When you tend to think animated turtles most of us think pizza, New York, Nun-chucks, and the Foot Clan. The stars of Turtleppop: Journey to Freedom are a little more petite and probably less likely to save you from any sort of nefarious ninjas. In Digipen’s new Tuned Edition of this title, it is up to you to navigate an escape for a range of cute reptiles.
A Turtley Different Game?
Turtlepop, initially launched back earlier this year, follows the adventures of Bebo, Deephi, Slimmie, Willis, and Sparky as they attempt to make their way through a range of arenas and find their way to freedom. A variety of platforming puzzles awaits as the five forge a path through a series of environments, filled with exploding bombs, special blocks, and environmental puzzles. While Digipen’s first outing for these cute characters was somewhat successful, the new tuned update is a huge step up for the turtles. It adds updated game mechanics, sound, a tweaked UI, and improved graphics.
The absolutely adorable aesthetic of Turtlepop sends a very distinct message. From the moment the main menu appears the game is unashamedly cute. The bright palette, the infantile character art, the chirpy music, and clean UI all scream simplicity. Turetlepop ’s single-player campaign, which accompanies a multiplayer co-op and battle mode, opens onto a verdant 3D world map that continues the same bright aesthetic. Throughout my time with Turtlepop, everything about the game just shined, even managing to keep a fantastic 60fps when docked. Several themed stages make up each of the game’s island maps, and the opening 2D levels are instantly recognizable. Clearly drawing inspiration from several Mario iterations, Turtlepop creates a fun and seemingly familiar set of environments for players to acclimatize in.
As players take control of the first of these turtles, things do feel relatively benign. The fundamental premise of Turtlepop never changes, despite the appearance of additional little green vagrants. Green isn’t the only color on show either. Four more turtles, each with their own personality and particular play style, join Bebo in this adventure. They can even be paraded through the game in packs, using a linking skill that drags tethered turtles across the screen. In the end, getting all these cute critters across a few obstacles and into a hole sounds easy enough, but Turtlepop does throw in a few additional challenges as things progress.
Turtlepop is a genre mash-up and it doesn’t take long before a wave of other ideas come crashing in. Everything from power-ups to match three puzzles pop up in an effort to provide variety. A floating genie also arrives, adding a host of additional utilities for players and unlocking more routes to freedom. This can include consumable power-ups, various types of bomb, and a host of building blocks. While the match three systems do make things a little more difficult and the genie does provide extra options, these ultimately serve to make Turtlepop feel cluttered. This is especially prevalent when attempting to herd several turtles, control a floating genie, load the relevant power-ups from the genie’s inventory, and solve a series of match three games.
This genre mash-up continues to clutter the game’s core conceit via the game’s loot and progression systems. As turtle shells that make it through a level unscathed players are rewarded for their performance with a variety of loot chests and two collectible currencies. Loot chests drop cards which act as an upgrade system, unlocking new genie items, additional power-ups, and even more loot. Of course, these cards can also be improved upon, making them even more powerful and unlocking extra options.
The variety of upgrades available through loot chests is clearly intended to give players a reason to re-run levels, besting their own attempts and upgrading the turtle’s capabilities. In reality, the random rewards make the grind a necessary component of an otherwise charming game. The utilities available and leveling systems in TurtlePop require multiple copies of the same cards, making an element of repetition inevitable. While I didn’t find this half as egregious as some reports from the original release, it seems to be an unavoidable problem.
If your brain is not bursting from the plethora of ideas already on show, then this match 3 platform puzzler with loot box rewards and a card progression system can be an enjoyable experience. Taken as a relaxing puzzle game, it is a fun title that doesn’t fail to charm the socks off you. You’ll find the best moments in TurtlePop are when it refrains from adding in extraneous elements like horizontal scrolling. TurtlePop: Journey to Freedom is worth a look if you’re waiting for something that is unoffensive enough for the morning commute, and won’t wreck your brain before that first coffee. TurtlePop: Journey to Freedom Tuned Edition is available on the Nintendo Switch eShop now.