It’s a reviewer’s nightmare. The opening of Gabriel’s Worlds The Adventure proudly states that not only is it made by a single developer, but it has been created for the developer’s son. This wasn’t initially intended for us: this was a gift from a father to their child. Passing judgment on it feels more than a little unfair. But we’re professionals, so review it we shall.
Gabriel is a cereal-loving blue box thing, who learns from his telly that his friends are being captured. So, he heads into town to save them, encountering various slimes and animals who seem to want to stop him. If it works for Sonic the Hedgehog, it can work for Gabriel’s Worlds The Adventure. Oh and there’s some casual sexism in the opening cutscene, so be prepared for that.
We will be diplomatic and say that Gabriel’s Worlds The Adventure is not a pretty game. The solo developer is clearly not an artist, but we wish they’d gotten hold of one. Monsters look like they have been photocopied out of someone’s doodle journal, and everything else is extremely limited MS Paint work. We’ve played 79p shovelware on the Xbox that looks like the Mona Lisa in comparison, yet Rafael Valim Fernandes, the game’s developer, is expecting £4.59.
There’s a very basic platformer underneath the duff artwork. Young Gabriel can jump and double-jump, and the only attack in his arsenal is a bottom-bounce; as in, if you jump on top of an enemy, they might flash to show that they have been defeated.
But there are some fundamental issues that already need to be addressed. The bottom bounce inexplicably only works on certain enemies. Bottom-bounce an earthworm and you will lose one of your three lives. What singles out a bottom-bounce-able enemy versus one that you can’t? Nothing at all. You’re going to have to learn which is which.
The jump is a looping, slippery arc that makes us feel like salmon blindly leaping over a waterfall. Controls are sensitive as you leap, so you are desperately trying to align Gabriel with enemies that you’re looking to shove an arsecrack into. It feels imprecise, and we never felt comfortable with maneuvering Gabriel around the world.
Levels are tiny affairs that have the same rough formula. There is a key in the level that must be found so that it can open the door that signifies the end of the level. The level, all told, won’t be much bigger than a few screens’ worth, so there’s never too much ground to cover. On the way, you will come across hundreds of cereal bowls that act as a common collectible (unlocking achievements and nothing else), as well as rare collectible cereals (again, some achievements) and the odd gold coin (we’re still unsure what these do).
On occasion, there are puzzles to complete, and they tend to unlock the cage surrounding a rare cereal box in the level. The puzzles might require a sequence of buttons to be pressed, or shapes to be dragged over to a silhouette of the same shape. But they are crimes against puzzling. We can imagine Carol Vorderman turning in her grave. We completed a couple of them without knowing how we did it, simply because the instructions were irredeemably confusing, the controls are clumsy, and the whole shebang feels like it was knocked up in thirty seconds in Unity.
Gabriel’s Worlds The Adventure also loves a boss fight. Barely two levels go by without a new boss being wheeled in. They are undoubtedly the best parts of the game, but the bar is so low that we’re wary of calling them a positive. They do the bare minimum, jumping about a bit, sliding from side to side and generally doing the Time Warp. Hit them a few times and they apologetically disappear, and the degree of challenge is never more than ‘mildly taxing’ on the diffcultyometer.
Actually, we lie. The final boss is a sudden difficulty spike, and it’s completely out of theme with the rest of the game. We won’t spoil too much, but it’s a sudden punch in the nuts after some remarkably easy platforming. We deliberated over whether to bother, before some strange alignment of the planets meant we actually completed the thing.
We found a determination to persist because Gabriel’s Worlds The Adventure is squatting, Smaug-like, on 2000G of Xbox Gamerscore. 2000G! Since its release, it has received a title update that added five new achievements for 200G each, making it one of the most lucrative games since Avatar: The Last Airbender – The Burning Earth. If you want to cheese your way to a Gamerscore total, this is one of the strongest cheeses out there.
But if you’re looking for non-achievement-based value, then you’re looking in the wrong place. We counted roughly twelve levels here, including bosses, and they took no more than thirty minutes to complete. There’s less content and variety here than much cheaper games, and we found ourselves checking the main menu for something – anything – that might justify the cost. But we found nothing.
We feel impossibly mean for twisting the knife into Gabriel’s Worlds The Adventure. This is a game that was clearly a one-developer passion project, created for a son by their parent, and no doubt their son adores it. But considered objectively, this is a hopeless little platformer, barely finished and lacking content to justify the price. Sure, you can gird your loins with 2000G of achievements for thirty minutes of work, but any discerning gamer will leave Gabriel’s Worlds The Adventure well, well alone.
You can buy Gabriel’s Worlds: The Adventure from the Xbox Store