TurtlePop: Journey to Freedom (Switch) Review

Neither Mutant Nor Ninja

At first, TurtlePop: Journey to Freedom looks like an easygoing game with cute turtles. Indeed, the adorable reptiles and colorful backgrounds promote the kid-friendly vibe, but the intricate mechanics may confuse younger gamers and even some adults.

Here’s my Video Review for your viewing pleasure!

The premise is straightforward, but gameplay becomes increasingly complex. Your mission is to guide several turtles to the rainbow-shaped goal, while avoiding hazards and long falls that demobilize your shelled animals. You can either control one at a time, or link nearby turtles together to move them simultaneously. The latter option is more efficient, but they’re clumsy when clumped together. The turtles travel freeform as opposed to a straight line. Coupled with the fact that the turtles are annoyingly slippery to control, at least one tends to fall behind.

TurtlePop Switch Review Turtles.jpg
Turtle amiibo please?

On the other hand, if you leave turtles unlinked, their unreliable AI can get them lost or lead them towards dangerous bombs, so you have to manage them carefully. Unfortunately, switching between turtles can be tough to keep track of when there are multiple on the screen; instead of manually choosing a different character, you cycle through them via button press. There’s a surprisingly steep difficulty curve, but the game provides a unique challenge if you can master its controls.

If TurtlePop was just managing turtles to the goal, it would be a fun, challenging platformer for kids. However, an additional mechanic muddles it up. A few levels in, you encounter the genie, a friendly creature who flies freely and throws helpful items at you, such as watermelon slices that allow you to jump higher or flying block platforms. You select a loadout of items to bring into each level, which adds an intriguing complexity of resource management and optimization, but it’s held back by its awkward execution. When you summon the genie, you lose control of your turtle and instead move a reticle to aim your item toss. At first, it doesn’t seem like a big issue, but it gets messy constantly juggling between the genie and turtles. I often lost track of whom I was controlling, which was disastrous during autoscrolling levels. Touch screen support would have been ideal here, and it’s a shame that it’s not supported, especially since TurtlePop otherwise performs well on the Nintendo Switch tablet.

TurtlePop Switch Review Genie.jpg
You ain’t never had a friend, never had a friend like me!

Gameplay gets more convoluted when you realize the genie is also in charge of solving the match-3 puzzles embedded within levels. That’s right – match-3 puzzles. Colored blocks impede your progress, but the genie can make matches to eliminate them. They aren’t super difficult, but it’s frustrating when your progress is halted simply because of unfavorable block configurations. I like when puzzles are used to enhance the platforming, but in TurtlePop, they’re used as literal walls.

TurtlePop Switch Review Puzzle.jpg
Literal puzzle platforming.

A welcome mechanic are the unlockable playable reptiles, each of which have slightly varying attributes and powers, such as the ability to hover or eat bombs. I liked levels that utilized their various skills. They’re introduced at a fair pace too, spread out throughout the game’s seven worlds. On that note, the game is longer than one might expect. In addition to the 100+ levels and bonus areas, you need high scores to unlock subsequent worlds, so you may end up replaying levels often. After completing levels, you unlock treasure chests filled with loot and random upgradeable cards that bestow items. It’s admittedly a confusing and superfluous system.

TurtlePop Switch Review Cards.jpg
The new designs for Magic: The Gathering are adorable!

Having stated my criticisms, TurtlePop’s co-op mode actually alleviates some of my problems. In 2-player co-op, one person controls the turtles, while the other controls the genie. It’s liberating to move the turtles without worrying about items or puzzles, and the same applies when you can focus on support as the genie. For all I’ve said about the single-player campaign, co-op was actually pretty fun, and I can see it being the ideal way to play with a younger gamer.

There is also a multiplayer mode for up to four players. One uninspired minigame merely pits players into levels where they can compete for score attack. I was fonder of the arena battles, which include a game where players fight for control of a crown and another where players must lick their opponents to possess them. Hmm…turtles are weird. At a minimum of three minutes per round, the games overstay their welcome, but they’re nice inclusions for a change of pace.

TurtlePop Switch Review Multiplayer.jpg
Lick your opponent to steal their crown. Think about that for a second.

