The second episode of Topatoi, subtitled “The Sky Pillar” brings a raft of new levels to the physics-heavy platform puzzler. We reviewed the first episode when it landed on the PSN Store way back in July 2009 and it didn’t fare particularly well so we thought it deserved another look now that the new content is here.
Personally, I think Topatoi is quite well presented with crisp, clean graphics and quite impressive textures for a PSN title. The characters do lack a bit of charm and the text-screen story progression is a little laboured and irritating but on the whole it’s a reasonable attempt at creating a game with a similar visual style to a couple of the PlayStation brand’s platforming heavyweights – Ratchet & Clank or Jak & Daxter.
As we said in our previous review, the storyline is slightly odd and feels a little bit tacked on but I can forgive that quite easily because it is quickly moved out of the way to make room for the gameplay.
Unfortunately, the gameplay is what lets Topatoi down immensely. The concept of moving a gyroscopic, hovering vehicle around is perfectly acceptable through the easier levels with wider paths and less advanced enemies to fend off but this second episode assumes a certain degree of proficiency. This is reasonable given that players would presumably have played through the first episode entirely before downloading this new set of levels but it would have been nice to have perhaps half a level to ease ourselves in gently.
You are thrown in with narrow catwalks and harsh enemies to avoid, all the time wishing that your controls were sharp and responsive. In reality the movement feels as though it is being directed via a broom handle in a bucket of custard rather than with a precise analogue stick on your Dualshock controller. The lag and general unresponsive nature of the controls makes the platforming tricky and the, thankfully sparse, combat extremely frustrating.
The puzzles, too, are ill-conceived. With very little direction to give the player an idea of what they are supposed to be working towards and such vague signposting that you might often find yourself laboriously working your way down a narrow pathway only to find that it was only intended as a staging area for the dreary trap that just flew past you as you desperately struggled to get your character to move in the direction you were heaving on the left analogue stick. You’re actually supposed to be going the other way and the trip back is not going to be any more pleasurable.
On several occasions I turned the game off mid-level because I had absolutely no idea what I had to do to move on and had grown tired and angry at attempting every conceivable action and pathway to no avail. Only to return for the sake of professionalism and find that the solution is only possible before you knock all of those blocks off the side of the catwalk as you frantically veer around like a blind man driving a bus on an ice rink.
Boolat have thought to vary the styles of game play slightly by adding cooperative multiplayer levels to the selection. These can be played solo but for high scores and the fuller experience they should really be enjoyed with company. Unfortunately they suffer from similar issues to the single player campaign.
The presentation, charm and overall character of Topatoi is good. It has potential and Boolat Games show signs of having what it takes to make a quality title one day. Unfortunately the application and interaction is hamstrung by abysmal, floaty controls and very poor level design. I could not, with a straight face and a clear conscience, recommend that anyone buys this game or the newest set of episodes.