Woodle Tree Adventures Deluxe (Nintendo Switch) Review


Despite my unrelenting inclination toward physical media, the Nintendo eShop has repeatedly shown me how truly valuable a digital distribution platform can be. Without it, I highly doubt something like Woodle Tree Adventures Deluxe would even exist.

Lest I mince words, Woodle Tree Adventures is far from a masterpiece. Shoot, it’s probably the worst Switch game I’ve played thus far. Even so, there’s something so dearly charming about this “little 3D platformer that could” that I simply had to cover it on Wilcox Arcade.

For the “4-1-1” on the titular tree, look no further than just a few lines below for my superbly superfluous review on the subject. I can’t say you’ll want to buy the game by the end, but you may yet leave with a new appreciation for what digital distribution can bring to life.

At risk of an over-inflating and already inflated introduction, let’s jump right into the meat of things.

Woodle Tree Adventures Deluxe

Developer: ChubbyPixel

Publisher: ChubbyPixel

Release date: December 21, 2017


Gameplay

To put it frankly, Woodle Tree Adventures Deluxe is the single-most barebones 3D platformer I’ve played in my lifetime. No kidding. However, if you can believe it, I wouldn’t necessarily call that a dealbreaker.

Protagonist Woodle possesses three abilities: running, jumping, and attacking with his leaf. Such a moveset is very similar to that of Mario’s in Super Mario 64, only lacking the associated depth and acrobatics. In short, don’t expect to pull off any fancy moves.

Honestly, I didn’t mind the simplicity one bit. As “boring” as his attributes may be compared to the greats of the genre, playing as Woodle is a uniquely chill experience. At the very least, I can guarantee you won’t have any trouble figuring out how to get around.

Where exactly will you be getting around, you may ask? Within a series of mostly linear, Super Mario 3D Land-esque environments, of course. Despite their linearity, I was actually surprised by just how large the levels felt when taken in as a whole. There’s some sense of exploration here.

Most contributing to the above-mentioned sense of exploration are the many, many collectibles sprinkled throughout each level. To finish a level, you’ll need to gather three teardrops, all of which can be uncovered without much fuss.

Then, there are the hundreds of (optional) berries to collect. I had a ton a fun scouring after these coveted fruits—minus the fact that they’re more or less pointless. With no counter on the HUD, I didn’t feel rewarded for my efforts in the slightest. I was grabbing stuff solely for the sake of grabbing stuff.

Don’t get me wrong: Collecting berries does, in fact, unlock levels, leaf upgrades, and costumes. However, there’s no final berry total you can reach in the hub world and consequently no decisive end to collecting them. This is admittedly not a design choice I appreciate.

Even so, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t at least attempt to collect every berry in every level. I’m a sucker for collectibles, and in that regard, the game delivers. I’m just letting you, the reader, know that the mere act of collecting is a pretty fruitless endeavor.

Know, too, that this is a fairly easy game overall. I had little trouble burning through all eight levels in practically no time. Most of the challenge arose from the hit detection (more on that later) and the “checkpoint system” (or lack thereof).

Woodles Tree Adventures has what may be the single-most befuddling checkpoint system ever. Seriously. I could never tell where checkpoints were located. When I died, the game would spawn me at the beginning or middle of a level seemingly at random, no matter how far I’d progressed.

Though I had no issue with playing these levels from beginning to end in one go, I still think the game should’ve been clearer with its respawn conditions. There was no rhyme or reason to anything that happened.

Rest assured that there’s no live system to further muddy the issue. You can die as many times as you like with zero consequences whatsoever. Everything you collect up to the point of death stays with you. If it weren’t for this fact, I don’t know if I’d be singing the same tune right now.

But you know what? I can’t say I disliked my time with Woodle Tree Adventures. As someone who’ll willingly play any 3D platformer out there, I know I got what I wanted out of the experience.

Content

I talk about my fondness for short games frequently on this blog, but hoo-boy is this is the shortest console game I’ve played in ages. I’d say it could reasonably pass for an arcade game. The length isn’t the end of the world either.

You wanna know how long it took me to beat Woodle Tree Adventures? About an hour. You heard me right. There are so few levels—and each level is so short­—that any halfway competent player could knock out the story within the span of an afternoon. I was genuinely baffled when the credits rolled.

I’d like to say that collecting berries pads out the length, but that wouldn’t really be an accurate statement. I had no trouble purchasing every level, leaf upgrade, and costume with the berries I earned playing each level just once. I saw no reason to replay levels beyond the base fun factor.

The only option is “Delete Progression,” which allows you to restart with a clean slate on a whim. (I suppose this makes sense in lieu of proper save files given the brevity of the experience.) While I can’t say I’m upset or anything, it would’ve been nice to have other options available.

Here’s the flipside. Like an arcade game, Woodle Tree Adventures’ length lends itself perfectly to casual replays every now and then. I can genuinely see myself popping back in sometime just for kicks and giggles, without having to blow too much of my precious time. That’s worth something.

But hey, we’re talking about a $4.99 game here. For that price, I’m not offended in the least by the length of Woodle Tree Adventures. Maybe an hour-long story was the developer’s deliberate intention.

