Mayor Onion to arrive at his house and put him to work in order to pay off his taxes. And so, Turnip Boy, silent and stoic, goes off to do the bidding of Mayor Onion, completely ignorant of his true nefarious purpose.
Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion is not what I would call a mechanically complex game. Earlier, I said it was a Link to the Past clone, and that’s true in the sense that it’s a top-down, free roaming adventure with light combat elements. The game is separated into various dungeons that Turnip Boy must explore, fighting off enemies and solving simple puzzles to get to the big bad at the end. Each of these dungeons contains one of the items that Mayor Onion has sent you in search of, and after each, you return to him in order to get your next order. The game introduces a new mechanic in each of the dungeons, and does a good job of using them throughout the game, and even remixing them near the end. But it’s far from difficult, aside from maybe one or two of the bosses, and a casual playthrough will last you less than 3 hours.
Where this game really excels s its writing, and weirdly enough, its atmosphere. The game is rife with an irreverent sense of humor that feels straight out of a 90s Nickelodeon cartoon. While sometimes I felt like the humor was a bit too “wink wink nudge nudge” for my tastes, overall, the jokes hit. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, and doesn’t ever linger too long on its jokes. The only repeating joke it really holds on to is Turnip Boy’s absolute hatred for anything related to taxes. In order to get the true ending, you need to find and destroy various documents throughout the game. Each of these documents relates back to taxes in some way, which explains why Turnip Boy wants to tear up a random receipt he finds.
That immature and subversive sense of humor is what made the game’s sense of atmosphere so surprising. I was expecting a bit of a one-trick pony, but what I got was a game that leans into a dark, dystopian world with actual lore built through the side content. The music jumps from upbeat, quirky overworld music to some darker, ambient hip-hop inspired tracks in some of the later dungeons. And somehow, the game meshes this with its bonkers concept and writing. I’m a sucker for innocent-looking media that ends up being darker than I expected. I’m not sure how the devs at Snoozy Kazoo nailed that balance, but I salute them for it.
But while the writing was good, I wasn’t enthralled by the actual gameplay. The game does a good job of introducing new mechanics and remixing them as you play to keep things fresh, but it never feels like the gameplay itself evolves. Instead of feeling like it’s building on a solid foundation, it feels like the additional mechanics are decorations on top of a bland base. The puzzles are never particularly complex; the bosses, save for a couple, go down way too easily; the dungeons are woefully short. I don’t feel like Turnip Boy does a good job of giving you a good time from the getgo, but rather starts out somewhat boring and gets better as the game adds more mechanics. I’ll give the team credit for giving each level a unique identity, but I was barely in some of them long enough to leave any sort of impression.
This monotonous gameplay is really brought into focus with the optional endless mode, which just throws room after room of enemies at you one after the other, with an occasional boss. This mode was just straight up boring, and by the time I reached it, I had already completed every other dungeon and didn’t want just more combat. The puzzles and writing are what give the game its variety; without those things, it’s a pretty shallow experience.
Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy my time with Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion, and I’m eager to give its sequel a shot. And to Snoozy Kazoo’s credit, they didn’t set out to make a world-changing game, at least from what I can gather. They wanted to make a quirky game with fun writing and simple-enough gameplay to tie it all together, and they succeeded. But for $15…I’m not sure I got a game I’ll want to come back to. It’s a one-and-done experience, and it’s over pretty quick, and that ends up being a good thing. Instead of being sick and tired of playing, I was just about done with the game when it wrapped up.
Turnip Boy’s main selling point is its quirky humor and fun writing, which is legitimately well-done. If that’s up your alley, and you’re in need of a short little romp, then pick it up. But personally, I’d wait for a sale before blowing your tax refund on this title.
The Bottom Line
Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion is a fun experience with some really solid writing, but the gameplay base doesn't do anything other games have done better.