Thursday, April 22, 2021

Way of the Turtle (iOS) Review

I've got a fever, and the only prescription is more Apple Arcade exclusive goodness! After Sunday's first Apple Arcade game review, Clap Hanz Golf, SPC changes genres to a platformer of the Metroidvania variety: Way of the Turtle. Is the way of the turtle one you should follow? Let's find out with the SPC review.

 A shell-shockingly fun Metroidvania on Apple Arcade

There are all kinds of turtles in the world. Some are cool, such as your Galapagos turtles or your Teenage Mutant Ninja variety of turtles, and some are not so reputable, like Mitch McConnell, for instance. The pair of turtles that star in Illusion Labs' Way of the Turtle, a 2.5D Metroidvania game exclusive to Apple Arcade, rests firmly in their shells in the "cute" category, being a pair of lovebirds, er.... love "turtles" in this case. 

When the two find themselves shipwrecked and separated on an island teeming with gopher life (among several unfriendly faces not of the gopher persuasion), it's up to the two of them to not only reunite but to find a way off the island. This answer to a "way off the island" presents itself when the two reunite early in the game at a village filled with gophers, and the gopher chief informs them that he will help them off the island but only if they take care of the volcano threatening to erupt. 

In order to access the volcano and discover the way to save the gophers and their island from impending doom, our turtle heroes must open the gate by hitting three different switches. Unfortunately for them, this means journeying around the island looking for the abilities needed to reach them. Fortunately for us, as players of Way of the Turtle, this is a shell of a good time... for the most part.

Way of the Turtle is a unique Metroidvania. By virtue of being on mobile, your turtle is always on the move with the only way of stopping them is to have them hide in their shell. Swipes left and right on the touch screen change their direction as they move, but I found that a controller was my preferred way to play. Not only did it give me a greater degree of accuracy and precision, but also lesser bouts of annoyance and frustration stemming from touch inputs not registering properly, such as having swipes be read as presses. Thus, instead of changing directions, my turtle would leap into the air accidentally. 

Both turtles have the same base abilities, so it's more an aesthetic choice of which turtle to choose.
You can switch between turtles on the fly at specific points in the game world.

Another key thing that makes this Metroidvania unique is that Way of the Turtle plays out in 2.5D environments, where paths circle around one another and shift perspectives often. Rather than always being a straight-up side-scroller, the camera occasionally looks over your turtle's shoulder at an angle. The camera isn't always optimal, as foreground objects can and will sometimes obscure enemies and hazards, such as spikes and bottomless chasms. Fortunately, taking damage, or worse, dying, aren't penalized severely. There is always a checkpoint nearby to regain your bearings and continue from.

These retracting spiked walls really know how to get to the point!

Speaking of these checkpoints, these shell totems of sorts serve not only as places to return to upon death and to save progress, but they also allow you to switch shells on the fly. There are three different shell types in Way of the Turtle, and each possesses a different power/ability. The blue shell allows our turtle heroes to hide inside their shells, perfect for staying in one place when it's absolutely necessary, such as specific precision platforming moments where timing is everything. The green shell gives our turtles the ability to boost forward either on the ground or in midair, allowing them the capability to cross chasms otherwise impassable. Finally, the red shell serves as a great means to attack enemies easily, especially those with spikes that can't be beaten any other way. It can also flip levers to transform the environment and move platforms, for instance.

The dashing green shell is but one of a trio of shells our turtle protagonists uncover in their island adventure.

All three shells are discovered in a Metroid-style fashion. Once they're available, new portions of the world open up for exploring, as well as the ability to venture into previously adventured areas to uncover new paths and collectables in old places. Each shell has an upgrade that can be found in the world, and these range from the blue shell's ground pound, to the green shell's dash ability allowing it to smash through specific weakened walls, to the red shell's aerial spin that allows it to glide as it descends. 

Outside of mandatory upgrades to acquire in Way of the Turtle's game world, there are also two types of collectables to attain: shards and lost gophers. The latter is more for 100% completion's sake, but the shards serve as a currency that can be returned to various shop locations around the map and exchanged for increased health. Four shards can be exchanged for a new heart to be added to both turtles' overall health. Other items in the shop help discover the locations and whereabouts of the shards and gophers, revealing an audible clue when either are nearby the player, as well as revealing on the map how many shards or gophers are left in a given area of map.

Don't cry, little gopher! You're soon to be safe and sound!

While we're on the subject of the map, Way of the Turtle's arguably impressive 2.5D environments to move and jump through are both a help and a hindrance. They help make the world more interesting to explore, but they definitely hinder the simple act of navigation. The map itself doesn't really show much of anything in-depth. It just shows what areas connect to what, but it's difficult to determine in 3D environments which exits lead to where on the 2D map. So many times I'd want to get to a location on the 2D map, but didn't know how to manage it from the area I was currently at in the 3D space. A better, more detailed map would go a long way to helping with this confusion.

Way of the Turtle is a game that continues to be released in parts, so it's difficult to review somewhat. I know that I spent a good 7-10 hours with what's currently available, but had I'd just joined in on the first part, which would have ended after opening the volcano gate, I would have been none too pleased, asking "that's it?!". As it stands, I'm chomping at the bit to see what happens after battling the game's current final boss inside the volcano, because as of now, what happens immediately after beating the boss is a quick "to be continued" followed by the credits. 

Part two of Way of the Turtle's story updated with this brand-new, enjoyable volcano area.

Currently, with what is available in Way of the Turtle feels like a complete title gameplay and length-wise, just with a sudden cliffhanger that left me wanting more. That's a good thing--the "left me wanting more" part, as it shows that I did enjoy my time with the game. Inconsistent touch controls, occasionally poor camera angles, and an unhelpful, undetailed map are issues with the game, but on the whole, Way of the Turtle gets from me a recommendation like a turtle's shell: a solid one!

[SPC Says: B-]

No comments: