Woodle Tree Adventures 2 Deluxe (Nintendo Switch) Review


The first Woodle Tree Adventures was—to put it bluntly—a bit unpolished. While the core concept was clearly driven by the developer’s enduring passion, the actual finished product had far too many issues for it to rank alongside the best the 3D platformer genre has to offer.

So imagine my surprise when Woodle Tree Adventures 2 swept in as one of the most compelling 3D platformers I’ve played in ages. No, I’m not kidding. This humble eShop title rocked my world from beginning to end, singlehandedly redeeming the entire Woodle Tree Adventures “franchise” in one fell swoop.

Is Woodle’s second outing pristinely perfect in every single way? Well, not really, but the good shines far brighter than the not-so-good. For that reason, I strongly urge you to read on and find out precisely why I’m so head over heels for this otherwise unassuming digital download.

Ready. Set. Go.

Woodle Tree Adventures 2 Deluxe

Developer: ChubbyPixel Publisher: ChubbyPixel

Release date: July 25, 2019


Gameplay

At its most foundational roots, Woodle Tree Adventures 2 Deluxe carries on the gameplay lineage of its 2017 predecessor, but the sheer bevy of improvements brought to proverbial table result in an experience darn near foreign to existing fans like myself.

Once again, the core gameplay loop centers on running, jumping, and collecting. The main differentiator here is that the action takes place not in a series of brief, disconnected stages but instead in a single, gargantuan open world. Take it from me, folks: The switch was 100 percent worth it.

Jumping has improved tenfold in Woodle Tree Adventures 2, which is especially crucial given the game’s platformer classification. Woodle feels so much lighter on his feet, so much more capable.

In a heel-face turn I couldn’t have possibly expected, combat has gone from absolutely atrocious to astonishingly awesome. Woodle swings his leaf with a newfound sense of power exceeding his previous capabilities.

Basically, movement of any sort is much less of chore this time around, something I plan to greatly expound upon in the “Controls” section.

Did I mention Woodle can has even more abilities at his disposal in this outing? Because he does. Beyond running, jumping, and attacking, the portly protagonist can glide across the sky, carry drops of water, and wall jump. These enhancements proved invaluable throughout my journey.

Unlockable updgrades and cosmetics were similarly helpful. Although the first game also offered such perks, they were much less varied in type and quantity. Now, you can fiddle with practically every attribute under the sun, including leaf attacks, run speed, jump height, glide distance, and more.

The map is divided into [] distinct areas each containing three teardrops and a varying number of red and blue berries to collect. Similarly to the first game, the teardrops are your ticket to progressing through the story and beating the game. You can’t skip these if you want to see the credits.

Red berries, on the other hand, are completely optional. These not only guide player movement based on their arrangement but also serve as the primary currency for purchasing the aforementioned upgrades and cosmetics. Since they reappear periodically, you can never “finish” collecting red berries.

I’m way happier with how red berries are handled in Woodle Tree Adventures 2. In the first entry, I wasn’t aware that the red berries were largely optional, so I (incorrectly) treated them as completion criteria. In the sequel, I finally understood the point of red berries, which eliminated tons of frustration.

New to the series are blue berries. These are a sort of middle-ground between teardrops and red berries in that they’re optional but count toward completion. Additionally, blue berries can be exchanged for special upgrades that aren’t purchasable with red berries.

Oh, and there’s one more thing I should mention: collectible items. Throughout the game world lie various random objects ranging from [] to []. Grabbing these doesn’t present any tangible reward (to my knowledge) beyond decorating Woodle’s house. Still, I enjoyed finding them.

Though the more expansive scope may initially seem overwhelming, the map is broken into manageable chunks thanks to the expert placement of checkpoints and collectibles. Even I, the king of getting lost in video games, never found myself truly lost in this particular video game.

I suppose the most notable addition to the gameplay loop would be the environmental puzzles. While I certainly wouldn’t call them terribly tough, these challenges put my brain to the test to a greater degree than running and jumping ever did. Plus, they’re just plain fun.

As far as difficulty goes, Woodle Tree Adventures is somewhere in between Super Lucky’s Tale (exceedingly easy) and Mega Man 11 (insanely infuriating). That is to say that exploration and platforming never kicked my rear end—but I did have to put in genuine elbow grease. It’s a comfy middle ground.

The smarter enemy AI over the original contributes a great deal to a fairer sense of difficulty. Instead of aimlessly bounding about, enemies now aggressively pursue Woodle when he nears their immediate area. I’d be lying if I said the little baddies didn’t give me a run for my money.

