I decided to try Treasure Adventure Game after it suddenly showed up for free in my GOG.com account. But don’t worry if you don’t have a GOG account — you can grab it for free directly from the creator as well.
Billed as a retro-styled exploration-based platformer in the vein of classics like Super Metroid, Treasure Adventure Game certainly contains a lot of old-school design elements that might put off some players. There’s a lot of backtracking… seriously, a lot of it. There is a system for fast-travel but it’s not introduced until late in the game and is not very obvious; I didn’t even find out about it until after I finished the whole thing. There are many jumping puzzles where the player can fall and lose significant progress, leading to frustration after missing the last jump in a long sequence. Saving is only possible at special save points, meaning more lost progress after dying. But despite all of this I found I was enjoying myself immensely.
These elements actually fit really well with the central concept of the game. It’s a game about exploring the many islands of its 2-dimensional world, in search of ancient treasures. It’s about sailing across the ocean with your trusty parrot, then sighting land and setting out ashore to see what you can find. Usually, you won’t find much the first time you visit an island, but must sail back later (often from the other side of the world) after you collect some new equipment that might help you find the treasures hidden there. Treasure Adventure Game is as much about the traveling as it is the finding of treasures, and it excels at making the player feel as if they have traversed an entire world.
Everything about the game is designed with this in mind. The protagonist’s slow movement befits an extended journey rather than a sprint. The day-night cycle lends a certain beauty to the sailing trips between islands, a feeling further reinforced by the peaceful music. The weather will change, with bright sunny days and rainstorms in equal measure. And the islands themselves are a joy to explore. Some are uninhabited wilderness, but others feature towns or even whole cities full of people, each of whom follows their own schedule. Most work during the day, but businesses and shops close at night and people go home to sleep or to a nightclub to socialize. Some even perform in the street with their band during the evenings. Keep sailing past these islands and you’ll eventually reach colder climes, passing icebergs and exploring snowy lands. Continue on and you’ll eventually circle the whole world, coming back to your hometown bearing a few treasures and other mementos from your trip.
Even the tough platforming sections and limited saves seem appropriate. After sailing so far, you didn’t think actually finding these treasures would be easy, did you? While some might consider the challenges maddening and unfair, I found that they created a true sense of accomplishment when I finally nabbed my prize. In these types of games, finding new items or equipment can often seem like a matter of course; once you have item X, you can open the door over here and get item Y. But in Treasure Adventure Game, I felt that I had actually worked for each and every one, often applying a little brainpower and performing some acrobatics in the process. And there are plenty of other, smaller treasures to find, from hidden chests full of gold to dimensional fragments that can be collected in exchange for prizes. Plus there’s plenty of stuff available to purchase with the gold from all those treasure chests, up to and including a house. And hats, of course. The game even has an interesting plot, revealed as you travel the world and talk to the people and animals you meet. I did find the ending to be a bit silly, and it had no qualms about informing me that I had achieved the “bad ending” because I hadn’t quite collected everything. I had to consult a walkthrough to find what I’d missed in order to qualify for the good ending, and some of the missing items were so well hidden I’m certain I would never have found them on my own.
Overall, though, I had a great time. If you think you’d enjoy an exploration-based game that has a more relaxed pace than most, you should definitely give it a try. Here’s that link again.