The indie platformer genre has become extremely crowded in the past few years, with games like Super Meat Boy, Mighty Jill Off, and VVVVVV making attempts to replicate and continue the ideas and designs of platformers of the 8/16-bit eras. Tobe’s Vertical Adventure is in much the same vein. However, its adherence to old-school style and the fact that it’s part of a genre that’s becoming so ubiquitous with the indie game scene does not detract much from the inherent quality of the game.
But, even then, is this game still any good? Read on to find out.
Tobe’s Vertical Adventure began life as an Xbox Live Indie Game, and the developer, Secret Base, has just re-made it for PC, with new graphics, music, and a new playable character. As someone who’s never played the original, I don’t really have a point of comparison, but I found this re-make to be quite solid and fun on its own.
Like many indie platformers, Tobe’s Vertical Adventure sticks to a minimalist story, similar to what one would see in an older platformer. Tobe, a lazy gamer, is dragged along by his friend, Nana, to go off on an adventure to find the lost treasure of King Garuza. That’s about it. Every world you go to ends with a “your princess is in another castle”-style cutscene, after which you just head on to the next level.
The cutscenes aren’t anything special; they’re just short slideshows that link the different worlds together. The art’s decent, though their style creates a bit of a jarring shift between the gameplay to the cutscenes.
But what you really come to this game for is the gameplay. Each level has a bunch of gems and a few animals littered around, and your goal is to collect them and then get to the treasure at the bottom of the level. After you collect the treasure, you get a set amount of time to climb back up to the top of the level, lest you be caught in the collapsing ruins. Collecting animals and gems unlock extra lives per level, larger item inventories, and codes to download the soundtrack and concept art from the game’s website.
It’s simple, but the game has a few elements that make it a bit more tricky. Some parts of the level collapse after you get the treasure, so you’ll have to make up new pathways as you climb up. You also have two items at your disposal to help you traverse the levels: chain ladders and balloons. You can throw chains to blocks above you and use them to climb up. Balloons are used to get more distance out of your jumps. You start off with the ability to use three of each, but collecting gems increases your capacity. Both of the items are rarely necessary, but intelligent use of them can help you get more gems and animals and cut down on the time you use to scale the level.
The PC remake also adds another character to play as: Tobe’s friend (and the girl who makes him go on his quest), Nana. Both of the characters handle quite differently; Tobe can run faster and run up walls, while Nana is slower and has a double jump ability. I found playing as Nana to be significantly easier (partly because you can easily scale large vertical walls with the double jump), but both characters require different strategies to traverse the levels, and both are very fun to play as. There’s also an offline co-op mode where one person plays as Tobe and the other as Nana, where they have the ability to help each other climb up ledges and jump on each other. I never got to play it, but I can see it being quite fun if you have someone else to play with.
Tobe’s Vertical Adventure pays homage to its old-school roots in its style; the in-game graphics are all well-done pixel art, and the soundtrack is very much in the style of old Genesis platformers like Ristar. Honestly, I found the soundtrack so enjoyable that I went through the game and got all of the gems so that I could download the soundtrack from the site. The Frozen Cavern theme is especially lovely.
The game does suffer from some control issues. Having the “down” button on your control pad/keyboard as the action button is a bit strange, but it doesn’t become much of an issue after you get used to it. It’s also quite a short game; I got through the Tobe and Nana campaigns in about three hours, even after getting all of the treasure and gems in both storylines, but this is negated by the fact that the game’s only five dollars, a beautiful price point for a game like this.
While indie platformers are becoming a bit too common nowadays, Tobe’s Vertical Adventure is a shining example of why the genre’s so appealing. It doesn’t do much that’s especially unique, but it’s solid, fun, and wonderfully cheap. If you still have a place in your heart for these games, it’s a great way to spend $5 and an afternoon.
- Title: Tobe’s Vertical Adventure
- Platform Reviewed: PC
- Developer: Secret Base
- Publisher: Secret Base
- Release Date: July 18, 2011
- MSRP: $4.49 (Steam)
- Review Copy Info: A download code for this title was provided to DualShockers, Inc. by the publisher for the purpose of this review.