Call me crazy, but in my eyes, Woodle Tree Adventures 2 feels like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild crossed with a collectathon 3D platformer. Although I don’t much care for the Zelda series myself, I now fully comprehend the appeal that lies in sprawling, exploration-based experiences like it.

The sheer degree to which Woodle’s second adventure improves upon the first is straight-up staggering. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a sequel shift quite like this in my entire gaming career. For that reason alone, the gameplay gets, like, six thumbs up from me. No kidding.

Content

If you recall, one of my primary criticisms of the first Woodle Tree Adventures was its relative dearth of content. Luckily for us gamers, Woodle Tree Adventures goes to impressive lengths to address this issue by serving up a genuinely robust helping of, well…stuff to do.

As I mentioned earlier, the scope of this game is drastically more expansive than the first now that the gameplay takes place in a sprawling open world as opposed to multiple levels. More traditional, stand-alone stages do exist in some fashion thanks to teleportation pads located within said open world.

The whopping volume of pickups provided a further boost to my total playtime. Dotting the map are 24 teardrops, 930 blue berries, 27 collectible items, and an infinite supply of red berries to pocket. I wholeheartedly recommend expending effort on these welcome distractions.

It would be remiss of me to not reaffirm the importance of the many goodies that can be purchased with red berries, as well. Although you can more or less ignore these if you so choose, I fully recommend taking the time to save up as many as berries as you can to divert toward these endeavors.

Options have also seen a major upgrade. You can invert the camera on its X- and Y-axis independent of each other; toggle vibration and anti-aliasing on or off; adjust the camera sensitivity, music volume, and effects volume along sliders; or choose from one of 15 display languages at any time.

When all was said and done—for this review, at least—I squeezed a sweet [] hours out of the experience. That’s already [] times as long as the 2 hours it took me to beat the first game. Even if you pay full price, that’s not a total to scoff at. I’m sure my playtime will only grow as I pursue 100 percent completion.

To quote Spider-Man 2, “This is a breakthrough far beyond your father’s wildest dreams.” I don’t think anyone expected Woodle Tree Adventures 2 Deluxe to pack in so much fun after the first game was so darn tiny. We should expect this level of improvement from all sequels.

Controls

Whereas the controls gimped any potential the original Woodle Tree Adventures may have had, the controls significantly enhance the gameplay in Woodle Tree Adventures 2. Never—and I mean never—has manipulating a virtual block of wood felt so precise.

The controls are as follows: move Woodle with the left analog stick, attack with the A button, jump with the B button, hold up his leaf with the X button, run with the Y button, rotate the camera with the right analog stick, center the camera with the L or R buttons, and pause with the plus or minus buttons.

Despite expanding Woodle’s movement parameters, the few additional buttons involved never feel confusing or clunky to implement. This, in my opinion, is a layout that works intuitively right out of the box, which may explain why there are no remapping options available.

Remember when I said Woodle moved way too slowly in the first game? Delete that from your memory banks—because now he speeds like a demon, whether walking or running. Traversing levels is automatically that much better when it doesn’t feel like a gosh darned crawl.

The real fun begins once you start deftly chaining his moves together. Running into a double jump and landing with a roll feels exceptional. Ledge grabbing is zippy and nonintrusive. Wall jumping is a touch finicky but broadens platforming possibilities. Gliding is a boon when exploring such a large game world.

Like I said earlier, combat is close to perfect this time around. Woodle’s three-swipe combo is remarkably smooth and packs an unparalleled level of punch. Part of this due to visual tricks, of course, but most of it is down to refined timing and hit detection.

The only issue I ran into was that Woodle’s chargeable water blasts weren’t accurate enough for my tastes. I wasted a tad too much time lining up my shots when trying to activate switches during puzzle sequences. I should note that it’s not the end of the world, though.

Woodle plays exactly how a 3D platforming protagonist should: gracefully. Now that I don’t have to expend so much mental strain on keeping Woodle in line, I can focus on pulling off neat tricks with the game’s mechanics to access platforms and pickups. Thank goodness gracious the controls are so tight.

Graphics/Presentation

I feel that Woodle Tree Adventures 2 maintains the best elements of its forebear’s visuals while simultaneously upgrading just about everything to great effect. In other words, if you thought the first game looked a tad too basic, you’re in for a tasty treat here.

