Teratopia struggles with basic gameplay design from combat to platforming. For an action-adventure platformer, that’s always a bad sign.
On its surface, Teratopia looks cute and charming, but the surface is where this new title from Eastasiasoft resides. It’s an action-adventure platformer with weird RPG elements thrown in. Somehow it always manages to fall flat on its face. Players will end up controlling a few different types of creatures over the journey here, but I’d be surprised if most people make it past the first handful of levels.
At one point, three different species lived in harmony on the world of Teratopia. They weren’t always nice to each other, but they still managed to coexist and have some fun along the way, until their world was overrun by a new race bent on taking over the planet. It’s up to a few stars among the three main races to take back their world.
It’s all very simple – much like everything Teratopia tries to do – but the narrative generally works and is occasionally quite funny. The humor does fall flat sometimes, but I think it might come down to me just not finding humor in most games these days (Tripwire Interactive’s Maneater is a hilarious exception).
Summon the minions
Players traverse ten stages throughout the game and do all of it with just a few basic button presses. There’s a basic attack button that does different things depending on the species, an evade button, a defense button, and probably the most unique thing about Teratopia: the minion buttons.
As you go around each stage and defeat enemies, you’ll collect a handful of different types of minions that you can then summon into battle. Each minion has a different tactic, but I barely used them outside of boss battles. Even then, I generally just summoned all of them onto the field until I had an army of minions doing my bidding for me.
Since we’re talking about boss battles, I want to touch on them quickly. The boss fights in Teratopia were probably the standout of my experience. Not because they were really all that interesting – avoid getting hit, do damage, repeat – but each of them was a different family member: the baby, the mom, the two brothers, a grandma. It’s a unique twist that you’re making your way through a family tree and something that I liked a lot.
Where’s the fun?
There’s a good amount of enemy variety here. It’s just too bad the game absolutely was not fun to play. Terrible platforming precision gets compounded with bland, uninspired combat making Teratopia uniquely bad in most things outside of visual design. I can partially forgive lame combat design in a game if that game is at least fun to play in other aspects of gameplay. However, Teratopia is not.
Even in the second or third level I found myself either not jumping after pressing the button or getting clipped off ledges. To make things worse, death meant starting the whole stage over. There aren’t checkpoints and there are no lives. Instead, players are forced to slog back through all the same boring combat you had just encountered to get back to the same unprecise jump. Luckily, Teratopia’s levels are rather short, so dying and starting over doesn’t take too long.
Teratopia isn’t a stunner in visual design, but it’s bright and colorful enough to give it some charm. It has an air of Spyro or Skylanders, just without the polish of a big studio behind it. It looks good enough to be passable if the rest of the gameplay holds up, which it doesn’t.
I almost feel bad talking about Teratopia the way I am, because this is a game made by people who likely love what they’ve built and are passionate about it. I respect the hell out of game developers, but Teratopia doesn’t break any new ground in the platformer or the action-adventure genres, and it just isn’t good at anything it’s trying to do. I really liked the minion system and the boss design, but with imprecise platforming, it’s hard to recommend to anyone. You’d be better off playing any of the Ratalaika games for five bucks just for the easy achievements.
Game Freaks 365 received a free review copy.