Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Arcade Adventures #5

Treasure Adventure Game (2011)
By: Robit Studios Genre: Arcade Adventure Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: PC
Also Available For: Nothing

The prospect of free video games is certainly an enticing one (as long as they don't suck arse) but, without sinking to the thoroughly reprehensible depths of piracy, it's not one that ever reared its head too often back in the 'golden age'. In my Speccy days we used to get an occasional freebie, usually by way of a magazine cover-mounted cassette, but that was about it. These days it's somewhat more common, what with so many indie developers trying to make a name for themselves, but even so - free stuff of any kind usually carries with it some conditions (intrusive adverts, mandatory downloads of crappy toolbars and stuff) as well as a certain level of expectation... or lack thereof. It was therefore with much apprehension that I installed and started Treasure Adventure Game which, as you may have guessed by now, is one such freebie.

Hanging around near home. Look, there's Grandma Ethor!
Upon doing this, two things were immediately obvious - firstly, the presentation is delightful - and noticeably devoid of annoying ad banners and such, and secondly, that this is a game very much made in a retro style. I approved of both of these points very much and was thereon in much more enthusiastic about the adventure that awaited! It begins with an enjoyable (and briefly playable) intro sequence which shows the final stage of an earlier expedition undertaken by two amiable fellows called Baggus and Gagwin, as well as a young raggamuffin who is apparently the son of Gagwin. The backstory to the game, you see, tells of a time long ago when all the islands of the world were one continent and society flourished with great cities and lots of lovely magic. That was until an evil demon who despised magic descended from the heavens (not ascended from the netherworld?) intent on eradicating every last ounce of magic in the world. Bah!

One of the first areas you'll find with enemies...
Luckily a brave hero - a wizard's apprentice named Huayin - came forth and stood against the demon using twelve magically enchanted artefacts. However, in his death throes the evil demon struck at the core of the earth causing tidal waves and earthquakes and the world ended up with all the islands we know today. In case the demon returned, the young wizard then hid away all twelve items in case they were ever needed again. And this is where our friends, Baggus and Gagwin have been - searching for the magical items, which they found. The next, final step of their expedition, as shown in the intro, involves looking for a special temple that only the wielder of the artefacts can enter. They find the hidden doorway and slowly enter... at which point we leap forward 10 years and begin the game proper as Gagwin's son who's just 'come of age', or so says the doddering old lady who raised him after finding him on her doorstep, seemingly abandoned, 10 years earlier. Eeep!

Avast, ye scurvy land lubber, arrr!
Upon waking up in the old crone's house she says a few fond parting words and gives him something she had been holding onto until he was old enough - a small boat. Slightly random you might think, but this is actually essential since, as hinted at by the game's backstory, the gameworld here is divided into a number of small islands, and travel between these is possible only by... you guessed it! Even so, at the start of the game the boat is insufficiently equipped to travel in anything but calm, shallow waters. Luckily, as the young scamp in question, this still enables you to pop back and forth between the few islands closest to 'home island', and unsurprisingly it's here that your adventure begins. Soon after starting though, you'll notice that the game uses its own (rather accelerated) clock which sees day turn to night and back again as you play, and this affects several things during the course of the game.

The first boss is this angry (and spiky) rock monster...
Strangely, you don't seem to need any sleep (perhaps you're actually a cyborg?) and are free to run and leap around the place at any time. Your home island mainly features houses and buildings which you are free to enter (during the daytime at least - everyone locks up at night!) and you can talk to locals you meet too. Some burble on about nonsense but many provide clues or even direct suggestions as to where you should be heading next. After obtaining an old map, for example, your first port of call should be a museum on a neighbouring island, the curator of which is a certain fellow named Baggus who, after losing the twelve magical artefacts he had collected with Gagwin (as well as Gagwin himself), built the museum over the site of the magic temple and remained behind ever since. Retrieving the artefacts and battling the aforementioned scary demon therefore forms the basis of your entire adventure.

Crabs guard the base of a great pyramid...
And what an adventure it is too! Treasure Adventure Game isn't a simple platform game, you see, but rather an enormous 'Metroidvania' style world and, as is typical of such games, there's an absolute tonne to do. This is obvious right from the start with even the first few islands having paths/entrances that you can see but not access (yet), and a quick glance at the pause screen reveals dozens of black silhouettes indicating the many items that must yet be collected. The size and complexity of the task at hand (imagined or otherwise) is actually a tad daunting at first but our heroic young scallywag is eager to get started and exploring with him is splendidly intuitive. He only has one hand for some reason but in place of it is a hook (maybe a future career as a pirate beckons - arrr!) which soon proves mighty handy for getting around - not only can he grab on to ledges with it but he can also swing it around to smack up the various evil creatures that prowl around.

Multi-coloured Fuzzballs patrol this feature-laden area...
Home island doesn't have any life-sapping beasties and is therefore a most welcome safe haven, but all the other islands feature many sorts of unpleasant examples such as spiders, watery blobs, fuzzballs, wasps, fish, monkeys, bats, and lots of others, as well as some less natural horrors like skeletons and ghosts. Some just move back and forth in simple patterns, others home in on your position, while some throw or shoot stuff at you, but all of them can make rather short work of your life-meter which is represented by the yellow blobs in the top-left corner. Not all of the animals are malevolent - some of them, such as beetles, mice, and birds, are friendly and can occasionally give you information as valuable as some of the human characters (they have equally human names too!), but something that will cost probably more energy than all but the most irritating of enemies are the various traps and hazards.

Don't get led astray in the big scary city!

