Topatoi is a game from Ukrainian developers Boolat Games that has been released exclusively on the PlayStation Network. Despite its odd name, the game follows a premise that should be familiar to most gamers; solving puzzles to complete the tasks available and reaching the end of the level. However, are the other elements as interesting as the name of this downloadable title?
The story follows what initially appears to be a simple premise. A group of travellers have problems with their airship and it ends up crash-landing into a strange forest. However, when they land, Raph's girlfriend is kidnapped by the evil Blackwing, and the majority of the quest revolves around attempting to fix the airship, while also attempting to rescue Raph's girlfriend.
Raph, who looks like a direct relation to Jak, from Jak and Daxter, never actually speaks. However, the story attempts to pretend that he does. Characters will react to things he's supposed to have said, but the majority of the talking is done by the Professor and other NPCs that are met along the way. It serves as a nice little introduction to each level, but it's not exactly the most riveting of storylines. It should also be pointed out that this is only the first part of the Topatoi series. So gamers expecting a conclusion to the storyline when they finish the last level shouldn't get their hopes up.
The gameplay starts off relatively slowly as it attempts to introduce players to the gyroscopic vehicle that Raph drives. It is essentially a small hovering craft that allows for swift movement, as well as precise actions. Initially, it is only capable of different movement speeds and a single jump. However, later on it is capable of so much more. While the craft does control reasonably well, it feels a little loose sometimes; tighter controls might have made the gameplay a bit more enjoyable.
As the levels progress, the Professor manages to unlock different abilities for Raph to use and with these new abilities come more complicated puzzles. While the levels may start off relatively simple towards the start of the game, the difficulty increases quite rapidly in terms of puzzle solving ability and the level of player control that's required. As things progress, the Professor unlocks the ability to perform double jumps, as well as other abilities such as being able to push and pull objects.
The majority of puzzles revolve around switches or objects. Usually objects need to be placed on switches or removed from switches and upon doing either, platforms will move or gates will open. It may seem relatively simple and it starts out that way, but the later levels may require some thought. Towards the end, enemies are also added to the mix and they will try to ram Raph off the side of the tree. Alongside this, the vehicle also requires fuel, which must be picked up en route to the end of the level. If the fuel reaches zero, then the player must start again. This helps to add a level of urgency to the play and ensures that players have to think quickly about how to solve certain puzzles.
Graphically the game is decent. It's not the best looking game out there, but it's certainly not the worst. Aside from the graphics, there is also a good level of physics on display, as items react as expected when they are tossed around everywhere. The music is fairly non-descript and just helps to drive the game along and there isn't really any discernable voice acting, just mumbling.
Where topatoi really shines is actually away from the main Story Mode, with the Arcade Mode and Multiplayer options. Arcade Mode continues to set the player the objective of getting from A to B, however, it's much more innovative in how to do so. Some levels really emphasise the need for player control, while others highlight puzzle solving ability. They are much more challenging than the Story Mode levels and they are very addictive, purely because they are so innovative and fun; there is a real sense of achievement upon completing them.
The Multiplayer modes also enable topatoi's fun gameplay to be experienced in new ways. There are four games that can be played with two players: two races, a game of air hockey and a game which can only be described as a dodge ball simulator. Each of them are exceedingly fun to play, but they do start to get a little tedious after a while.
Once everything has been completed, there is still a reason to go back to topatoi. Each level has an online leader board, so players can compare their scores with the rest of the world. There are also hidden stars to collect on the Story Mode levels, and blocks to collect in the Arcade Mode.
Overall, topatoi: The Great Tree Story is a really decent game. The story is a bit shallow, but this title is all about the gameplay. It's fun, challenging and gives a real sense of achievement. The controls may feel a bit sticky and it's by no means perfect, but there is plenty of content available to keep players occupied for a little while.