We’ve all played a game that looks much better on paper than it is in practice, and sadly, that’s exactly the case with Woodle Tree Adventures. This is a game that openly states that it’s trying to emulate the greatest of old-school platforming, naming Banjo Kazooie and Mario 64 as its forefront inspiration. The truth of the matter? Well, it would be like comparing turd to a chocolate bar. Seriously, I’m not sure what the hell went on during QA, but how this game is releasing in the state that it’s in is either ignorant, or arrogant.
The game casts you into the role of a sapling, offspring to The Great Deku’s ugly cousin. It’s immediately relayed to you that you need to seek out as many fairy tears as you can to nurture the surrounding world, and with little more than a leaf to protect yourself with, off you go. The world’s small and utterly boring hub consists of the sapling’s home, and it’s here in which you’ll find your portals to the game’s handful of levels. Content is gated by progression, meaning that in order to dive further into the game, you need only succeed.
Each new level will unlock and present itself in the world’s hub once you best the prior level, regardless as to how well you perform. That being said, lives are infinite, so there’s no way to lose or fail in the traditional sense of the word(s). There’s only one overarching objective to be mindful of per-level; collect three of the aforementioned fairy tears and place them on the level’s alters. It’s as straightforward as that. There’s not much depth as far as the game’s mechanics are concerned, nor is there much to keep on top of regards handling.
You’ll move the sapling with the thumbsticks, and attack, jump, and run with the use of the face buttons. Not a single command seems to come with any refinement. Movement and jumping remains floaty, inconsistent, and somewhat unresponsive. Combat, on the other hand, is so ridiculously bare-bones that I completely question its place in this adventure. This amounts to simply wafting your leaf in the general direction of your enemies to see them fall, and oftentimes, your enemy will decide whether or not an attack actually connects.
Later on, you’ll unlock more powerful variations of the leaf, but again, there’s a complete disconnect as far as attacking is concerned. The latter leaves tend to come with a short projectile attack, and whilst this alleviates issues with hit registration, it inadvertently removes what little challenge the game presented before this point. It’s far too easy to stand at a distance and just let off a chain of mindless projectile attacks, killing pretty much any enemy in your path; most of which idly stand by almost blind to your existence.
It’s frustratingly bland, and pretty damn insulting to say the least. The game’s levels are all short, taking no more than a few minutes to run through at best. The fairy tears that you’ll be tracking down are all placed in painfully obvious view and tend to be far too easy to obtain. Most require little more than a second or two of platforming, and when you’re not doing that, they’ll likely be sat in your natural path. There’s zero challenge on show here. In fact, the only real challenge is trying to overlook the game’s poor, shoddy camera work.
Whilst you’re able to manipulate the camera via zooming in and out, this doesn’t help you one bit when the camera fails to adapt to your placement in a level. You see, here, the game’s camera is suppose to dynamically shift from third-person to side-scrolling view depending on your surroundings. However, the camera often refuses to alter perspective, religiously leaving you blind on the spot, and on the fly. Unfortunately this happens far too often to even consider forgiving, and will likely count towards the majority of your failures.
When these problems aren’t ruining your time, the game’s other technical drawbacks will no doubt get the job done. Throughout my time with the game, I’ve witnessed numerous faults; falling through the map, delayed rendering, and other similar annoyances. That’s not to mention the poor design choices. First and foremost, there’s no distinction between what’s friendly, and what’s foe. I found myself clubbing several NPCs that seemed to serve no purpose other than to complain that I was hitting them. How blatantly silly of me…
Not silly enough? How about elevator tubes that only take you halfway up the shaft, or, enemies that are so awkwardly placed you’ll need to button mash your way through and die through clipping; rinse and repeat until said pathway is clear? Woodle Tree Adventures is chock-full of irritating issues, it’s a shock there’s a price-tag tied to this waste. The whole ordeal lasts no more than an hour (thank god for small mercies) to run through, with another hour thrown on top if you’re planning on sticking around to mop up achievements.
Each distinctly themed level is jam-packed with berries, and these berries serve no real purpose other than to grant you access to new leaves, and to gain you entry to the game’s few bonus levels. Don’t expect anything bonus-like, mind, because the bonus levels simply repeat the process you’ll have followed to that point, bringing all the aforementioned faults along for the ride too. That, ladies and gents, is the sum of the game’s depth. There’s no change to the gameplay, no bosses to tackle, and no real payoff for completing the story.
Most of the game’s levels are laid out in a similar fashion; heaps of platforming sections and little else. You’ll (whilst enduring its faults) move through from one end of each level to the other, picking up berries and fairy tears along the way before being shoehorned to the next area. There’s nothing memorable whatsoever here. Furthermore, the game’s visual and audio design, whilst adorable and cutesy, lacks any real care. Sure, it may be vibrant and sport some visual variation, but it’s still an overall bland mess on both of those fronts.
The bottom line in all of this is that if you enjoy your 3D platformers, this is only likely going to disappoint. The sheer lack of refinement across the entire board is unforgivable, and I refuse to believe that the developer was ignorant to its many issues before green lighting its launch. Shame really, because there’s clearly some potential here, it’s just lost in a vast ocean of mess. I would only recommend this to those that are either patient and forgiving, or, those that are looking to earn some swift boosts to their Gamerscore numbers.
Woodle Tree Adventures draws inspiration from the likes of Banjo Kazooie and Mario 64, but well and truly fails at meeting the same level of quality on even a surface level. The game’s utter lack of refinement sees issues such as poor camera behavior and inconsistent handling continuously hindering play. Though, even if you’ve the patience to overlook such blatant faults, you’re left with a dull platformer that’s far more frustrating than it’s worth.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.