When a collection of games arrives for review, it can be a headache. Do you score according to an average, taking the middle point of everything that it offers? Or do you score it based on its finest moment? Should it matter that a nugget of gold is packaged with polystyrene filler?
It’s a pertinent question, because Toree’s 3D Platformer Collection is a lucky dip, and there’s one – maybe two – gold nuggets to grab from this four-game collection. The remaining two are gunk.
Let’s start with the gunk. Our least favourite of all the games packaged here is Regina & Mac. Conversely, it also happens to be the most ambitious, and we suspect that’s where the problem lies.
Regina & Mac is the most Banjo Kazooie-like of all the games here. It’s a 3D platformer where each level is significantly open and sprawling, about the size of your average Mario 64 level. There are little sub-arenas – an archipelago of islands, a tower of blocks, a Frogger-like river of moving logs – tucked into the corners of the level, and, at the end of them, lies a floppy disk: the game’s jiggies. You can take on these sub-arenas in any order you choose, which – if you’re like us – means saving the ultra-hard section to the very, very last.
We’re huge fans of the Mario 64 and Banjo Kazooie formula and wish more games would take on the challenge, but Regina & Mac flails drunkenly at it. It’s astonishingly ugly for one, which shouldn’t matter, but it’s to the point that elements of the game simply aren’t clear. It’s hard to know the difference between an enemy, a pressure pad and a collectible, and the only way to find out is by wandering over to headbutt it.
It’s also unfriendly to the point of shouting ‘yo mama’ jokes. Fall off platforms and you might have to walk, slowly, for a couple of minutes to get to the start of the sequence again. The camera refuses to do what you want it to (a recurring theme throughout the collection) and it all just feels so jagged to play. The controls are slippery, the platforming is precise, and failure is a punch in the gut. If you buy the collection, we’d recommend giving this one a skip.
Up a few rungs on the quality ladder is Toree 3D. Decidedly less ambitious, it’s better off for it. It’s a simple A to B platformer on an extremely linear track, making it feel like a 64-bit port of Total Wipeout or other obstacle course. Graphically, it’s leagues ahead too, looking like an early PS1 title with neon paint slathered on top.
There aren’t a huge number of levels here, even with the Toree Jumbled Jam extras tacked on, but we’re in the presence of a compendium of games, so being on the slighter side is less of a bother. What did irk us, though, was how it fell between stools. It felt like Toree 3D wanted to be both a ponderous, precise platformer like a Mario game, while also crowbarring in speed-running sections, and the changes of pace didn’t quite work. It’s also hard to decipher what platforms are doing at any given time: the simplistic graphics make it difficult to see that some are moving, or that others will fall away, and if you’re in speed-running mode, then the difference can be problematic. Checkpoints are too far apart to make failure throwaway.
Lucky, then, for Toree 2, which is our third favourite in the collection. While it might look near-identical to the original Toree 3D, it feels like a reaction to the foibles of the first. Out goes the weird pace shifts, and in comes a complete focus to speed-running. The difficulty gets taken down a notch so that the levels can get a Sonic the Hedgehog makeover. Boost pads, boost rings and various other accelerators get bolted onto the arenas, and suddenly there’s no question of whether or not you should be hurtling forwards. You absolutely should, and the game is a lot more fun as a result. While we wouldn’t say there is anything that’s going to blow your socks off here, we had about forty-five minutes of adrenaline playing Toree 2.
Which brings us to the champion of Toree’s 3D Platformer Collection, the gold standard against which all the other games are measured: Macbat 64. Structurally similar to Regina & Mac, it’s probably best described as Banjo Kazooie: The Escape Room. The levels are more constrained, with only a few characters and platforms to play around with, and there are obvious objectives. A guy on a submarine wants batteries; a haunted mansion has locked doors waiting to be opened.
Your task is to tap on A to float (Macbat’s a bat after all) to find collectibles, solve minor league puzzles, and generally resolve the problems of the characters in these pocket-sized worlds. Once everyone is happy, a key appears, and you are one step closer to opening the water refinery at the end of the game where the Melon King is waiting to be fought.
It’s all rather cute. There’s an argument that Toree 2 is the more accomplished game, stripping all the weight off the chassis to deliver a fast speed-runner. But we had more love for Macbat 64, possibly because of its N64 charm. Or it’s maybe because it served up little puzzles on a slice of toast that could be eaten in a few bites. We completed its campaign and extra levels (including a bizarre segue into a karting track) in a single sitting, and felt better for it.
So, how do you approach a compendium of four games that are reasonably evenly spaced along a quality spectrum? Regina & Mac is abysmal, Toree 3D gets a shrug, Toree 2 is unremarkable but fun, and we had a whale of a time playing Macbat 64.
Perhaps the best way to play Toree’s 3D Platformer Collection is chronologically. Imagine it as the scrapbook of a couple of game developers who are inching, game by game, to the one they were made to make: an N64 3D platformer that could sit among the console’s best. Playing this collection, they still have a little way to go.
You can buy Toree’s 3D Platformer Collection from the Xbox Store