Review: TurtlePop—Journey to Freedom (Switch)

Developer: Zengami

Publisher: Digipen Game Studios

Genre: Puzzle, Platformer

Platforms: Switch

Rating: E for Everyone

Price: $12.99

Adding to the vast library of Nindies on the Nintendo Switch, TurtlePop: Journey to Freedom joins the club. Developed by Zengami, a Singapore-based company, TurtlePop is exclusive to the Switch. Zengami boasts a highly experienced team, claiming it contains developers that have worked on successful titles for Sega, Nintendo and Sony. Originally planned to be a mobile game, Zengami halted its completion of TurtlePop and instead geared it towards being a standalone game for the Switch. Founded in 2013, Zengami is only five years old, making it a relatively young game developer.

The same publisher that was heavily involved in Cat Quest and Holy Potatoes: What the Hell?! also had its hands in the puzzle-platformer, TurtlePop. It was set to face the mobile industry, but once the developers realized how saturated the mobile market is, their solution was to rehash the game for the Nintendo Switch. At first glance, TurtlePop looks like a mobile game, with its basic animations and constant reward system. But once you sit down with it, it has a bit more personality and depth.

Another Day, Another Chest

Content Guide

Violence: There is little questionable content in TurtlePop. The only noteworthy subject is the use of bombs and utilizing them to clear away blockage or to make areas more accessible. Otherwise, the game does a great job of attempting to be cute in all aspects and avoids any explicit or controversial material. It is turtles rescuing other turtles by solving puzzles, simply put.

Review

TurtlePop was meant to be a mobile game and it is painfully obvious. With its constant reward system, obnoxious fanfares, flashy animation, and grueling repetition, one cannot help but wonder why TurtlePop was made into a Switch game. Along with these features come overly cute turtle characters that each have a different ability to aid in the platforming and puzzle-solving. While the game does boast some fun puzzle mechanics, unfortunately, that is its only strength.

The Block puzzles were fun, but that also got pretty repetitive.

The game’s story revolves around saving Sparky the turtle’s friends: other turtles. There are seven different worlds to navigate and over 100 levels to master. Each world will introduce another type of turtle with another 10-20 levels molded for that specific turtle’s ability. There are other turtles to save as well, but usually the level will require a specific amount of them to be saved in order to end the stage. The story is forgettable as well as are the characters. It is merely tacked on to give some sort of reason as to why the player is rescuing turtles.

The level structure and mechanics are surprisingly diverse and each level feels different from the next. Every level has a slightly different challenge, but the objective will always be the same: guide the turtles to the end of the stage. Each level will retain the theme of the current world. For example, if it is a beach-themed world, the levels will have sandy grounds. There’s always a different puzzle to solve, which keeps the game refreshing, but not nearly enough as it needs to be.

World designs are simple, but you can still tell the developers put some time and effort into detail…but not much.

Puzzle-solving is possibly the best thing TurtlePop has going for it. Examples of puzzles include lining up three blocks of the same color to eliminate them and giving the correct turtle the proper fruit. Some levels will also slowly pan across, forcing you to keep moving or risk being crushed and having to try again. Block elimination reminds me of Candy Crush and is fun at first. But eventually, you’re required to gain the ability to create blocks in order to solve the block elimination puzzles, which can easily turn into repetitive drivel and drain away all the fun.

The Genie can hold lots of items and will be essential to beating each level.

The reward system is excessively flashy and I felt like I had just won the lottery every time I gained a chest. Each level has a score system of three stars. You can score up to three out of three stars if you do well enoughor gain the “S” rank score if you do fantastically well. This scoring system reminds me a bit of Angry Birds. Though in TurtlePop, it is not as hard to get three out of three stars. As long as you complete each level in a reasonable amount of time and go for the collectibles, you’re sure to reach three stars.

It’s actually not too hard to get the “S” rank in each level.

In each level, there are collectibles to obtain: sun coins, moon coins, and chests. The coins add to the score and you can spend these later. The chest is a loot multiplier, doubling or tripling your coins at the end. If you do well enough in a level, you’ll receive a chest with cards and more loot inside. These cards do a number of things from producing more coins to giving your “genie” new abilities and items to carry. If you get enough of a card, you can upgrade its ability.

You can collect more cards by beating more levels and eventually upgrade them. But the only point of that is to allow for the Genie to carry new items. The rest is pretty pointless.

Throughout each level, a character aptly named “Genie” joins you. This turtle helps you with each puzzle and will supply you with fruit and other items. For example, if you need to be able to glide or jump higher, you can organize Genie’s pack to carry that specific fruit for your convenience during the level. The Genie can also carry bombs to destroy barriers, colored blocks to aid in block elimination, and fruit to give turtles power-ups.

The problem with this is that essentially, Genie is a cheat mode. He can carry any and every item you need to breeze through each level. And yet, the game also requires you to use Genie to get you out of situations that are impossible without his help. Each item has a cool-down time, meaning Genie can rebuild as many as you want. It’s way too convenient and allows for the player to use genie for anything and everything, taking away from the platforming of the game.

It’s hypnotizing me…telling me I must save them…or else…

In the end, TurtlePop is simply too repetitive and easy of a game to dive into. That is not to say that it has no audience. I would say that those who love simple mobile games with cute characters and flashy animations will love this game. It’s simple, not too challenging, but difficult enough to retain your attention for a short while. It feels too much like a game made for a smartphone. I kept expecting a pop-up window asking me to make a micro-transaction of some sort. The very nature of mobile games are to draw your attention for a short while and to leave it for some time, eventually returning to play a little more again. This game definitely feels that way.

Review code generously provided by Wonacott Communications.

 

 

 

 

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John Campbell

Based in San Diego, California, John enjoys working, writing, eating with friends and family, and gaming - both board games and video games. After earning a Bachelor's Degree in Humanities, he currently works in IT, but hopes to one day become a full time college professor and writer. His recent favorite games include Persona 5 and NieR: Automata.

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