Review: Freshly-Picked Tingle’s Rosy Rupeeland (DS)

Freshly-Picked Tingle’s Rosy Rupeeland
Genre: Action-Adventure
Developer: Vanpool
Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: 09/14/2007 (Europe)

I have searched the world high and low; I have read countless sites and forums in the hope of finding someone like me. Yet, it seems like I am the only fan of Tingle in North America. I don’t really see why everybody hates him. Sure, he’s obnoxious, eccentric and dresses flamboyantly, but I also think he’s funny. In fact, I think he fits right in with the series from which he originates, The Legend of Zelda.

If you played the games, you know that despite the series’ tendency to have these dramatic storylines where one boy/man is all that can stop the end of the world from happening, there’s always these small bits of comedy sprinkled through the adventures. Usually, these little moments are brought by the non-playable characters, such as the Happy-Mask Salesman’s bipolar rants in Majora’s Mask, or Fyer and Falbi in Twilight Princess. In fact, a great number of secondary characters in Zelda are made with a very quirky personality.

I see Tingle as one of these quick comedy flashes, but in the form of a recurring character instead of being a one-shot NPC. When you truly take the time to analyze Tingle’s involvement in the series, you notice that he never really takes that much place in a game. Maybe gamers are still hateful toward him because he will forever be known as the guy who extorted you out of 4000 rupees just to translate maps in The Wind Waker. But in all seriousness, the rest of the games usually keep your interactions with the would-be fairy at a minimum.

Anyway, despite all of the resentment toward him, Tingle is still famous and recognized enough in the rest of the world to deserve his own game. Originally known simply as Tingle RPG, the title showcases the origins of the character by showing how he came to dress himself in a green bodysuit and why he’s so obsessed with rupees.

Of course, being the character’s only fan in North America, I watched in excitement as the game was released in Japan, and then announced for a Europe release. After a long wait, I realized that there was no way that it would make it here, so I had no choice but to import it. A couple of weeks ago, the game eventually made it to my doorstep, but it had to wait a bit longer as I was busy both pretending I was an elite guitarist and taking Mario through space.

So, will this be Tingle’s moment of glory? Can Tingle stand on his own as a protagonist, or is he destined to be a background character, taking parts in side quests while annoying everybody but me?


STORY
If you ever wondered why a man would start wearing a green bodysuit to pretend he is a fairy at the tender age of 35, then you are in luck! As the story goes, a man was minding his own business one day when he heard a voice summoning him to the nearby pond. Once there, he saw a man with a rupee for a head saying that he could make him richer than he ever imagined by bringing him to Rupeeland, but at a condition: first, Tingle needed to bring as many rupees as possible to the old man and throw them into the pond in order to build a giant tower that would reach the heavenly place.

I would have stopped right there. Any old, single man telling me I could be rich if I followed him to his place would immediately flash some alarm signal in my head. Alas, Tingle is a jovial, but naïve little man, which means he took the man up on his offer. Immediately, Tingle was transformed from his “normal” clothes to his now trademark bodysuit. There was also another catch: from now on, Tingle would need rupees to live. No rupees would mean Tingle’s demise.

While the story’s set-up is slightly creepy, it’s par for the course for the character. As much as I like Tingle, I can admit that a certain aura of creepiness emanates from the guy, probably due to his obsession with rupees and shiny things. Either that or the fact that he kidnapped a castaway in The Wind Waker only to dress him up in tight clothes and make him work as a slave on his private island.

Anyway, while the set-up does a great job explaining just why Tingle is greedier than Scrooge McDuck himself, it doesn’t do much more than that. For the duration of the game, Tingle wanders aimlessly around the different continents, simply trying to gather as much money as possible. Sometimes you are looking for a dungeon, sometimes you are simply trying to find the one non-playable character that you need to speak with in order to start a chain of events that will lead you to the next continent. The only thing tying every event together is the fact that Tingle needs money. You’re not really given any incentive or reason to do it except for the fact that you need the cash to make the tower rise.

At least, the characters are full of personality. Many of them had me laughing out loud, such as the bridge builder or your fairy Pinkle, but even the eccentric inhabitants of Tingle’s world are not enough to bring a story together. There’s no real plot, no development, not even that much of a back story. You need to bring money to Uncle Rupee, or else you won’t get to Rupeeland! That’s it. The discussions you have with the other characters in the game only serve to guide you to your next destination, unless they want to trade items for rupees.

