A Noble Game
In an industry that’s all too often focused on wrangling in consumers, dominating market share, and making millions on AAA releases, it’s entirely refreshing and encouraging to stumble across a video game publisher willing to donate 75 percent of its proceeds from a title to charity in order to help brighten the lives of children who are suffering from serious illnesses.
Activities, education, and entertainment often become welcome distractions for children facing long-term illness, and for close to 25 years the Starlight Starbright Children’s Foundation has provided a range of programs for these kids and their families to help them through difficult times. To this end, the organization has recently teamed up with Legacy Interactive and Animax Entertainment to offer up The Tuttles: Madcap Misadventures: a humorous and lighthearted 2D platformer designed as a charity fundraising effort to engage the whole family. With a star-studded cast and a solid comedic script rounding out the simple game design, The Tuttles packs plenty of charm.
For the most part, the Tuttles are a quasi-average family, but their road trip adventure turns out far from normal. Plans to hit the Alamo for a family vacation – in a modified flying mini-van no less – run into a snag when an ongoing series of technical mishaps thrust them into increasingly bizarre and entertaining locations. Their unfortunate detour takes them through thick jungles, wooded treetops, sandy deserts, and even beneath the waves of the deep sea in a silly journey that will elicit numerous chuckles both from younger and older players.
Much of the story is delivered in comic book style cut scenes with voice-over dialogue provided by an array of well-known actors. Barry, the typical goofy dad, is expertly voiced by Bob Saget; Jamie Lee Curtis voices his wife Barbara, a reluctant vacationer; their simultaneously bright and ditsy teenage daughter Jess is voiced by Ashley Tisdale; and the younger tech-savvy son Zach is voiced by Dominic Scott Kay. William Shatner is the voice of the family’s minivan, and Dave Thomas and Dave Coulier make cameo appearance later in the story. Dialogue during cut scenes is where the great voice work succeeds best. Short one-liners and sound effects from each actor are also worked into the actual gameplay, but they’ll quickly become grating on the nerves for most players since they’re triggered practically every single time you jump, attack or pick up an item. On the whole, the characters are upbeat and the voice work breathes a lot of personality into the animations. It’s neat to have such recognizable voices behind the characters. The orchestral soundtrack is also impressive, and it brings a very movie-like atmosphere to The Tuttles.
Each phase of the journey pits the family against some of the many perils one might expect to face while gallivanting across the entire globe on the way to the Alamo including restless cannibal natives, wild animals, traps, mummies, and more. The side-scrolling action is incredibly formulaic at best, but it’s suitably complex for the intended target audience of younger gamers and their family members. Players will have an opportunity to control each family member at different times throughout the trip. You’ll run, jump, and attack using basic keyboard or mouse controls which are simple to grasp.
Aside from simply getting to the end of each stage intact, you must also collect a series of character specific items before being able to progress. Also, players can increase their score by collecting money, health power-ups, and other items simply scattered throughout the levels or by defeating enemies. Some of these items change depending on which character you’re controlling; for example, you’ll collect TV remote controls when playing Barry, a handheld video game unit when playing Zach, a digital music player when playing Jess, and so forth. In between many of the location transitions, you’ll also be able to control the family’s rocket propelled mini-van in flying levels which provide some needed variety from the standard level designs. In these flying missions you’ll be dodging clouds, trees, lightning bolts, birds, and all manner of other oddities while collecting stars and power-ups. In general, the gameplay itself is less endearing than the overall presentation of the game. On the other hand, it also happens to be incredibly easy to pick up and lends itself well to players of varying abilities.
Every few levels, a new cut scene will bring some laughs and keep the plot moving along. The character art style in these scenes is slightly reminiscent of Disney drawings, and kids will likely pick up on this. The comic book panels for cut scenes are worked into basic flash animations with dialogue, but the other areas of the game are more visually appealing. The vibrant colors and detailed scenery offer plenty of visual variety from level to level. Most of the time there’s a lot happening on-screen between character movements, enemies, item collecting, and different levels of scrolling backgrounds.
As mentioned before, The Tuttles is slanted towards a younger audience, but the humor and family interactions will be both familiar and entertaining for adults as well. The 40 levels of basic repetitive side-scrolling gameplay start to wear thin by the end. This may not be a problem for kids or attentive parents playing alongside their young budding gamers, but those accustomed to a more complex level of gameplay may find their attention faltering before long. As a fundraiser, the game works on many levels since it features such a surprisingly great cast of voice actors and the funny, family-oriented story will appeal to a wide audience. Also, approximately 75 percent of the game’s $19.99 price tag will be donated to Starlight when purchased and downloaded directly through the Legacy Interactive website. Besides being a solid casual adventure game it’s a thoughtful charity initiative that has the potential to positively impact the lives of sick children; a noble cause indeed.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.8 Graphics
Detailed environments and colorful visuals will keep young and old entertained on this family adventure. 3.4 Control
Easy-to-use directional keyboard controls also have a tendency to give players a mild hand cramp. Mouse controls are not preferable. 4.3 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Great musical score provides a good backdrop for some truly funny and high quality voice-overs provided by some big start talent. 3.5 Play Value
The repetitive gameplay brings the game down slightly, but it will be of little consequence for the intended younger audience. 3.7 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.