There's an environmental aspect to the game, too (which may or may not be connected to the main plot), thanks to a company called GloboCorp who recently moved into the local area. Their actions have apparently coincided with various animals becoming sick and several underground areas suffering from quakes, and there's also dangerous toxic pollution being dumped as well. More common hazards include quicksand, fire, proximity bombs, disappearing blocks, and many, many spikes. Fortunately there are pages from Baggus' journal here and there featuring clues, and there are also save points quite often, each of which also tops up your energy, and you can also find fruits here and there which give you a boost too. There are loads of other useful items and equipment around, most of which are found in treasure chests and all of which quickly prove very useful, either making a certain aspect of your quest easier or allowing access to previously unreachable (or unknown) areas.

Crawling around maze-like caverns...

Among the first two items you will find are those that apparently "all adventurers are required to have"; namely, a hat and a parrot. There are eventually several hats to try for size but the parrot is much more useful. He follows you around everywhere and can be consulted at any time for his sage counsel or suggestions on how to proceed (he's pretty smart you see) but on a handful of occasions you can even control him, which is handy since he can fly and all. This fellow is fairly easy to find - he's right at the start of the old magical temple - and some of the less significant items, such as basic supplies, can be bought from shops (or the odd vending robot!) with gold coins which are found in the corpses of deceased enemies or occasionally dotted around the place, but most often in chests. However, most of the other items, certainly the most important ones, are a little harder to unearth. In fact, many have their own maps to help you find them but first you have to find the maps themselves!

Hanging with the monkeys on a rainforest island...

There are also many basic puzzle elements to the gameplay such as flipping switches, pushing blocks, picking up/repositioning weights, etc, as well as many of the usual platformy elements like mushroom springers, see-saws platforms, wind blowers, underwater sections (you can even go deep sea diving later on), and of course, lots and lots of precision jumping. It's a huge game too. The islands vary in size - though the smallest is no more than two screens wide, most are much larger - but it would take even the most impatient of gamers many hours to play the game through, never mind players like me who prefer to explore and find all the secrets. There's a great sense of progression regardless of your preferred style of play, though. Each of the treasures you collect, for example, allows you delve a little deeper into the temple, and many other areas become accessible as the game wears on.

This dapper fellow sure has a nice house...

Happily, this wonderfully large and intricate game world is superbly presented as well. As you've no doubt already seen, the game has been dressed up in an ultra-retro pixelly graphics style and the result is fantastic. The characters and creatures and various items are all very appealing and the numerous backgrounds are even better. Each island has its own distinctive look including some lovely scenery graphics, but the best thing of all is simply the attention to detail. Much of this is down to the game clock - day gradually turns to night as you play with the sun and moons rising and setting accordingly; certain people and creatures and buildings are only around/open at certain times, etc. One great example is the GloboCorp headquarters which you have to break into fairly early in the game. If you do this during the day it's easy as 'visitors' are apparently allowed inside, but if you do it at night you'll have to sneak around, avoiding the various security systems. Eeek!

Baggus waits outside his museum while I explore a tree...
There are also lots of other lovely touches such as a usable jukebox, leaves fluttering around when you move through trees, and some nice weather effects (rain, thunder), and some very atmospheric sound effects like seagulls cawing, fish splooshing in and out of the water, crabs feet clacking as they walk, and all that kind of stuff. The soundtrack by Robert Ellis really is superb too, consisting of a very impressive 31 tracks which the game switches between depending on your location, the time of day, or the drama of the situation at hand. There really is so much to Treasure Adventure Game that it's sometimes hard to believe it wasn't a full, retail release. As it is, it's a game of rather humble origins, even for an indie game - Stephen Orlando spent over two years developing it in his spare time - but that doesn't stop it from being close to the perfect arcade adventure as far as this humble reviewer is concerned.

Sailin' the seas as the sun goes down...

The only merest hint of a problem really, is that the going can be a little frustrating at times - some puzzles aren't always obvious and some hidden areas are really tough to find. It can also be annoying to spend ten minutes leaping from vine to vine amongst the treetops only to miss one of the last ones and fall all the way back down, but I'm really just looking for ways to balance out all the positives now. The truth is, this is a wonderful game and an unexpected delight! It's clearly been developed with a lot of love and passion and that rarely results in a poor game. Everything here is so charming you can't help but love it just as much yourself. It even has more than one ending for heaven's sake! If I'd spent £20 or more on this I wouldn't feel remotely hard done by, but for free? Good lord almighty, it's a quite remarkable display of generosity. So let's hear it for the talented, not to mention super-nice Stephen Orlando of Robit Studios! Three cheers for you and your fab game!

RKS Score: 9/10

You can download Treasure Adventure Game for free here and I implore you to do so!


  1. Sounds great, especially the bits with the boat - I've downloaded it for now, but I'd love a handheld version - these kind of things are easier to get involved with in handheld form, I find.

    Have you played Cave Story? Several years old now, but fantastic all the same (and this game sounds similar to it).

    Crystal Catacombs is another one - it's not free, but it's impressive at least with some great monster designs.

  2. You've found some fantastic Treasure for sure, Aaarrggg! But nothing free of value to me, right pollie!? Still, I'll give it a try once
    anchored up!

  3. Hi THB - I know what you mean but some of the graphics might be a bit small for mobile devices. Hope it works okay though! Cave Story is actually one of the many as-yet-unplayed games I have on my HD - I'll get around to it eventually :P

    Hey Lukey, thanks for dropping by :) This really is a fantastic example of its genre anyway if you ask me, the fact that it's free is just an ultra-bonus! (>.<)

    1. Well, by "mobile devices" I ideally had the PSP in mind, with its nice big screen. Cave Story's been ported to it (as well as to the GP2X), so I can always hope!

  4. The PSP's screen is big? I was thinking a 10" tablet would be too small to play this properly! :P Who knows though, it might look fine. Hope you manage to get it working, it's a splendid game :)