PSN Review – Topatoi Episodes 1 & 2

April 28, 2010 Written by Paulmichael Contreras

When it comes to true platformers, there are only a handful to choose from this generation of consoles. There are even less when you consider those only available as a download. Topatoi: The Great Tree Story was released as a PSN-exclusive platformer, and has recently seen a DLC release with episode 2: “Pillar of the Skies.” Does Topatoi roll along nicely or spin to an unplayable beat? Find out in this review.

Get the star!

Upon first starting up Topatoi, you are greeted by a lively-looking world not too far removed from Crash Bandicoot or Banjo Kazooie. The story starts on some sort of balloon-based vehicle and a crash landing due to your character pulling the wrong lever. It’s entertaining enough but nothing to write home about. Then again considering this is a downloadable title the fact that there is a persistent story with pseudo-cutscenes before and between levels is impressive.

Futuristic

The graphics in Topatoi are average in quality but inventive in use. The game’s first episode takes place on a giant tree, and you are reminded of that constantly thanks to a detailed background. The actual levels are designed well and look more than serviceable on a 1080p set. Later levels in the second episode take on a more sci-fi looking environment, but are just as detailed as in the first episode.

"Ka-chunk!"

Audio here fits right in to the environment. Any machinery in the first episode clanks along, and the GEMMA vehicle your character is in for the duration of the adventure has a semi-futuristic hum to it.

Take GEMMA for a spin.

Topatoi’s twist on the traditional platformer is the main character’s vehicle. As mentioned earlier, the GEMMA is a spinning top-like vehicle that seems to perpetually stay upright. In the simulation difficulty level, R2 and L2 on the controller cause the top to spin faster or slower. The faster the top spins, the faster GEMMA can move at the expense of precise control and vice versa. This simple but effective mechanic comes in to play early on in the game and is soon very integral in progression. It is also used in a less successful manner for combat. Enemies in this game are also conveniently in GEMMA-like devices – apparently most non-natives to the giant tree prefer this mode of transportation to walking. Battles consist of trying to knock enemies off a platform by spinning into them. Again, the faster your top spins the harder you can push. While this sounds simple in concept, the vehicle is not the most responsive vessel and can make combat frustrating. I found that the best way to defeat enemies is to wait for them to charge at you, then simply jump over them, at which point the enemy either rush straight off the edge or is stunned just long enough to knock them off myself. While the first episode has pretty easy enemies that can be pushed away with one of the GEMMA’s powers, the second episode has red “Dismantlers” that are much more challenging.

For the noobs!

Speaking of challenging, apparently this game was found to be a bit too tough for a number of gamers, since with the latest DLC also came a patch that added a new “Casual” difficulty level. You no longer have to worry about what speed your top is spinning at – simply move the left analog stick more or less to control GEMMA’s spin. This new difficulty level decreases the amount of points you earn at the end of the level. It is also the default difficulty level each time you launch the game from the XMB. This is inconvenient, since those of us who would rather play on “Simulation” mode now have to remember to go into the Options menu before starting a level.

Difficulty gripes aside, overall this game is an impressive package for only $13.99/€9.99. There are unlockable splitscreen multiplayer games, as well as online scoreboards that add to this title’s replayability. Pile on decently challenging trophies, and this is one platformer that should keep you occupied for a while to come.

PlayStation LifeStyle’s Final Score

A lot of content for a small price.

Persistent story, intelligent level design, lively worlds.

Combat can be frustrating, platforming a bit unforgiving.

8 out of 10