Tobe's Vertical Adventure
is a retro platformer built around modern ideas. As the titular Tobe and his would-be girlfriend Nana, you embark on a quest to loot every island you come across and making off with as much gold as you can carry. A simple plot for a simple game, it sets up Tobe's most interesting feature.
Each level is structured like that of a cave, starting you off at the top and forcing you to make your way down to the treasure somewhere at the bottom. When you finally get your prize, the cave begins to collapse opening new paths and sending you scrambling for the surface before time runs out and you are trapped under the rubble. It's a cool mechanic that I haven't seen other games do, and works well given the somewhat nonlinear level design that lets you choose from several different paths going both downwards and upwards. Being able to run off one side of the screen and pop out the other also allows for more creative traversal, which is the game's strongest asset.
But aside from this much of the game is rather clumsy, especially in terms of controls and movement. Essentially you move as a mix of Sonic 2's underwater levels with the original Prince of Persia's acrobatic hijinks. Tobe can run up walls, slide under gaps, and dangle from hanging branches, whereas Nana swaps the wall climb for a double jump. This sounds great on paper would work fantastically with the open level designs, if only the characters controlled with any consistency. Button presses register only part of the time, your jump is terribly weak which makes scaling walls frustratingly unpredictable, and movement as a whole feels like Sonic plodding through a muddy swamp.
The second problem is the game is alarmingly short. I completed all 16 levels in just over an hour, which for the price feels quite insufficient. Theoretically you could double this time if you plan to play through with both characters, but they play so similarly I don't believe it to be worth doing so.
All the while I was playing I couldn't help but think how much Tobe's Vertical Adventure
feels like a flash game awkwardly dressed up as a full game and put up on Steam as if players wouldn't notice. If it wasn't for the terrible controls I could still recommend it at sale prices, but unfortunately they ruined my enjoyment of the game and I wouldn't feel right advising others to purchase it. I'm quite disappointed to have to say it too because the level designs, art and music are not half bad, but a platformer with bad controls is like a sandwich without bread. It just doesn't work.