Controls

If you’re able to get past simplistic gameplay and an afternoon’s worth of playtime, I hope to goodness gracious you’re willing to contend with some slightly funky controls, too. It’s just one more thing to power through, right?

The control scheme is, at the very least, exceedingly easy to pick up. Jump with the B button, run with the Y button, attack with the A button, move with the left analog stick, and control the camera with the right analog stick. Obviously, you can pause the game with the plus button, but you can also jump straight back to the hub world with the minus button.

First thing you need to know: Woodle moves as slow as dirt. Like, I get that he’s a literal block of wood, but his speed is downright oppressive. I found myself holding down the run button the vast majority of the time simply so my patience wouldn’t wear completely thin.

The only problem I had with holding down the run button is that I lost some precision when landing. At running speed, Woodle is one slippery son of a gun, which can result in bogus deaths. I definitely feel like the physics could’ve been improved across the board.

Hit detection is kind of a nightmare. It’s so sloppy, in fact, that I ended up just swinging my leaf wildly as I approached enemies to avoid touching them and getting sent back to the beginning of the stage. I doubt I would’ve ever gotten the “proper” timing down anyway.

The camera is an interesting case. While the camera angle itself is fixed, you can zoom in and out to your heart’s content. I’d sometimes zoom out all the way to get a better bearing on navigation—or to simply marvel at the level structure. I appreciate how the camera operates.

Until it goes completely bat-crud crazy, that is. In the game’s token swimming level, the camera couldn’t decide if it wanted to follow me from the side or from behind, darn near destroying my field of vision in the process. I experienced less pronounce instances of the phenomenon throughout the entire game.

In spite of all these issues, Woodle Tree Adventures functions decently enough that I was more than willing to push through to the end. Y’all know darn well I don’t quit games over a little jank.

Graphics/Presentation

While I recognize this game may not boast the most impressive visuals, there’s something about Woodle Tree Adventures that really catches my eye. I guess I’m just a sucker for cute art.

Speaking of which, Woodle is an absolute charmer. This dude really is just a block of wood with two eyes, two arm, and two legs. He’s a great 3D platforming protagonist if I ever saw one.

The game’s environments look as if they were ripped straight out of a Roblox obby—yet I somehow don’t mind this at all. Like Super Mario 3D Land/World, platforms are easily identifiable as such, prioritizing function over form.

While some players may find the construction of the levels bland, it’s worth noting that each presents a fairly distinct theme. My favorite was undoubtedly the honeycomb level, which was unlike anything I’d previously seen. (Maybe I just haven’t played enough video games to know.)

And sure, the polygon count isn’t groundbreaking, but I certainly can’t recall any frame drops. According to the eShop listing, Woodle Tree Adventures Deluxe runs at a “smooth 60 FPS.” My eyes aren’t trained for detecting something like this.

Occasionally, entire chunks of an environment would disappear if I took the camera somewhere it didn’t want to go. As egregious as these graphical glitches were, I didn’t find them impossible to contend with by any means.

Told in all of two cutscenes, the overarching story lays the foundation for the gameplay at hand decently enough. I didn’t really find myself invested in the plights of Woodle or his giant tree friend. To be fair, it’s not like I craved more.

I suppose the push and pull between “pretty art” and “ugly glitches” results in a somewhat middling presentation experience. I like it just fine, but y’all know I have a high tolerance for this stuff.

Sound/Music

I’m very thankful that Woodle Tree Adventures presents pleasing sounds in addition to its pleasing visuals. This was one element that consistently delighted me throughout every secon of my playthrough.

Lead developer Fabio Ferrara pulls double-duty as composer to great success. Like Snake Pass, the incredibly mellow soundtrack kept me calm no matter what challenge lay before me. Although you probably won’t find yourself humming you along, you sure as heck won’t want to mute your TV.

Out of the eight songs, my personal favorites are “Menu”, “Intro”, “CallForAction”, and “OverTheClouds”. “Intro” in particular oozes this sort of Yoshi’s Island vibe that I positively adore.

That being said, the sound effects aren’t quite as strong. It’s not that they upset me or anything—they’re just kind of there. Also, it's super weird that the menu sound effect is the default iPhone notification tone. I will say this: Woodle has the most precious voice I’ve heard in a while. Thank goodness gracious for our little, wooden boy.

Regardless, I must reiterate that the sound design marks a high point within the entire Woodle Tree Adventures package. It’s a shame the rest of the game is plagued with so many issues.

Now that I’ve layed out the deets, you may not even understand why I’m so tickled by Woodle Tree Adventures. I can’t say I blame you either. What I’ve described above practically screams “generic 3D platformer.” Typically, this is the exact kind of game a reviewer would warn against playing.

Even so—I kid you not—I had a solid time with this game from beginning to end And why wouldn’t I? My gaming goal is to collect every 3D platformer available on the Switch. Apparently, that includes “bottom of the barrel” offerings the vast majority over players would otherwise overlook.

Woodle Tree Adventures Deluxe is so cheap—both in price and quality—that it feels right at home on a digital distribution service. This product isn’t something you could buy at a brick-and-mortar store no matter how badly you wanted it. That, my friends, is a beautiful thing.

I can’t thank ChubbyPixel enough for aptly scratching my 3D platformer itch. Maybe they’ll see this review someday.

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