I tip my hat to the imaginative character design, but unfortunately, they’re useless unless a good story is created around them.

Story Rating: 4/10


GRAPHICS
The graphics are good enough. The characters are drawn big and full of details, and there’s no denying that this is one of the most colourful world I’ve seen in a while on the Nintendo DS. It radiates with personality and style, as the entire game shows a lot of both. I don’t have any real complaint about the graphics, because it’s just beautiful. Without being the prettiest game on the system, it more than holds its own, and even manages to stand out from the pack because of the whole atmosphere that is created by a superb art direction. I’ve said previously that this game had great characters, but without a good story to run with. It’s an even bigger shame when you see the marvellous world of which they are a part. The visuals are without the shadow of a doubt the standout feature of this game.

Graphics Rating: 8/10


SOUND
The music in this game is fairly average and fails to deliver the goods in my opinion. Tingle is a spin-off of The Legend of Zelda series, which has always been known as having some of the best music in all video games, so I was very disappointed when I realized that this game had no memorable theme. There’s not even a rearrangement of a previous Zelda song to be found, except for the “secret” chime, which has been a part of the franchise since its inception. In fact, a lot of the time, the overworld has no musical theme at all! Most of the time, it’s simply Tingle walking to the sound of his steps. The rest of the sound is effective without being remarkable. When playing a game with or without the sound does not make a big difference, you know that something’s wrong. As much as the graphics are impressive, the sound is simply painfully bland.

Sound Rating: 4/10


CONTROL
You move Tingle around by using the d-pad, while every other actions are conducted via the touch screen. It’s simple, effective and it works very well for the majority of the game. It gets a bit ugly when it comes to controlling your bodyguard though. You are supposed to touch him, then the place where you want to go, but a lot of the time, the game doesn’t seem to register the place where you sent your bodyguard. If it does, it often sends him into a wall.

Fighting is also handled weirdly: you walk over an enemy, which send Tingle rolling around with it in a cloud of smoke. You can end the fight more quickly by moving them around and rubbing the screen, but I failed to see any real difference. Still, the controls are good enough in general, such as when it comes to managing your inventory or solving puzzles.

The controls do the job and never get in the way, but after playing for a while with The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass, it’s impossible not to notice that they lack a bit of polish. I wasn’t fighting with the game to get Tingle to do what I want, but I couldn’t help but think that there are better ways to accomplish it.

Control Rating: 6/10


REPLAYABILITY
There’s not a whole lot to do outside of beating the game once. There is a nice variety of bodyguards to keep you company, but even hiring different ones will have no effect whatsoever on the outcome of your adventure. The bodyguards are simply a way to help you fight and solve puzzles, so it’s not like they have that much influence on the way you play the game.

Otherwise, I guess you could try to find every recipe in the game and complete every little side quest, but frankly, you probably won’t feel like it once you’ve beaten the final boss. Even for a Tingle fan like me, by the end of the game, playing was starting to be a chore more than anything. I can only imagine how normal people will feel at the thought of spending more time than necessary with the character.

Replayability Rating: 3/10


BALANCE
It’s hard to tell if this game is too easy or too hard. When you’re on the right track, it’s probably too easy, with enemies being defeated by sending your bodyguard to do the dirty work and jumping in the fray when things get ugly. However, if you’re lost, you can be lost for a long time, wandering aimlessly all over the place until you stumble on the only thing that could make you progress, usually a detail so small that you start to wonder if the developers made it frustrating on purpose.

One thing that throws the balance out the window is the rupees managing/life meter system. Let me put it simply: Tingle needs rupees to live. If he has no rupees left, he dies. Simple enough, since the money counter doubles as your health meter. The problem is that the whole game is centered on rupees. If you want information from a non-playable character, you will need to pay. So will you if you want to buy something. That would be standard stuff if it wasn’t that you have to bargain for everything. If you pay too much, you’re screwed, if you don’t pay enough, the characters keep your money but don’t give you the item, so you’re screwed too! When they keep your money, you have to try again until they get too frustrated and stop bargaining with you completely. The result is that you are often nearly out of cash in the early moments of the game, which is exactly when you should have more because you are learning the ins and outs of the system.

