X Never, Ever Marks the Spot

Thoughts on an 8-bit platformer dripping with nostalgia and whimsical intrigue.

Mae Govannen, mellonin!

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Every once in a long while, I stumble upon something interesting without looking for it; but the times someone has given me a gift I appreciate are fewer still.  I won’t say that I have found an absolute gem of a game, neither will I tell you that you will experience something wondrously new with this next game.  If you are old enough to remember the old ways of 8-bit platformers, though, you might just feel more than a little nostalgia if you decide to give this one a whirl.

Treasure Adventure Game was entirely unknown to me before I found the veritable mithril mine that is GOG.com (Good Old Games).  Once I signed up for an account, I was gifted several games I hadn’t played, none of which really appealed to me (but I expected nothing more from games that were given away).  I decided to load them up one by one, but the only one that held my interest (rather, didn’t inordinately try my patience) was Treasure Adventure Game by Robit Studios.

Treasure?  Adventure?!  Game?!  Sushi?!?!  ...oh, no sushi?  Well, 3/4 isn't too bad.
Treasure? Adventure?! Game?! Sushi?!?! …oh, no sushi? Well, 3/4 isn’t too bad.

I’ll give you a traditional “spoiler alert” before I dispel the mysterious cloud shrouding the purpose of the game: you embark on an adventure… to recover treasure.  I’ll give you a moment to collect yourself, as I’m sure I have just thoroughly blown your mind.  I’m here to enlighten.

Good to carry on?  Brilliant.

Treasure Adventure Game is a whimsical platformer with classic-feeling controls (complete with frustrating lack of control), addictive exploration, and a dark side (not the Dark Side; don’t go reaching for your lightsabers or anything).  You play the part of a young, one-armed boy who awakens from a strange dream in his adopted grandmother’s house.  She tells you she has a surprise for you- – a gift to entertain you and open up a world of possibilities.  When you leave the house, you won’t want to come back until you’ve achieved 100% completion.

Oooh sepia filter... an old school game is trying to look even... older...
Oooh sepia filter… If that makes you feel even more nostalgic, you’ve stayed impressively tech-savvy, my friend.

The game banks on a handful of tried-and-true platformer techniques.  Items you collect generally allow you to better defend yourself, explore the game world more thoroughly (I don’t suppose you’d be shocked to learn of the presence of hi-jump boots in the game?  Samus wasn’t.), or live longer (via… I hope you’re sitting down, Zelda fans… hearts).  The implementation of these isn’t the most creative thing I’ve come across, but the focus of the game is more about the exploration of a (slightly smallish) world with widely-varied environments and denizens.

I’m not saying the game lacks thoughtful design or innovative mechanics; on the contrary, the magic bottle used to trap and release the elements for your monster-slaying, puzzle-solving benefit was new to me.  You’ll feel that you’ve accomplished something once you’ve flown to the pinnacle of a village nested in the tops of jungle trees, dived to the bottom of the sea, and traversed alternate realities.

Unfortunately, as is the case with all games, there are some glaring flaws with TAG.  I ran into some very badly-timed freezes that rendered the last 10-15 minutes of play time null, as they required a restart.  The controls are dodgy at times, and downright unresponsive at others–sometimes your character will refuse to swing his chain-and-hook arm, or be stuck with the magic bottle perpetually equipped.  

There’s also a TERRIBLE design choice during the final boss fight, in which there are environments and sprites from other games blatantly thrown into the mix.  I wouldn’t have had a problem with it if there had been little things thrown in here and there as the game progressed.  After all, the game was designed to be, as the lead designer puts it, “a love letter” to all the games he grew up playing.  But the entire game from start to (almost) finish pays such brilliantly subtle homage to the fantastic platformers of years past, and then ham-handedly screams, “Do you see what we did there?!?!” at the end.  It left a bad taste in my mouth, like a lovely salad with just the tiniest cockroach at the bottom — even if it’s a vaudevillian one that tap dances and wears a top hat, it’s still got six legs and an exoskeleton, and doesn’t exactly belong in my arugula.

All told, I can recommend that, for free, you give this one a look.  It won’t take more than a couple of hours to achieve 100% completion, and they will be two entertaining, nostalgia-soaked hours you’ll be happy you spent.  There’s even a plot twist at the end that will take you from confused to angry to heart-warmingly satisfied in a matter of minutes.

All the best, dear Readers.  Namárië.

Mithrandir

6
X Never, Ever Marks the Spot
Thoughts on an 8-bit platformer dripping with nostalgia and whimsical intrigue.

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Author
Mithrandir GW
I'm an old British bloke who lives in a young Yank's body. I dwell in Middle Earth in my head. I love God, my family, my friends, music, books, writing, and video games.