If there is anything those crafty anthropomorphic horses from My Little Pony taught me, it’s that friendship really is magic. Even if you all have completely different personalities, working together towards a common goal always fares better than going it alone! In today’s game we follow a trio of displaced besties traversing a weird and wonderful landscape to rescue their friends and take back their land of Teratopia. A gruesome and multifaceted family of goons have sent forth their minions and taken over our monster pals’ home in this action packed brawler by indie devs Ravegan. Will Teratopia make us sit by the fire and sing Kumbaya or will the friendship magic fizzle out faster than a fourth of July firework at a family BBQ?
Just a few short months ago I was looking at Eastasiasoft’s upcoming winter release schedule and hidden among the many gems I noticed Teratopia. It was cute, colorful, and goofy all over. Just the sort of game I see and think, “Oh! My son would be all about this!” and thankfully Eastasiasoft was kind enough to bestow upon us a copy of the game for review! I wasn’t totally sure what to expect when it came to gameplay and the “M” rating definitely threw me for a loop, but I was highly optimistic!
One of my favorite things to do as a new year turns the corner, is browse the upcoming games! You know, to figure out how best to bolster our backlog in the most efficient way possible. Of course, there were a ton of games to look forward to, both triple A and niche alike, but after looking over Eastasiasoft’s winter release schedule, Teratopia caught our eye! Not only because the graphics were colorful and the character designs were goofy, but because it seemed to offer something different than what we typically cover here at The Backlog Odyssey. It seemed more geared towards kids and it harkened back to classic action platformers of the late 90s. Specifically it reminded me of the types of action platformers you would find on the N64.
After seeing that Teratopia was rated M (for mature) however, I was instantly intrigued and curious to find out how and why that was! At first glance that’s not what comes to mind at all. Then I thought of Conker’s Bad Fur Day, and it all started to make sense. If Teratopia was inspired by the naughty, potty mouthed, platformers of the era, then we really had something to look forward to. I tempered my expectations though.
Truly, comparing anything to a classic Rare 3D platformer would probably be unfair since they more or less refined the genre, but I gotta say, Teratopia really holds its own! Although it’s not quite the collect-a-thon that those late N64 games may have become, what really set it apart was its unique mechanics when it came to its combat. Instead of just gaining abilities as you progress through the game (which you still do), you instead acquire a variety of minions that you can summon at will. Well, as long as you have the appropriate eggs in your inventory to summon them. They’ll then help you both offensively by attacking enemies, and defensively by distracting enemies away from you, and in specific cases, casting support buffs on your other summoned minions. It can get quite hectic as you start filling the screen with them in later levels, which is quite satisfying!
You can also choose between three different protagonists which will have their own sets of minions and special abilities. As well as weaknesses and strengths when it comes to the various types of enemies that you encounter. Although you’ll find that the minions themselves may not feel too much different between the three, their primary attack styles really do make a difference, especially during boss fights. In the beginning, I wasn’t sure if the purely combat based gameplay would hold up over the course of the game, since it seemed to lack variety, but the devs did a great job of giving you goals to keep you pushing forward. Things like unlocking treasures in previously completed areas after defeating a boss, giving a variety of costumes to buy (that give you various stat boosts), and of course a leveling system that inspires you to keep fighting to get stronger.
This game is fun as heck. I’ll say that outright! The controls took a bit of getting used to but once you got them down we all had a blast. Each of the three characters had their own special ability to fight off the baddies. Also, each of them came with five unlockable minions complete with abilities all of their own to help you punch, shoot, or barf (yep) your way through the onslaught of red usurpers. Teratopia had a good amount of challenge to it so it wasn’t boring for more advanced players but not so challenging my son couldn’t keep up. The M rating honestly seems like a blanket rating to just cover their bases. I think the main bad guy says ‘bastard” once in the whole game and then one of the lady bosses will “flash” you occasionally but it’s censored. It’s probably the lightest M rating I’ve ever seen applied to a game but I get it. There’s enough there that people would complain about it if it wasn’t labeled as such, but there was nothing that caused me any concern playing it with my 8 year old.
What added even more to the fun of Teratopia was the Teratopedia. You fill up the book by killing a certain number of enemies, opening chests, defeating bosses, etc. and you will gain points to put towards buying adorable and useful costumes for your already quirky monster buddies. I really like when games encourage you to seek out specific enemies or items for things like this. I really think it adds an extra layer of replayability to the game.
One thing I think the game could use, on the other hand, is co-op play. It would amplify the fun big time to be able to bust your way through the hordes of enemies with a buddy of your own. Also, I think having a second player would help offset the challenge level for the not so experienced players in your life.
With all that being said however, I feel like the biggest improvement this game would benefit from would be a complete overhaul in it’s platforming physics and controls. In a lot of the cases, aiming, attacking, and jumping never really felt as responsive as I would have wanted it to be. Especially when you tie in the fixed cameras. Seeing where enemies are and lining up your attacks makes for frustrating combat at times and when it comes to the actual platforming sections, it almost feels like the game was built to fight you. Jumping in particular will drive you to drink! Also, I know I’m only supposed to pick one thing to change, but I really think the devs need to lean harder into that M rating! Sure there were a few things here and there and COULD have been considered mature, but really they were only minor and it seems like if you’re going to go for that kind of rating, then you would really GO for it!
Nonetheless, they all seem like minor gripes, because the rest of the game is quite fun and as you progress further in the game and gain access to more minions some of those annoyances start to fade away. In combat at least. So keep that! In fact, expand upon it and give us more minions to play around with! Or even more new protagonists.
You know, I’m just going to flat out say it, YES, you should check out Teratopia! It’s not very often I’m surprised by a game when we jump into it, but Teratopia truly did exceed my expectations. Teratopia was charming, fun, satisfying, and best of all it didn’t out stay its welcome. So, if you’re in the mood for a simple, yet surprising platform to add to your collection, then take the plunge!
I wholeheartedly would recommend this game. We had a great time playing it together from start to finish. Teratopia certainly didn’t overstay its welcome and only took us a few sessions to almost 100% the whole game. It’s one of those games that leaves you feeling a little lost after you finish it. I could definitely see myself going back to it one day to finish it up all the way. A worthy buy for sure!
We came, we saw, we kicked those red monster butts hand in hand with our best monster mates. The gameplay was simple, and fun. The artwork was goofy and colorful. And there honestly wasn’t much to complain about other than a janky jump ability. Well worth the price for a bit of family friendly-ish fun.
If you’re interested in checking out Teratopia for yourself, it’s available on January 20th, 2021 on the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Steam!