Overall Score 87%
Frutti for Newbies 2
It's a sorry state for the organic farming industry these days. Stocks of uncontaminated fruit are so dangerously low that the last organic fruit in existence has been gathered together and flown to a remote island, to save it all from being genetically modified and turned into rampaging mutant fruit by the evil Dr Genarius. I'm sure our readers can spot the potential flaw in this plan! Predictably enough, Dr Genarius intercepts the shipment. But something goes wrong; the plane explodes, and fruit is scattered across the island.
Enter Frutti, our hirsute hippy hero, and his quest to gather up all the fruit. This involves a series of screens in which he'll navigate platforms, climb ladders and face the nightmarish junk food underlings of Dr Genarius, such as angry apples, bouncing burgers and chagrined chips. Most enemies can be dispatched by jumping on their heads in the time honoured tradition, but Frutti can also collect tomatoes and lob them at foes in difficult positions (or immune to being kicked in the head). Frutti is also able to boost his jumping ability by eating power beans, and a set of portals allow movement between screens, though some are locked and first require the key to be found.
Controls are simple enough - the arrow keys move Frutti around the screen and there are keys to jump and throw tomatoes. Movement is fairly loose - pixel-perfect jumps are uncommon here, as the "for Newbies" part of the title might suggest. Portals are unlocked automatically when approached. The tutorial stage features a number of lightbulbs that light up and display information when approached - these are very effective at teaching players the basics, and also appear occasionally in later stages when new concepts are introduced.
The cartoon graphics are clear and colourful and maintain a good theme. Some of the monsters seem downright bizarre! Everything is big and easy to recognise, and Jochen Kaercher Game Design actually do a fairly good job at disguising the blocky nature of an essentially blocky platformer. There are plenty of good ideas in here - there is a set amount of "hidden" fruit in each stage, found by headbutting the platforms it is hidden in, and when Frutti gets near he can "smell" it, indicated by little bobbing question marks! Sound is also good quality. A range of background music adds a happy, vaguely psychedelic feel to the game, and there are sound effects for most actions. Monsters often seem to be somewhat silent, however. Expect children to giggle whenever they pick up power beans - Frutti's jumps while under their effect have a somewhat... gassy quality.
Frutti's playability is pitched very well. Early stages are very simple and one is soon introduced to a range of monsters that, while initially simple to handle, can become troublesome in large numbers or in awkward places. Tomatoes and power beans regenerate after a short delay and are placed so that you can never get completely stuck. Frutti has a certain level of health, depleted by contact with enemies and certain obstacles, and this is replenished a little by finding hidden fruit. Lose all your health, or fall into water, and Frutti loses a life. New lives are gained every five thousand points, so it pays to earn the stage completion bonuses (remove all monsters, find all hidden fruit).
You can replay any unlocked stage, and if you reached a new stage in your last game you can choose to continue your game from the start of the most recent. One downside of this is the way you can flood the high score table - you resume the last game with the same lives and score that you started that stage with, so you can fail repeatedly and get a high score each time! You can also abandon any previous progress and start any stage fresh, of course, which is useful if you finished your last stage with one life left.
I struggled to find fault with Frutti. It's easy to play, it's fun, it's pretty much non-violent. The high score issue is the biggest problem I've located, and it's hardly a game breaker. You can run multiple profiles, so if you have several children they can each have their own game (and you could have your own, too - why not?). There's a gradual introduction of new enemies and ideas, though Frutti himself doesn't change - aside from tomatoes and beans, there aren't really many different powerups available, though I've encountered a hidden fruit that resembles a kidney bean which appears to be the digestive equivalent of a smart bomb. Maybe there are more, and I just haven't discovered them yet. I've got a fair way to go, after all.
Will children enjoy this game? I think so. Will they gain an appreciation of organic food and turn away from eating junk? I doubt it. Will they be making Frutti eat power beans repeatedly and then jump about a lot? Almost certainly... but if that's the worst result you'll get from buying this game, it's still a pretty good buy and is an idea that is sure to bear fruit.
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