It seems like a majority of the co-op games available today, whether they're AAA or indie, generally fall into a few typical categories: FPS, action/adventure, twin-stick shooter. So I was eager to go through as many indie titles as I could until I found one that didn't fit with that model, and was pleased to discover Tobe's Vertical Adventure.
Whereas games like Null Divide and Protect Me Knight! were designed to expertly invoke that old 8-bit gaming feel, Tobe's Vertical Adventure takes its cue from the 16-bit heyday. The story starts off with some very well-drawn story panels that introduce us to the titular Tobe, a gamer deeply drawn into the game he's playing, and his friend Nana, a lady that discovers a treasure map and wants Tobe to go on a real adventure. There's a little 4th-wall, tongue-in-cheek humor, and then things get going. Tobe and Nana set out on their adventure across 4 different islands, spanning a total of 16 stages total. In each stage, Tobe will have a variety of obstacles and dangers to overcome, including great heights from which to fall, enemies, and spikes. Of course Tobe has his own bag of tricks to help him out, such as being able to collect balloons to ease descent, ropes that he can attach to any ceiling, and a host of rolling/jumping/climbing tricks.
As Tobe navigates the stage, there will be gems and treasure chests to collect, and little chickens to rescue (no real reason given for that one). Collect enough of these and you'll be given codes to access additional content from the game's site, such as the game's art book and the soundtrack. While that covers all the basics, let's focus on the "Vertical Adventure" part of the title. Levels are laid out in a largely vertical fashion, though occasionally there are gaps in the walls along the edge of the screen that allow the player to cross over to the other side. Upon reaching the bottom, Tobe will discover a great treasure to collect.
If a jump's too high or far for you to reach, get a little help from your partner
This is where the fun really begins as, and I feel like this is a little bit of a spoiler, once Tobe claims those spoils, the entire level will begin to collapse and our hero must now make his way all the way back up to the top while racing against a clock. After the initial surprise clears, you start looking at each level a little differently as it no longer solely becomes an issue of "how do I get down there", but also one of "how do I make my way back?" This is where a co-op partner makes the game just that much better.
Despite the fact that Tobe has his friend Nana by his side, the second player actually just plays a clone of Tobe. This little bit of character oversight aside (one that's remedied in the upcoming PC version of the game), two Tobes do more than just run and jump alongside one another. Tobe's head seems to be made of sturdy rubber as the players can bounce off of one another's to act as an aid in reaching new heights. Upon reaching that height, the player who had his or her head trounced upon can leap up and be grabbed by the player hanging from the ledge, and then be flung on top of the platform. These mechanics really make navigating back up to the top of the level feel like it was intended to be played with two players, something we certainly won’t complain about.
I set out looking for a game that was a little different than the usual co-op shooter/adventure fare, and I definitely found it in Tobe’s Vertical Adventure. From the hand drawn storyboard cut scenes, to the excellent platforming mechanics and co-op maneuvers, this is a game that should be at the top of every co-op gamers’ downloadable title list.
Tobe’s Vertical Adventure is Geared Towards: Platformer fans who miss the days of Sonic and Mario, pre-3D
The Co-Op Experience: Each player controls a Tobe whilst running, jumping, floating, and head-bouncing his way down to the bottom of each stage, and then making it back up again