When I laid eyes on Teratopia I was genuinely looking forward to playing it. The cute kooky aliens with eyes everywhere looks like plasticine creatures and the idea of summoning minions to help you in battle sounds great. Sadly, the ideas are the best part of the game as the execution leaves an awful lot to be desired,
You can play as one of three unlockable characters (you start with one and unlock the other two later) whom have slightly different approaches to the games’ 13 areas. One’s a brawler, ones a ranged attacker and ones more zippy and platformer focused. Each one comes with a selection of minions you can unleash as a little army and you can collect them by collecting weird jelly cubes. The amount of minions and types of minions you can unleash at once is capped by your characters level but the designs are easy on the eye and so long as you have the right cubes in stock, your army will be with you. Their health is like a timer as it constantly reduces down and if an enemy hits them, it’ll drop faster. They have zero brain power outside of their main function though so your minions are cannon fodder, used to keep enemies busy so you can escape a tight spot.
Tight spots are things you’ll get into often but not because of good game design. Your character will get stuck on ledges, hit invisible walls on jumps, have the turning circle speed of a tank and an often lethargic dodge roll that has lag input to that. Often its easier to just lob ranged attacks on the usual enemies and then collect their eyes as XP. The problem with that strategy is that their lines of sight often mean they’ll fire an attack at you and it will visually miss your character but you’ll get damage anyway. This seems to be down to larger collision detection boxes than the characters actually are but when your character also moves sluggishly and everything feels clumsy, it feels very satisfying to play. You will die and you will die often. Half the time, I knew it was me at fault – usually because I hadn’t dodge rolled in time to avoid incoming fire. The other half felt like the game just didn’t like me. It’d let go of climbing up ledges, wedge me in a wall, not fire attacks and so on. This is often what makes boss battles so challenging. They require a level of precision and reaction speed the game doesn’t seem capable of providing regularly. I’m not the best gamer out there and I usually can tell when I need to ‘get gud’ and I call that out regularly in my reviews. Teratopia is not an example of this, its an example of the fundamental controls not being aligned to the boss challenges themselves.
This then turns to dull boredom when you realise the same 13 areas are required to be played over and over to level up enough to tackle the bosses. Boss battles are a definite highlight of Teratopia but they also expose how difficult it can be to wrestle with your characters movements. It also shows just how little impact your minions really have. You’ll be replaying the first few levels over and over to grind for currency to unlock new minions and your minion cap, new attack moves and costumes to improve your stats. The areas feel like they had little thought placed into them though, they are just open spaces of land with a few enemies plopped in.
As you can read, I really didn’t enjoy my time with Teratopia. It does everything I don’t enjoy about platform action games and does it poorly. It is a shame as I think the base ideas here are sound. The character designs have personality, the minion summoning is decent on paper and the Terapedia section where every creature in the game has a collectable card to look at is a neat touch. Its just playing the actual game is like scooping up water with open palms. Tedious and frustrating.
Review copy provided by publisher.
Some excellent ideas marred completely with an unsatisfying execution in every single way. Boring and frustrating.
The bosses have some lovely designs.
The minion idea has potential even if they aren't bright.
Horrendously sluggish controls.
The actual levels are very poorly designed with no imagination.
Bosses are wildly more difficult than anything else in the game and require level grinding.
Lots of collision detection and invisible wall issues that make everything feel woolly and unsatisfying.
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