In Tonic Trouble for the PC you take on the role of Ed, a bumbling alien who spilled some mysterious Tonic on the ground and must now clean up his mess before the trouble gets any worse. Not only are harmless vegetables being turned into ruthless killers, but the Tonic can is now in the power of the insane Grögh the Hellish!
In order to make amends, Ed will have to traverse 12 3D worlds to solve puzzles, find his way through mazes and dungeons, and survive lava canyons and cliffs. Each world also has a specific objective, from collecting six stones in the Canyon to sliding down the Ski Slope without falling off. Along the way he'll have help from Doc, his girlfriend Suzy, and the mysterious Agent Xyz.
Ed can also use his blowpipe (refillable with bees found in beehives) against enemies, fly using his bowie, explore under water, and even bounce his way out of trouble with a pogo stick. By stepping on a chameleon stone, Ed even has the power to transform into various creatures! Find a popcorn machine and Ed will change into Super Ed, a much stronger persona to turn the tables on the bad guys. He'll need all the help he can get against Grögh's awful Helling Guards.
Ed can also pick up extra lives and Mercury Drops to increase the points in his life meter. Grabbing ten Thermometers will increase his life bar one segment, up to a maximum of 14 from its starting point of four. Doc has some requests as well: he needs Ed to find various objects in order to build devices that will give your hero special powers. Additionally, if Ed collects 80 percent of the Antidote icons, he can access a bonus world.
Rumors are that Tonic Trouble was originally an elaborate technology demo for Rayman 2, an experiment in how Ubi Soft was going to successfully translate their strongest franchise to the 3D arena, without the horrible mistakes that killed other platformers like Bubsy 3D. Unfortunately, the game was incredibly delayed, and what was supposed to actually be a precursor to Rayman 2 has now become its successor. And unfortunately, after the near-illegal highs of Rayman 2, the world of Ed in Tonic Trouble feels more like playing with his inbred cousin rather than a close brother.
Ed and his friends share the lack of limbs with Rayman, but not the world he lives in. Ed is an alien janitor who accidentally drops a mysterious tonic on Earth, causing the planet to change form drastically. Angry tomatoes, talking suitcases and angrier toast are just some of the creations that pop up because of the mistake, and Ed's taken it upon himself to recover the tonic, and restore the Earth to its original state. Unfortunately, Grogh has gotten hold of the tonic bottle, and is using his for his own nefarious deeds, which means that Ed's short mission is quickly turning into a much larger adventure (good for you, bad for poor Ed).
Ed can jump his way through levels, and with the acquisition of a blowpipe, hit enemies, or tag them from afar with a special first-person targeting mode. Ed's blowpipe can also be used as a makeshift switch, which can plug into sockets to control platforms and open doors. You can pick up new tricks along the way, like flying with his bow tie, or diving to the dark, deep depths with a glass jar as the game progresses, allowing you to access new areas of the overworld and levels. In an almost uncomfortable marketing play, Ed can also find special dispensers of Nestle's Crunch, which change him into Super-Ed, a mutant version of himself who can gain access to rooms hidden by bars, or locked behind large doors. He's got more than the standard amount of platform tricks, and the levels are configured so that you can gain access to special areas later in the game by returning with new powers.
The level structure is pretty standard 3D platform stuff. Find a certain amount of special items for the Doc, and you'll gain access to a new mission, or get a special power. Levels are 3D versions of standard platform fare -- go from point A to point B, and grab yourself the six or so special items before you leave, or else you'll have to do it all over again. Small puzzles are thrown in to keep you busy, such as a round room where you use a button and a flame to roast yourself some tomato as it passes around in circles on a collision course with your face. None of it has the flare of Rayman 2, though you can see where the designers were toying with concepts and ideas that ended up being used in the other game. Ed's special powers are fun, but don't implement well into gameplay (like the blowpipe, which usually has you getting tagged by an enemy by the time you can take it out, aim, and fire on an enemy), and the levels themselves don't really lend themselves to any sort of brainy exploration. Where Rayman 2 had you stopping with wonder at every new experience and adventure, Ed feela much too much like platformers of the past to keep you truly interested. If there weren't any technical problems, this game might just exist as a solid average title -- but there are technical problems, and serious enough ones to kill some of the better experiences to be had with the game.
First off, there's the camera. Horrible, death-dealing stuff, this camera will actually throw you off cliffs, as it did to me on numerous occasions as I walked near an edge to get a big jump, only to have the camera jump forward and send Ed sliding off into the abyss. If you can get past the camera, then you've got to deal with the wonky controls, which feel as if Ed's feet have been glued to the floor -- which means he walks in a chunky, confusing fashion, and spring out into uncontrollable jumps that make it hard to navigate some of the crazier platforms. Wait -- back to that camera. Did I mention that it sometimes like to drift away of its own accord, or get caught behind a wall for seconds at a time while you struggle to figure out what the hell is going on? Each of the problems add to the mess, and keep you from really enjoying the more inventive aspects of the gameplay. Being able to dodge flaming toast should have been fun, and instead it's a mess.
Ubi Soft has had some trouble with the timing of its games, especially on the N64 where it released three platformers in the space of a month. Even on the PC, where the platform shelf usually sports some tumbleweed and a set of George Foreman grills, this feels like a platform overload. There's just not enough original content to keep you interested in Ed's adventures after a glimpse of Rayman's magic. This should have come out way, way before, but as it stands, poor Ed just lives in the shadows of his bigger, better contemporary.
People who downloaded Tonic Trouble have also downloaded:
Toy Story, Rayman 2: The Great Escape, Total Overdose: A Gunslinger's Tale in Mexico, Rayman 3: Hoodlum Havoc, Ultimate Spider-Man, Star Wars Episode I: Racer, Shrek SuperSlam, Animaniacs: A Gigantic Adventure
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