|System: PS3 (PSN)||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Boolat Games||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Boolat Games||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Oct. 15, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Pending||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Adam Brown
With the way the economy has been going recently and the ever increasing cost of developing high profile games, there's not much room for failure when it comes to making video games. This has led to a time in the industry where you're more likely to see a flood of sequels with a number attached to them than a title that perhaps tries something a little different. While this is the case for most in the disc-based game portion of the industry, the bar has not been quite as high in the downloadable space.
This space has become the destination where many unique and interesting games have been cultivated and delivered to the public. With these games being cheaper to develop and purchase, there's just not as much risk involved, allowing companies to try something truly innovative that would otherwise likely not see the light of day in the current financial climate. However, not every interesting idea is necessarily going to make a great game, and unfortunately, this is the case with Topatoi: Spinning Through the Worlds.
Topatoi starts off by giving you just enough of a story to send you on your very short and incomplete adventure. Raph, the game's main character, and his friends are flying around in their blimp when he happens to pull the wrong lever. This results in a brief burst of speed but ultimately causes the blimp and its crew to crash land onto the Great Tree. After the crash your girlfriend is quickly abducted by an evil bird, forcing you to go on a quest to get her back while other members of your crew attempt to fix the blimp.
The concept of the game itself isn't anything particularly new or innovative, as it just involves platform jumping and puzzle solving. However, the game does offer a unique twist (yes, sad pun intended) that attempts to add a new spin (and another) to the gameplay. Instead of just running and jumping about the game's levels, Raph will make use of an experimental machine called the GEMMA. The Gyroscopic Exploration Multidimensional Multiterrain Apparatus is essentially a spinning top in which Raph sits that helps him to traverse his new surroundings.
Initially the GEMMA is pretty straightforward, allowing you to maneuver, jump, and increase and decrease your spinning speed. The rate at which the GEMMA is spinning determines how fast you're able to move about, with the lowest speed having you creeping along at a turtle's pace. Longer jumps will actually require you to increase the spinning speed of your GEMMA in order to get enough momentum and distance to hit your intended landing platform. An increased spinning speed is also required for the combat in Topatoi. Throughout the course of the game, you'll only run into one type of enemy, grey figures who also make use of GEMMAs, which the story led me to believe were supposed to be rare and experimental. The only way to defeat these foes, through most of the game anyway, is to increase your GEMMA's speed and then clumsily try to shove them off of a ledge with it while not falling over yourself. This is often easier said than done, as it can be difficult to judge how hard you need to push in order get them over the ledge while they're also pushing back against you.
Level by level you are also given the opportunity to try out other features of the GEMMA such as a double jump, pulling and pushing individual objects, and waves of energy that can pull or push all nearby objects. All of these different abilities are used throughout the game in order to solve puzzles that will open gates, create platforms, and operate elevators to help make it to your next destination. For example, there are many switch puzzles in the game that you'll need to either pull blocks off of or place blocks/balls onto in order to continue on. Some of the puzzles in Topatoi are pretty well done, but most boil down to fairly straightforward "find the switch and change its status" type of affairs.
The catch to using any of the GEMMA's abilities is that after the first level, everything you do with the GEMMA requires fuel. At the start of each level you'll be given a fuel meter that will continue to deplete, ticking down even quicker if you decide to spin faster, double jump, or pull or push any objects. To me, having to constantly be aware of how much fuel I was expending made the game feel unnecessarily sluggish and clunky.