Conclusion

TurtlePop: Journey to Freedom’s cheery visuals, bouncy music, and adorable turtles make it an attractive game, albeit one that’s tricky to manage. The developers at Zengami were certainly ambitious, cramming multiple interesting ideas into one game. Unfortunately, due to the convoluted execution and sloppy controls, it’s hard to recommend it unless you specifically play 2-player co-op. It doesn’t fix every problem, but it’s an ideal playstyle that frees partners up to focus on their specific tasks. And it certainly gives these turtles’ journey to freedom a little more pop.

Score: 6/10

Note: A review copy was provided by the publisher for this article.

What are your thoughts on TurtlePop: Journey to Freedom? Who are your favorite video game turtles? What about your favorite puzzle platformers? Please share any thoughts or questions in the comments section below! Thank you so much for reading and watching!

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18 thoughts on “TurtlePop: Journey to Freedom (Switch) Review

  1. TurtlePop! Pop to the top! Hehe 😉 I loved your review! The genie reference in the video made me laugh out loud. XD TurtlePop looks very colorful and cutesy. It kinda reminds me of a Kirby game–only Kirby games are much better. I don’t like the idea of throwing in random match-3 puzzles to what should be a platformer. It seems rather unnecessary, but maybe it’s just me. I do like how the other turtles look, especially the hovering one with the flower – she’s a pretty one. Adding the genie makes it seem like this game is really meant for 2 players. And having played the co-op, of course, I did find it more fun than when I tried it alone. Reminds me of New Super Mario Bros. U where someone would put the flying blocks for us haha! I would get way to confused trying to control both at the same time. And I agree… turtles are weird… Great job!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you as always! Your support means so much to me! I knew you’d like that genie reference by the way. Co-op does remind me a lot of New Super Mario Bros. U in the way a support player can just throw blocks. It flows so much better with two players individually controlling the genie and turtle. Touch screen support would have been helpful too – to the extent where I think this game would have done well on Wii U. Bring back the GamePad?! 😮

      Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s awesome!! Your turtles must be adorable!! I actually have been thinking of getting turtles as a pet one day. I’m not into most furry pets because of allergies, and I used to have fish. But I’m quite fond of turtles and wouldn’t mind having one around. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. They are a lot of fun to have! A little bit on the messy side, but as long as you have the right filter that helps a lot. I have 2 red eared sliders and 2 mud turtles 🙂 And they are a great pet to have if you have allergies, so you should be fine with owning one!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Aww, well fish are fun too! I’m really just a huge animal lover, so I’m drawn to all different types of animals! Since I was a kid I’ve always loved creatures that most people don’t think are cute and cuddly- frogs, turtles, lizards, etc. I really wanted a reptile for a pet, and my aunt and uncle decided to get me 2 baby turtles when I was 8. Unfortunately they didn’t live very long and I was so upset because I took care of them so carefully! So when I was 11 they got me another turtle that was already a few years older so he was in good health…. almost 21 years later, I still have him ❤

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Awww, I love this story so much!!! ❤️ Thank you for sharing it! It’s moments like these that make me wish I had a closer relationship with pets growing up. The fish just didn’t cut it for me since they didn’t live long. I actually also really like frogs and lizards – frogs more, though. I’m not a big fan of furry pets because of my allergies but a reptile would have been perfect for me.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Thanks! You’re right, fish never live long enough. It’s sad! 😦 Well, if you ever want a friendly lizard as a pet, I can definitely recommend getting a bearded dragon! Mine is content to either sit on my shirt or sit next to me for hours at a time just chilling. He’s pretty lazy 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  2. The art direction on this reminds me of Bust-a-Move from back in the day! It’s a shame the one-player is so dodgy, but I’m glad the two player makes up for it. At the very least it’s the closest we’ll ever get to a full-on Squirtle Squad game!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hahaha yes! The turtles just need sunglasses, then we’ll finally have our dream Squirtle Squad game! I definitely see the Bust-a-Move comparison. And wow does that take me back. Miss those bubble bubblers and their busted moves! Thanks so much for your comments! 🙂

      Like

  3. I’m shocked they didn’t include touch screen support. It seems like that would have greatly improved this game. And I always support the idea of more cute Amiibo, haha. Great review!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your awesome comments as always!! 😀 These turtles would make cute amiibo for sure! Maybe they could unlock touch screen support or something else to make the journey easier. Maybe I should make a wish from the turtle genie… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

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