Sea turtles begin life as vulnerable little creatures. Provided they actually survive the process of incubation and hatching and manage to dig their way out of their buried nests, they often become disoriented on their way to the ocean and, worse yet, they make perfect snacks for local wildlife. With Save the Turtles, developer Sabarasa has come up with a way for you to help baby turtles on beaches around the world make their way to the open sea safely. Beyond the somewhat educational concept, however, lies an engaging puzzler that kids and adults alike will enjoy.
After a quick tutorial, you'll begin the game with only one mode of play available: Save the World. Sea turtles everywhere are at risk of dying out, and you're the only one who can help the next generation survive. The basic gameplay is simple – rub your stylus over circular disturbances in the sand of each touchscreen beach to reveal turtle eggs. Quickly tap the eggs to hatch the baby turtles one by one (if you don't tap them they'll still hatch, only slower). Different species of turtle will have different-colored shells; line them up in groups of at least three according to species, and a wave will crash over the shore, carrying off the lined-up turtles. Each level has a set number of turtles to assist to sea, and once said goal is met you'll earn a bonus for each turtle you save afterward. When your time runs out, your score is tallied, and provided you met your goal you'll move on to the next stage.
Naturally, there are obstacles lying in wait for your turtles. Depending on the beach, you'll start with debris like rocks, driftwood, or sand pails scattered about, blocking your turtles' paths. The sun on the upper screen may stun your turtles into immobility if they get too hot, though quickly dousing them with water dragged from the right-hand side of the screen will cool them down. Seaweed is washed onto the shore, and if your turtle partakes of a bad bite of food, you'll have to deal with the results. There are enemies in the form of crabs and seagulls, all of which would like nothing more than a tasty turtle treat. Even worse, in later levels of the game oil spills appear – a turtle doused in oil will be locked in place, unable to move. Each wave that crashes onto the shore to carry off your lined-up turtles may not only carry new debris with it, it will also rearrange some of the existing debris and enemies for you. It may sound daunting, but the difficulty ramps up very gently, allowing you to meet each newly-introduced challenge with confidence.
As you make your way through Save the World, you'll unlock the other three modes of play. Quick Game gives you a stage selected at random depending on whether you choose Easy, Normal, or Hard difficulty. Tidal Wave does the same, but here the waves wash across the shore at random instead of being triggered by lining up your turtles, allowing you to line up multiple rows of turtles for big points. The final one, Turtles Forever, is an endless mode allowing you to continue until your time finally runs out. You'll earn extra time via successfully lining up large amounts of turtles and collecting hourglass-shaped powerups that are washed onto shore periodically.
Unfortunately, there is one odd thing that must be mentioned: though pressing Start will show you a yes/no "Quit?" prompt, the game will continue in the background – timer countdown, seagull raids, overheating, all that stuff. You'll have to close the DSi if you want to actually pause the game. It's a minor issue, however, and will in no way lessen your enjoyment of the game overall, but still an odd one.
This game is geared toward kids in not only theme but presentation. The turtles themselves are absolutely adorable, speaking in squeaks as each new obstacle, enemy, and species of turtle is explained on the upper screen during the game. Even the enemies are too cute to truly induce any kind of fear, regardless of whether they carry off your charges or attempt to boil them in their shells. The music is synthesized and vaguely pop-ish, each track differing depending on what kind of beach you're currently playing on. Whether it's located close to a city, near a jungle, or on an isolated island, each has its own distinct flavor, though you may be too focused on guiding your little turtles past hungry crabs and hiccup-causing seaweed to truly pay attention to the amount of love that has been lavished upon this game.
Save the Turtles is the kind of environmentally focused game you'll wish you'd had as a kid. Puzzler fans will spend hours playing through all 32 Save the World levels (longer if you attempt to earn the six unlockable trophies) and after that there's Quick Match, Tidal Wave, and Turtles Forever to keep you busy whenever you're in the mood to play. It's good for either on-the-go gaming or an extended session if you want to power through everything in one shot. Featuring addictive gameplay illustrating the dangers facing endangered sea turtles, the only bad thing is that you're not actually helping to save real turtles by playing it.