-By Mike Bezek
Lately, I had found myself begrudgingly coming to terms with the fact that I may not be introduced to memorable and compelling characters that require little or no dialogue to burn make a lasting effect. Video game icons like Mario, Sonic, and even the Gunstar Heroes, are almost completely silent protagonists; however, their image lives with us and remains ageless due to their simplistic and functional games. Tobe’s Vertical Adventure offers a pair of characters that casually adhere to these standards, and come very close to offering the same charm and panache that their forefathers graced upon our childhood.
Adorable Life-Ending Spikes and Lava
Just like mom’s home cooking, Tobe is a straight shot back to the tried and true formulas of the past. The concept is simple: get to the bottom of the level, learn and loosely memorize the journey, uncover the treasure at the bottom and get out as fast as possible. That bit about memorization, you ask? It will do you good as you are under the gun in a timed race back to the top. Whatever calm pace you were taking to learn the landscape is quickly turned on its head as you scramble back to the top before meeting your untimely death. This simple mechanic keeps the game challenging and fun, as simply climbing back to the top with zero pressure would equate more to a boring rehash.
The levels are intuitively designed and challenging, as once you gather your treasure, tremors alter some of the landscape and offer new ways to tackle your escape. Just when you think that you understand and scoff at a simplistic section, you will either be surprised at a small twist, or become distracted by the simple joy of executing a tricky jump that is undeniably fun to pull off.
This is what makes Tobe such a compelling game; it gives the player small, personal rewards that evoke the long-forgotten emotion of feeling “cool” while playing. Tobe is an agile character that can run up walls, wall jump, and roll out of danger. While playing, I found myself constantly drawing parallels to Mega Man, where you can find the same level of agility and precision in the jumping mechanics.
It must be stressed at this point that I used a controller for this game. I had attempted to play Tobe with the standard keyboard setup, which was cramped and frustrating. I then remapped my keys to a more intuitive setup, although I still lacked the ability to conquer certain obstacles efficiently. A few maneuvers in the game require the player to have lightning-fast reflexes, and since it was originally developed for XBOX Live’s marketplace, it shows through very clearly how it was meant to be played. While it is possible to conquer Tobe with just the keyboard, keep in mind that you are setting yourself up for frustration.
A 2-Dimensional Drum n’ Bass Spelunking Race
I wasn’t expecting much when it came to the sound department of the game. I was prepared for a standard production that was given less attention due to the fact that the gameplay is so refined. I was pleasantly surprised to find that there is an incredibly peppy and energized soundtrack that supplements the game very well. The drum ‘n’ bass beats create a playful, yet catchy atmosphere that complements the lighthearted approach of the game.
The soundtrack reflects the story of the game and contributes to what makes the characters so likeable. Like the platforming games of old, there was no real story. We are given the same premise here: the main character, Tobe, is a hardcore gamer, and is forced by his friend Nana to travel the world in search of treasure that he could not be less interested about. Simple illustrations push the story along, give the characters charm, and provide the little-needed story that peeks through the excellent gameplay. There is a great understanding by Secret Base that it is not always necessary to provide the player with story distractions when the gameplay itself holds it’s own ground.
Around The World In A Few Hours
My only complaint with Tobe is one that Secret Base can smile about: it’s too short for such a great game. This is not to say that you’re not going to want to take multiple trips through it, as you are also given the option to go through the game with Tobe’s counterpart Nana, who features her own set of moves. When I finally wrapped the adventure up, I was so hungry for more that I started a new game immediately and tried to best my personal hi-scores, not out of a competitive spirit, but because the game is so well-crafted that it compelled me to continue.
Final Thoughts/Was It Worth My Money
There is no doubt that Tobe is the best $5 you can spend right now on Steam. The fluid level design, excellent difficulty curve, and energetic soundtrack are just a few reasons to dive head first into this indie gem. While the control aspect of the game will take some tinkering to get used to if you do not have a gamepad, do not let that detract you from handing over your beloved Lincoln that sits ever so comfortably in your wallet.
Tobe’s Vertical Adventure Summary:
- Time Played – 2 hours
- Widescreen Support – Automatic scaling to screen
- 5.1 Audio – No
- Bugs – None.
- DRM – Steamworks
- Control Scheme – Customizable keyboard, gamepad support
- Game Acquisition Method – Review copy
- Worth your money – Yes, and yes.
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