Another problem is that the progression in the amounts you are bargaining for makes no sense whatsoever. The game starts with small amounts: per example, giving about 25 bucks to a guy will get you what you want. However, the next man you encounter will ask 75 rupees for something similar and later on, it can be as much as 200. How are you supposed to keep track? The way it works, you always end up having to try completely different amount of moneys, either alienating the character you are negotiating with because you thought he would settle for the same number as the previous one, or being screwed out of way too many rupees because you took a wild guess.

I wouldn’t mind if it was a small part of the game, but it is entirely based on that concept.

Balance Rating: 3/10


ORIGINALITY
Even with all of its problems, you can’t blame the game as being one of those paint-by-numbers adventures. The characters, enemies and settings are all among the weirdest things I have seen or visited in a video game. Be it your tattooed, tough-looking pink fairy or a construction worker that would feel at home with Village People, everything in the game shows a lot of style.

The gameplay system is also unlike anything I have seen in other games. Unfortunately, I guess it’s the kind of idea that looked good on paper but that didn’t quite pay off. I like the idea of the money also being your life source, but having to bargain for every little thing becomes a pain in the ass in the end.

The concept of using bodyguards to do all your dirty work is also a fresh one, but I think it wasn’t exploited enough. The choice of available bodyguard is quite small, and because their behaviour seems to be on par with that of a drunken sheep, it makes them less useful than it was probably intended.

All in all, this game was full of good ideas, but the execution seems to be lacking a little bit.

Originality Rating: 7/10


ADDICTIVENESS
It’s hard to be addicted to a game when playing it feels like a punishment. It’s good enough as a distraction when things go smoothly and you know what you’re doing, but once in a while, the game stops giving you indication as to what your next goal should be. You end up doing nothing, going in circles until you are pretty sure that you’ve checked every nook and cranny of the map. Then, you get pissed off and start cussing like a sailor before you throw the game down in desperation.

Portable games are supposed to be fun in short doses, but this one is difficult to appreciate, no matter how long you play it for.

Addictiveness Rating: 2/10


APPEAL FACTOR
I am a Tingle fan, but I know that I am probably the only one. Everybody else would probably play the newest Bratz game before even trying this one. I’m guessing that Tingle is more popular in Japan (why would he have a game otherwise?), and that Europe was more of a test market to see if the game could make it in the rest of the world. The game has been out since September there, and we still haven’t heard any plans concerning its release in North America. I’m guessing it’s not very popular on the other side of the Atlantic either.

Outside from hardcore Zelda fans that make it a point to possess every game in the series, and excluding the microscopic percentage of the population that can call themselves Tingle fans, I can’t see this game appealing to anyone. Maybe those who like to try quirky games with bizarre concepts (the DS is full of that kind of games) will give it a shot, but that’s it.

Appeal Factor Rating: 2/10


MISCELLANEOUS
Did I mention that in order to save your game, you need to be in Tingle’s house absolutely? If you are in the middle of a dungeon and you need to go very quickly, you can always use the “Go back to house” option from the menu, but it means that you have to start it over once you come back to where you were previously. As you can probably guess, it is a major annoyance.

I can only weep at the thought of such a beautiful game, full of humour and crazy characters, being wasted in a mess of half-assed storyline and poorly designed quests. I can see the potential in many of the ideas that the developers tried, but something didn’t click. The good things in this game are completely crushed under the bad things. I doubt I will ever touch this game again, despite my appreciation of its title character. Thank to this game, my enjoyment of Tingle is tainted forever.

Miscellaneous Rating: 3/10


THE RATINGS
Story: 4/10
Graphics: 8/10
Sound: 4/10
Control: 6/10
Replayability: 3/10
Balance: 3/10
Originality: 7/10
Addictiveness: 2/10
Appeal: 2/10
Miscellaneous: 3/10

Average Rating: 4.2
Final Score: 4.0 (Poor)

Short Attention Span Summary
Even when the game is looked at through rose-coloured glasses by a fan of the main character, it still ends up playing poorly and boring the hell out of me. So when you take into consideration that this game is probably the worst I have played this year, then think about the number of people who actually like the main character, you quickly realize that this is one ill-fated project.

The developers had the chance to use a unique character to produce something truly original out of a promising premise, but something went terribly wrong. If you thought about importing this game, you can forget it now, and be thankful that I threw 50$ out the window just so you didn’t have to.