Review – Teratopia
Much like in the film industry, January is a notoriously bad month when it comes to new releases. After finishing up a few of my longer games from last year, I began to scour for any new releases that looked even remotely interesting. It was then that I stumbled upon Teratopia, a 3D action/adventure game developed by Ravegan S.A.. It looked decent enough, with a cutesie aesthetic and simple gameplay mechanics, so I figured it might make a good game to play with my kids if nothing else. I should have kept searching.
There’s not much of a story in Teratopia. The bizarrely adorable world of Teratopia is invaded by angry, spiky red aliens one day, who capture most of its inhabitants. You start off playing as Tucho, a cute blue blob with limbs, who is on a quest to save his home. Along the way, he’ll free his friends and they’ll join him on his cause. Then you’ll punch your way through enemies until you beat the bosses. That’s honestly about it.
I thought the gameplay would be casual, but still fun. Perhaps something I could play with my kids. It turns out it’s not fun or very kid-friendly. The gameplay mechanics are simplistic to a fault; each character can only dash, jump, roll/dodge, summon minions, perform a special attack, and of course, punch. Now this might sound like a lot of options, but there’s a catch. You only start off being able to punch and you have to unlock all of the other abilities. That’s right, you can’t even run or jump at first. You have to level up enough to gain access to gaming’s most basic functions.
I will admit that it doesn’t take long for you to unlock the main gaming staples. Honestly, I could probably even look past that if the gameplay was a blast. However, Teratopia has terrible gameplay mechanics. Punching seems to be the only thing that works well, which is important considering how much of it you’ll be doing throughout the game. The other controls are awful though. Characters can barely jump or roll, so you’ll probably only use those moves when it’s absolutely necessary. Dodging works pretty well, but there’s a brief cooldown period between uses that’s never displayed. The special attacks do serious damage, but it only seems to register about half the time you press the trigger.
It’s also surprisingly tough and unforgiving for such a cute, almost childish looking game. The moves might be basic, but thanks to sluggish and unresponsive controls, getting through slews of enemies is quite the task. They get harder with each new level, as well as each time you revisit a completed level too. Why would you want to keep revisiting levels, you ask? Well, the short answer is you’ll have to. Teratopia is a game that will require you to grind a lot in order to get strong enough to progress. That’s what everyone wants, right? A grindy, slogfest with horrible controls? Yeah, me neither.
The strangest thing is that the toughest part of the game isn’t even the bosses. It’s merely getting to the bosses in the first place. Many of the aliens have shields and/or hurl rocks at you. This is fine until you run into a large group of them, which happens often. Then it’s really difficult to dodge projectiles and try to punch without getting clobbered. This is exacerbated by the fact that there’s rarely any healing orbs to be found. Then even if you do make it to a boss, you’re usually starting the fight with low health. If you die, you’ll have to start the entire level over from the beginning. There’s no checkpoint for reaching the boss, which is incredibly annoying.
The bosses are simultaneously one of the best and weakest aspects of Teratopia. As far as providing a challenge, they’re almost laughably weak. While they do pack a mean wallop, their moves are typical and insanely telegraphed. The only reason I lost a boss battle was from having barely any life upon reaching them. However, they do provide some of the funniest moments in the game.
This is another area that honestly confuses me though: the humor. Everything in Teratopia looks like it’s meant for young audiences. I was shocked when I saw it’s rated M. I discovered the reason for this before too long when fighting the bosses. The developers were clearly inspired by the raunchy, outrageous humor in early Rare games. But unlike those other games, many of the jokes in Teratopia fall flat. Admittedly, there were a few moments that made me smile, but it seemed that just as often I would roll my eyes. There’s a fine line between shocking, zany humor and just being gross and crass for the sake of it.
The art design also seemed to scream “made for a younger audience”. It features a bright color palette with adorable, albeit simplistic character designs. This is fine, until you see the game up close and see just how unpolished it is. While it’s hard to see the avatars in great detail when you’re playing, the bosses and cutscenes look like something you find on the PS3. Textures are muddied, there no great attention to details, and there’s not much variety in enemy designs. Also, the framerate drops whenever there are lots of creatures onscreen or any time you attempt to perform a special attack.
The sound design is nothing to write home about. It’s simply there. There’s no voice acting, but the sound effects are passable. While the music seemed to fit the tone of the game, I couldn’t tell you what it sounded like the moment I turned off the game. It’s utterly forgettable, like most of this game.
Teratopia turned out to be yet another January disappointment. The controls are slow and heavy, aside from punching, and they’re not always responsive. There’s also a shocking amount of grinding needed to move on. However, Teratopia‘s biggest flaw is that it doesn’t know what kind of game it wanted to be. It has beyond basic controls, but it’s too hard for children to play. It looks like an adorable kid’s game and has lots of silly humor, but then there are random moments of adult level jokes and references. I’m honestly not sure who this game is meant for. Let’s just save us all some trouble and say it’s not enjoyable for anyone.
The art design features a bright color palette with overly simplistic character designs. The framerate drops whenever there are lots of enemies onscreen. It looks like something you’d find on the PS3.
Be prepared to do tons of punching and not much else. Each of the three main characters play slightly different, but they’re all boring. The controls are incredibly sluggish.
There’s no voice acting and the sound effects were just serviceable. The music was ok, but completely forgettable.
The controls are horrible and it looks like a PS3 game. It attempts to have some Rare-ish humor, but it misses the mark as often as it lands. The brief moments of enjoyment are lost within its boring gameplay and grinding sessions.
Final Verdict: 5.0
Teratopia is available now on PC, PS4, Xbox One, and Switch.
Reviewed on PS4.
A copy of Teratopia was provided by the publisher.