Whichever way you parse its name, Treasure Adventure Game was a stand-out amongst indie platformers in 2011, and really to this day. It was a three-year project of Stephen Orlando (aka Robit) and composer Robert Ellis that absorbed an unfinished prototype with a philosophical tint called Karma and expanded it into a sizable metroidvania informed by, as one might expect, treasure-hunting and adventuring. The reviews were warm enough to proof any form of yeast. It was even released as freeware, joining the rarefied ranks of Cave Story and La-Mulana, whether of necessity as the usage of certain copyrighted assets would have prevented monetization. Robit even managed to get GOG.com to host TAG, making it show in every user's library automatically. Thus beyond some apprehension about whether a freebie game can be worthwhile, a lot of people must have tried it. The road seemed about as paved as it could be for a ground-up remake that replaced the "borrowed" assets, upsampled the art and music, and remixed the puzzles and boss fights, to be sold at a fair price on the big store fronts.
Come February 2018, a long-awaited return into a subtly rebranded Treasure Adventure World, the same general applause... and nobody buys it. By "nobody" we mean the first two post-launch months of sales (and this we take on good faith from the man himself) amounted to just over 2000 copies with another 1000 in preorders. I have rubbed my temples ruddy poring over this glaring non sequitur.
Let's elaborate on what makes TAW a winner. When you start playing, the tone is set with a light-spirited medley of both scenes from the young protagonist's blurry past and of suitable musical quotations off the varied and memorable soundtrack. On the tail of the flashbacks, the boy is seen slumbering through an ominous visitation by an angelic entity, announcing that time has come to unearth how he lost his hand five years previous. Now begins the tutorial phase with a few obligatory and sequenced quests, garnished by entry-level sparring with unfriendly wildlife. Later on, the game, as any bona fide metroidvania would, keeps opening up. The player steers a little sailboat seemingly named after a mythical American Indian creator figure, and pursues the oxymoronical ends of the looping island planet in search of the twelve legendary treasures... and bountiful loads of other juicy swag!
This is the part the game gets spot-on. You're always teased by another boundary to conquer, when time and gear are ripe, and if you can't get any progress in on one front, you generally always will on another. The clues to the whereabouts of the items you're after are given with sufficient imprecision to reward the perspicatious, and so the game challenges you in multiple ways. There is a constant alternation of adventure, action, and puzzle-solving during all this exploration to ward off jadedness, and every nook and crannie has the designer's personal imprint (and often unique art) on it stemming that "triple A" deja vu. It's hard to over-emphasize how much variety and clever designs the game is brimming with, though the side quests often follow a typical format of finding the next NPC in line to advance them – which actually does amount to a bit of guesswork at times.
Now – to sympathize with those who appraised TAW less favorably, there is no averting eyes from certain faults. The protagonist having inertia and starting and stopping slowly seems to be one in some people's eyes, and demands a small degree of doggedness in assimilating. The fighting, especially at first, has a very basic structure with just one attack that's challenging to time with perfection, and for better or – as I'm inclined to think – worse, comes with some randomness in damage values, meaning how many hits something dies in is a variable. The controls are a tad clumsy to bind and options to change, being inaccessible without quitting to the main menu first. The system requirements are surprisingly high for outward appearances (a 2.5 GHz processor?), and loading times notable though by no means intolerable. Underwater excursions are generally quite slow and uneventful. Skipping some minor points, there is also the question of how unlocking the old soundtrack (from TAG, that is) is achieved. What I'm saying is I don't know: probably either a 100% completion or beating the New Game Plus mode, which I haven't yet. Well, there's nothing stopping you from hearing it again in its original context I suppose!
All in all, Treasure Adventure World doesn't betray its heritage. It's a little bit better-balanced and noticeably easier than TAG was (NG+ seems more like how tough it used to be), has added and touched-up gameplay and environments, new graphics, less bugs and so won't leave any fans of the genre cold. One thumb and a hook-hand up for this obvious Top Dog that's also playable in German and Russian after the most recent update!
TIWIKs: Things I Wish I'd Known
- In some areas, most notably the city, you will want to visit everywhere both in the daytime and the nighttime or you can easily miss certain NPCs if you don't.
- The chests are not a part of the 100% requirements: if you're missing something, it's probably either a diary page or a side quest, or talking to one of the cats. Also make sure to buy everything, including something you can only get on Somora after solving the quest. The Firefly Quest's solution is simpler than you're thinking.
- You'll only need around 15 lockpicks so don't buy more than that.
- A charged attack will not just deal more damage (only way to hurt some enemies), it also has a little bit more reach, including vertically. Also don't forget that the super jump is also an attack (useful in some fights!).
- While I played it on keyboard, apparently a controller might work even better.
- Make sure to check out the included instruction booklet before you start playing if you'd like a few preliminary hints.
Reviewed by: LotBlind