the artistry and psychology of gaming


Treasure Adventure Game

Treasure Adventure Game

Welcome to Gaming on the House; don’t look down and and mind your step! Each week, we’ll be climbing the rooftops of the gaming industry to seek out great experiences that everyone can track down and play, and the best part is they’ll all be free! That’s right; FREE! Gratis. Comp’d. Unbound. Unrestricted. Zero-down. On the House!… we talk about free games here, is my point.

Many may be surprised at how many fantastic games are really out there that everyone can legally enjoy with no monetary commitment. Taking together all the flash and browser games, freeware downloads from the independent scene, speed programming archives, free-to-play business modules, and even promotional re-releases from big name publishers, there’s a never ending supply of great games new and old waiting to be played, and it’s our goal to play them all! So, if you’re strapped for cash or just waiting around for that next big release to hit retail, why not give these games a try? After all, they’re free; what have you got to lose!

Gaming on the House is back for the new year! This week, we set sail for treasure, adventure, and… oh hey, I just figured out where the name comes from!

Treasure Adventure Game

About time someone cast the guy with a hook as the hero!

Genre: Open-World Platformer
Link to Game:
Game Info: version 1.0 released as freeware in December 2011 as a debut effort by Robit Studios after a 2+ year development period.

One thing that’s great about today’s gaming landscape is that all types of games big and small can find their audiences. The key publishers may have their blockbuster titles appearing across multiple platforms, while single developers may struggle to see their products realized in any fashion; but across the board, I’d like to think that if a game is of unmistakable quality, it’ll be found and played. That’s what I hope to see for Treasure Adventure Game, as beneath it’s simplistic (yet overwhelmingly accurate) title and dated visuals, lives a showcase of intelligent game design exhibiting a level of fun and whimsy few games can match. That it’s a freeware release is really just the icing on the cake.

Looking at a few shots of TAG in action, it’s easy to lump the experience in with a number of games trying to capitalize on the so called “retro” movement that has been fairly consistent over the past few years trying to win fans over with nostalgia goggles. I mean, one layer of background scrolling, featuring a character built of, what… 5 colors? Excellent! And sure, I could understand someone who can’t get enough of the 8 and 16-bit generations really enjoying TAG by identifying the games they think of when playing it (I’ve thought of everything from Mario to Bionic Commando). But really, the “retro movement” is more of a manufactured myth when you think about it, as when you focus in on the good games that get tied to it, and I mean the really good ones (seriously people, buy Rayman Origins), they are simply well polished products in their own right featuring smart design choices that also filled a void in the gaming landscape; a void primarily created back when the industry jumped into 3D quickly, and without question. Now, the goggles are often what gets slapped on at the end as an unnecessary justification for the product’s existence in today’s gaming landscape. Ridiculous? Absolutely. Great games are great games; why bother promoting them as anything else.

Treasure Adventure Game is a new game. It looks old, but it’s new. It’s also great. It’s not great because it looks old. It’s a new game that’s great! If we have that out of the way, I’ll go ahead and just tell you about it.

Switches, springs, currents, gears… puzzles are well integrated into the platforming.

TAG is a well constructed platforming adventure, offering a linear 2D world that is explored in a rather non-linear way. Your character, a boy who washed up on shore with *GASP* amnesia years after he and his father were collecting the 12 sacred treasures of the land and something went wrong (that’s not a spoiler by the way, that’s the introduction). No real need to pay much attention to the story, the stated background is about a wizard who once fought a demon, simultaneously being the worst and greatest story ever. Anyway, after a few brief cutscenes, some fast-forwarding through years, a hand to hook conversion (…yarr), and some initial words from grandma, you set right off on your adventure, traveling to the various islands of the land to reclaim those lost artifacts.

The game follows the well tested exploration-based play, where you go as far as your character’s current inventory can take you. There are (unless I miscounted) 13 islands to visit, each varying in size, theme, inhabitants, overall purpose, and charm, . You’ll sail between them with your trusty hat, compass, and sail (the three things no adventurer should be without… apparently) and in traversing through it all you’ll search for maps, treasure, artifacts, new abilities (a throwing hook, a cannon, and a shovel, for example), newer hats (that have their own attributes and bonuses), life upgrades, dimensional fragments, you know, the usual. One thing I’ve really enjoyed about the game is that there’s just so much to find, yet the game never relies on hand-holding to guide you to it all. While the game starts you off with some clues as to the first artifact to find, once that’s been recovered you’re simply on your own. Sure, you’ll get maps to lead you to the treasure’s general area, but you have to find the map to begin with! In an age where guided experiences and tutorials are becoming ever present in exploration games, it’s great to see a game that trusts the player enough to let them discover the fun for themselves and in the manner of his/her choosing.

And to talk briefly about those retro influences mentioned earlier, I should say that while I can understand the obvious ties to Metroidvanias when considering the game’s function, the two games I think TAG can be compared to the most are King’s Quest VI: Heir Today Gone Tomorrow, and Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker. In one, you have a series of uniquely themed islands that you need to traverse and revisit to eventually solve the puzzles at each of them, and in the other, you sail the seas with your upgradeable inventory to collect treasures and fight bosses. While further comparisons can surely be made, the two of these games are far removed from a 2D side-scroller to say the least, and for that same spirit of adventure, discovery, and thematic segmentation to present itself in TAG shows how some good ideas and design choices are able to move between genres with ease.

While the design of the game is sound, I should say that for the most part, it’s execution excels right along with it. Platforming across the islands is a joy, and the combat mechanics (the cannon in particular) are fun to play through. Additional puzzle and control mechanics (wind power, weight, block pushing, the evergreen minecart segment) get incorporated into the adventure in bursts as well, so progressing through the lands never becomes too dull or repetitive, and the game does take some very interesting turns as well. The fantastical, yet somewhat modern-ish setting (there’s robots, pirates, and talking insects aplenty) further services the play variety as it presents itself to never get too attached to a particular island theme. Plus the music; it’s just pleasant through and through. This little game just gets so much right.

Shark repellant…not just for Adam West

The game isn’t perfect, of course. There’s a day/night mechanic that can sometimes be more of a burden than a neat feature to see; locked doors at night are cool at first but after a while you’ll start to give up and start wasting lockpicks. You also have a bird companion that occasionally you control, which is still pretty cool as a puzzle mechanic, but it flies as if it’s towing a lead balloon. Lastly, if you hate backtracking with a passion, this is simply not a game for you. However, if you are able to get around these areas, there’s a lot to be found among the islands of TAG, and you’ll likely have a great deal of fun finding it.

One Comment

  1. This has to stop; you have to stop bloating my already pathetically large backlog with your awesome games. Oh, and you suckered me in by citing my favorite Zelda game and my second-favorite Adventure game, too.


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