There was a time when having a platformer mascot was necessary for the success of a gaming console, and for a brief time the Xbox brand experimented with a time-traveling feline by the name of Blinx, who so happened to be a time sweeper of sorts. Microsoft soon realised that critter mascots were about to go out of style, and so Master Chief became the official ambassador of all things Xbox from there on out. The Xbox brand also got hold of Rare, a company known for all-time great platformers on the Nintendo 64, providing the Xbox 360 an excellent launch title in the form of Kameo. Since then, Rare has made a racing game of sorts, with the Banjo universe, and now they’re busy updating a free-to-play pirate game.
Ideally, platformers could have, and should have, been better on the Xbox brand, but right now on Xbox One there is no shortage of 3D platforming collectathons. From Yooka-Laylee to A Hat in Time, there is plenty of choice when you put Woodle Tree 2: Deluxe+ into the mix. More of an enhanced expansion than a sequel to the original Woodle Tree Adventures, this modestly priced 3D platformer ticks most of the right boxes for anyone who has already exhausted the aforementioned options and are starving for another platforming romp.
In this wholesome classic platformer, our hero Woodle must journey across an open world in order to restore life to his land, by seeking out tears to revive his many woodly friends. As an open world Woodle Tree 2 certainly lives up to the moniker, but fortunately there is a bit of method to the level design and progression as certain markers are used to guide players on where they should be going as well as plenty of invisible walls to block progress. It’s about as “open world” as any 3D platformer in the past, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing as there are plenty of opportunities to go about exploring on the whim in between structured platforming segments. Still, as interesting the platforming sections can be, the open world nature usually undermines these carefully designed sections as players can simply choose to bypass most segments and navigate around them.
As a platformer adventure Woodle Tree 2 is what you’d expect: collectibles, environmental puzzles, eventual upgrades, new abilities and, yes, lots of platforming shenanigans. For those who grew up on the genre, it has a lot in common with the oft forgotten Croc series in terms of level design and presentation. Like classics from the past, this game also suffers from most of the problems which still remain without a cure in the genre, unless you are Super Mario Odyssey. The uncooperative camera is as annoying as they come and the gameplay mechanics are never nearly as smooth or effortless as Super Mario 64 or Banjo-Kazooie, but then again even the original Yooka-Laylee came short in that regard.
As a character Woodle comes equipped with skills held by past platforming greats. He can double jump, wall jump, perform a brief combination attack, glide across with his trusty leaf, and progressively learn a few new tricks along the way too. As versatile as he is, controlling him never feels quite ergonomically right, but again comparing him to Mario would be a little unfair.
The level design in Woodle Tree 2 is generally decent, with most platforming sections and environmental puzzles being quite approachable. Sticking with the plant gimmick, most of the interesting puzzles require Woodle to transport a droplet of water to bring a plant to life, and the task of carefully moving a droplet across isn’t always easy. It may be classic and old school in most respects, but thankfully it has a few modern quality-of-life features such as being able to fast travel between the many checkpoints, which makes returning to your home base for upgrades a breeze. It is here where all the collectibles come in handy.
Visually Woodle Tree 2 has a rather clean and simple aesthetic, and although the minimalist design is deliberate it’s very easy to run into unfinished sections and textures – not to mention a few audio glitches here and there. It all ultimately looks very low budget and low-key, even though it is all deliberately done.
Woodle Tree 2: Deluxe+ on Xbox One is as wholesome and serviceable a platformer as they come. If you have already exhausted the many stronger alternatives available on Xbox One, then this woodsy adventure might be worth a look, and it won’t set you back too much either.