Despite retaining a blocky aesthetic, the environments all feel much more organic than in Woodle 1. To reiterate a point I’ve already reiterated multiple times, the world is truly your oyster. I’m not even joking when I say I preferred exploring in this game more than in Jak II.

Once again, the polygon count isn’t astounding or anything, but it doesn’t need to be. This is a series that prides itself—rightfully so—on its succinctly simplistic, captivatingly cute aesthetics. Super-mega graphics aren’t necessary to convey such a message.

That being said, I noticed that the game seem to buckle under its own weight when attempting to render such a large number of objects simultaneously. While you’re not going to encounter any serious stuttering, you will have to accept technical shortcomings from time to time.

By far the most noticeable of these shortcomings is the draw distance. In a game so acutely focused on exploration, being able to see what’s ahead of you is extremely important. Unfortunately, you’ll have to contend with a hefty degree of pop-in and fog no matter where you’re perched on the map.

Beyond that, the only other technical snafus were the few instances when the game just plain crashed for no discernible reason. Thanks to an impeccable autosave system, I never lost any progress, but this was still somewhat annoying.

I will say that the story in Woodle 2 has seen a decently noteworthy upgrade relative to the original’s “excuse plot.” From what I understand, the Woodle I controlled this time around was yet another hero in time, not unlike the many Links comprising the Legend of Zelda continuity. (For the record, I didn’t expect to draw two separate Zelda comparisons when I set out writing this review.)

Much akin to the moons in Super Mario Odyssey, the controller will vibrate as Woodle nears a teardrop. I found this a clever implementation of rumble despite its evident inspirations. Whoever said we shouldn’t borrow solid idea from our contemporaries, am I right?

Most importantly, Woodle Tree Adventures 2 Deluxe feels far less “cheap” than its predecessor. Menus, sections of gameplay, and cutscenes are strung together via proper transitions as opposed to jarring cuts. This results in a much cleaner visual experience overall.

Please don’t let my handful of criticisms put you off. If I was able to plow through the game and come away with such a positive impression, I see no reason why you shouldn’t either. Just remember that this title was probably produced on a relatively low budget.

Sound/Music

Given how much I enjoyed the Woodle Tree Adventures soundtrack, I consider it a miracle that Woodle Tree Adventures 2 is every bit as interesting—if slightly different in some regards. Allow me to explain.

The first game’s soundtrack showcased some rather subdued that instrumentation that I considered very pretty but not necessarily hum-worthy. Woodle 2 carries over some of that vibe while also coming off as much more of a “traditional” video game soundtrack. In other words, you may feel more inclined to hum this time.

Although I can’t find the full soundtrack online, I found seven tracks available on SoundCloud that you can check out to gauge if you’re down with the beats. I probably won’t ever listen to these outside of the game, but my favorites are “Forest” and “Mountains”. I admittedly didn’t put as much thought into these picks as I would’ve liked.

I also feel that the sound effects are considerably more professional than the first game, which had the utter audacity to use the default iPhone notification tone in menus. (I’ll never let them live that down, haha.) The sound effects in Woodle 2 seem more appropriately matched to the experience.

The dramatic shift in all things sounds is surely due to the fact that such duties fell on Beavers Brothers Studio for the sequel, an indie music studio focused on creating music for indie video games. While I’ve never been a fan of outsourced music—see my thoughts on Raw Thrills’ recent soundtracks—I think such a creative choice works well here.

The only area in which the sound design sort of falters is in the ways tracks transition as you move through certain sections of the world. I believe extra work could’ve been done to make opposing songs blend more naturally.

Otherwise, Woodle Tree Adventures 2 Deluxe signifies a high point for the series’ sound design. Again, the first game didn’t sound bad by any means, but this game decidedly edges it out.

As I outlined in the review above, Woodle Tree Adventures 2 Deluxe is a marked improvement in pretty much every way compared to the previous entry. The game plays better, looks better, and lasts longer. Let’s get real: What more could you ask for in a sequel?

Does Woodle Tree Adventures 2 stand among such legendary hits as Super Mario 64, Sonic Adventure, Banjo-Kazooie, Crash Bandicoot, and Spyro the Dragon? Yeah, I certainly think so—and I say that without a tinge of irony. This game is so much dang fun, people.

Bearing in mind that I’m predisposed to thoroughly enjoying 3D platformers of any make and model, you may need to take my opinion with a teensy-tiny grain of salt. Even so, my glowing praise should count for something. I can’t begin to recommend Woodle Tree Adventures 2 enough.

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