Retro-styled platformers have become very common in the current generation of games, thanks to download platforms and readily available, inexpensive development tools. Some titles, such as the insanely difficult, finely crafted 1001 Spikes, show an immediate artistry and sense of game design. Others, unfortunately, are bare experiences that, while functional, struggle to mask a lack of design flair. While Saturnine Games' Turtle Tale is a competent, glitch-free experience that offers some semblance of challenge, it doesn't have enough on offer to justify a purchase, especially with the increasingly rich offerings on Nintendo's eShop.
A port of the 3DS platformer, Turtle Tale stars Shelldon, a slow, relaxed turtle who sets out to save his island from invading creatures. Armed with a water gun and the ability to jump, Shelldon makes his way through several different areas of the island to stop this unspeakable evil. We used our imagination for most of that, because aside from some still screens of an invading pirate ship, there is no story to be found; that's fine, as some of the most beloved games of all time have been story-free affairs. Yet Turtle Tale doesn't have some amazing gameplay hook to make up for it — in fact, Turtle Tale doesn't have a gameplay hook at all. Shelldon can walk (as slow as one would expect a non-Teenage Mutant Ninja to walk), shoot his water gun at enemies and jump. There are no special abilities — no double-jump, no water gun upgrades, no special shell powers, and so on.
Aside from defeating enemies and making it to the end of each level, the only other objective in Turtle Tale is to collect all 100 fruits per area. Collecting 100 fruits in every level is not much of a challenge, and unlocks a second quest featuring remixed stages that are much more difficult — the second quest is welcome, since it's possible to play through the first quest in about an hour (shorter if you don't care about the fruit), but in this case a "more difficult" quest really means "more frustrating and cheap." With less health, no checkpoints and tougher platforming, we were hoping the second quest would be where Turtle Tale proved its worth; unfortunately, it doesn't feel clever or tricky, instead relying on twitch reflexes and trial-and-error jumps.
Turtle Tale's visuals, while colourful and bright, lack any sort of detail and wouldn't necessarily be out of place in a free flash game. Animation is too simplistic to be considered "stylised" and there are only a few different environments; sound design is equally dull, with some vaguely relaxing music in the background and repetitive sound effects from enemies. The aforementioned still screens use the same graphics found in the game, making us wonder why they couldn't have been animated. In the 3DS edition, at least, the stereoscopic 3D added some layering; here, there isn't much to look at. As for Wii U-specific features, there are none to be found other than off-TV play.
Turtle Tale's not broken. It's a fully functional platformer that is inoffensive and straightforward, and we didn't encounter any glitches or issues during gameplay. Yet the indie platformer shelf is becoming increasingly crowded, and Turtle Tale doesn't have anything that sets it apart from its competition. If you're absolutely starved for something to play for an hour or two and have gone through all the other options, Turtle Tale might suffice; otherwise, there are better options out there.