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Woodle Tree (PC) artwork

Woodle Tree (PC) review

"Terribly adorable or adorably terrible?"

After having a gander at Woodle Tree's screenshots on Desura, I thought to myself: "Has independent gaming has finally evolved to the point that developers can create low budget 3D platformers that don't feel cheaply made?"

The answer in this case: a resounding no.

Woodle Tree at least looks fantastic, displaying a wide range of cheery colors and cute, imaginative environments that appear to be floating in the sky. Each stage does a fine job of capturing the game's environmental theme, presenting lush vegetation and refreshing cascades in the first stage, thick tufts of snow and glittering ice in one of the later stages, and a level built of complex platforms that form natural water park. The game's six worlds also house a menagerie of odd beasts, from adorable minotaurs to animate orbs donning dunce caps. At one point, you even cross paths with what appears to be an anthropomorphic sugar cube. To top it off, the game moves with impressive fluidity. In my playthrough, the game's animations never succumbed to slowdown and remained smooth throughout the campaign.

Woodle Tree asset

Unfortunately, there are other nuances that demean the game's value, such as the strange sound effect that plays whenever you fell an opponent. A defeated villain doesn't keel over with a thwack or a crunch or even a charming pop. Rather, he lazily reclines as a peaceful chirp issues from his corpse. In a couple of other cases, no sound effect exists where one feels like it should. The simple act of landing on solid ground, for instance, seems like it should make a light thud at the very least. You wouldn't think that something this small would be in any way bothersome, but I found it a tad awkward to jump around silently.

I don't think Woodle Tree's sound effects would have been as big of a problem were the game's soundtrack a little more upbeat or joyful, like its visuals. However, the music is too peaceful and relaxing, sometimes even lackadaisical. I'm not saying that the stage's BGMs lack tempo; they're just dull melodies that don't fit with the game's merry graphics. All together, the lackluster sound effects and the ill-fitting soundtrack serve more to cheapen the experience than to enhance it.

Woodle Tree asset

My main problem with Woodle Tree wasn't its amateurish feel, though. Rather, my beef with the game stems from its inability to entertain and its propensity for annoyance. The main objective is to secure three fairy teardrops, the locations of which are so conspicuous that you would have to have your monitor turned off or partially obstructed to miss them. Item collection is not in and of itself a poor device to implement in a platformer, but it's a tad insulting when your main objectives can be easily spotted. You'll meet very little resistance along the way, too, mostly in the form of enemies either standing still or moving so slowly and predictably that they could be mistaken for non-aggressive NPCs.

Yes, I realize that Woodle Tree was likely aimed at younger audiences, but I also think that even said audience could easily trounce the game. Despite its obvious target audience, I still think there needs to be some kind of challenge factor or push back, otherwise it would just be a tedious campaign with a simple objective.

I know what I'm about to write next is cliche, but it's true about Woodle Tree: the main antagonist is the camera. In fact, I only ever died as a result of the camera's erratic behavior. I think what the developer was going for was a smart, self-adjusting camera that follows the player and attempts to shift to a proper angle based on the player's current position and movements. In theory, this would eliminate the need for players to rotate or readjust the camera. In actuality, it leads to a wide variety of terrible camera positions. During one scene, for example, the camera zoomed in on my character and I couldn't see where I was going. I fell to my death thanks to that. In another segment, the camera swung around such that it was facing me, preventing me from seeing the perils that lay ahead. I fell to my death thanks to that. Finally, there was an occasion in which the camera became level with the ground, obstructing my view of killing gaps in the dirt...

I fell to my death thanks to that.

Woodle Tree asset

Looking back on Woodle Tree's screenshots now makes me depressed. I still want to love this cute little indie platformer. Heck, I can even look past its brevity and somewhat cheap feel. What bothers me about it is that it's flat out boring thanks to its non-existent challenge factor and irritating because of its insane camera. Were those two flaws to mend themselves, you might actually have one of the only* competent no-budget/low budget 3D platformers available.

*Not including Jett Rocket, since it's questionably indie and isn't that great anyway...


JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Community review by JoeTheDestroyer (December 16, 2013)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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honestgamer posted December 17, 2013:

I think you might really enjoy Do Not Fall! on PlayStation 3, which looks to employ similar mechanics (at least on the surface) but with greater success. Though it's still not perfect...
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JoeTheDestroyer posted December 18, 2013:

I've been interested in Do Not Fall! I've been curious to check out any 3D platformers that aren't part of a huge franchise, but finding one that isn't just a stripped down Mario 64 has been difficult.

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