One shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but I often judge a game by its name. I’m not proud of it, but how many people see a game called Cyber Troopers Virtual-On Force and think, “Hey, that sounds like a party”? Long, dorky names with made up words are typically a warning sign telling me that the game they’re attached to isn’t worth my time. Which brings us to the subject of this review: Teratopia. Honestly, I had no idea what to expect from this title. Is it a utopia for teras? A utopia made of teras? Is tera even a word? What I didn’t expect from the game’s title was that it would be the disgusting, irritating, and endlessly boring slog that it is.
Developed by Ravegan S.A., Teratopia is allegedly a 3D action brawler. You start out as a round, blue critter called Tucho who must journey to rescue his friends from an army of red critters that are swarming the land. That’s it for the story, really. Save your friends from a horde of baddies – entirely unique in the world of gaming, I know. Never fear however, for what the game lacks in story it makes up for in its sheer quantity of gross, lazy, and out of touch gags. Burps, phlegm, farts, sexual “jokes” that would make anyone unbelievably uncomfortable, and a Jamaican character who is constantly high are stand-out features. That one is in especially poor taste considering one of its attacks consists of shaking its dreadlocks to throw bugs at the player.
This all raises a baffling question: who on Earth is this game for? Its visuals are bright and colorful, and any parent who viewed a promotional image for the game would think it perfect for their little ones. Nevertheless, the game is, in fact, rated M for mature audiences only. One would think that an M-rated game would offer a gameplay experience for adults, but Teratopia’s core gameplay loop is something that would appeal only to children.
Out of place, highbrow comedy aside, the game has absolutely no idea what it even is. I mentioned this is allegedly a 3D action brawler, but there is such a disorganized hodgepodge of gameplay elements that the game ends up feeling more like it doesn’t belong anywhere, rather than to one genre.
For starters, I’ve never heard of an action brawler where your character literally only has three different attacks, one of which is to do the same punch over and over and over. If you were to include Tucho and his two friends Benito and Horacio, then you’d have a whopping nine moves between the three, never mind the fact that their moves are functionally identical and animated to a suspiciously similar degree.
Adding to the genre confusion, is the leveling system that feels like it has been ripped from an ARPG. However, if it were in an ARPG it would be one of the worst ever devised. There is no possible way to view the leveling system and review what skills or abilities you’ve unlocked. If you forget the button for dodge-rolling, you’re out of luck, buddy. Yes, dodging is a “skill” that must be earned and apparently so is sprinting. It gets better though. Eventually, you can level up enough to unlock a five percent damage boost to your basic attack. That means you only have to hit enemies ninety-five times instead of one hundred times.
If Teratopia does have a goal, it’s to soak up as much of your time as possible. Any amount of challenge exists only in the most arbitrary way. Enemies do lots of damage, you do hardly any, and avoiding damage is a challenge only because whatever character you’re controlling is unbearably sluggish. That sluggishness isn’t nearly as bad, however, as the frame drops the game would suffer when the screen gets too busy. Heaven knows why the game’s frames would drop when the world and characters are so ugly, untextured, and unpolished that they make the game look like a title from 2002.
Let’s talk about the game’s bosses, shall we? They aren’t good. They’re sloppy, predictable, and can go on for way too long. Truthfully, the bosses highlight one of Teratopia’s biggest issues: it feels way too much like a cheap mobile game. Bosses can deal an unreasonable amount of damage, they take very little themselves, and if you die while fighting them you’re sent back to the beginning of the entire level. I kept watching the top right corner of my screen to see a window pop up saying, “Want to skip this level for 200 gems? Click here to buy now!”.
“Wow”, I can hear you thinking, “Is there nothing good you can say about the game?”. I’m afraid not, hypothetical thoughts of the reader. In fact, Teratopia makes one mistake that I just couldn’t stop thinking about during my entire time with the game. Once you’ve unlocked the ability to sprint (I still can’t believe that’s a thing), you’re able to do so by clicking in the left stick. That’s how it’s done in the grand majority of games, after all. Yet you are not allowed to control the camera in any way. This means that the camera is not always directly behind your character in this 3D world, and clicking the left stick to sprint can be awkwardly difficult. When you’re moving forward, it’s as easy as you’d expect, but in addition to the fact that clicking the stick in when it’s pointing down, left, or right is super weird, the game only registers the input half of the time. Oh, and if you’re fiddling with the stick so much that you absent-mindedly step off the stage, it’s back to the level’s beginning you go.
At the end of the day, Teratopia on Xbox is a gross, poorly optimized, poorly designed, and disastrous product. I regularly have more fun with the mazes on the back of cereal boxes. Maybe if there were some kind of actual direction, it could have been a fun little 3D something. Instead, Teratopia is yet another example of a weird name being tied to a horrendous game.