Wow, this is a weird one to review.

Where do I even want to begin, is the question...So, TurtlePop: Journey to Freedom is, strictly speaking, a puzzle-platformer. Specifically, it's of the "get all the NPCs to the goal" style, where the puzzles come mostly in the form of obstacles that you have to guide the NPCs over, under or around.

Our actual premise is pretty simple. Turtles have been captured, you have to help them escape to freedom.

I did say it was simple.

And that kind of brings us to a core thing with the game...The whole thing has the air of something aimed at kids. And I don't mean in the Nintendo and Pixar style "it's for everybody!" sense. I mean like the stuff you see in the Education section of the toy aisles.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's talk the gameplay loop.

You begin an actual stage of TurtlePop as, and this may shock you, a turtle. Using that turtle's unique abilities, as well as the aid of a...genie turtle? I'm not entirely sure A: why we are combining genies and turtles, and B: how you get to "genie" when, from my perspective, that turtle is riding in a hot-air balloon and the only magic it's doing is when it swaps the position of two blocks or items, something that could be far more easily explained with no no I'm getting lost in a tangent.

Look. You're a turtle. You run, typically from left to right, as most platformers do. You navigate the stage, find some turtles. Then you jam on the ZR button and send out a mighty obedience wave, and the turtles inside of it start to mirror your actions, jumping when you do and so on.

A key problem with this, as an aside, is that they jump exactly when you do, blindly, with no attempts to ensure a clean jump. Why yes this does mean that even a modest jump over a bottomless pit could kill off a bunch of your turtles in the back, forcing you to restart the stage. While I'm open to the idea that having them be a direct mirror, instead of lining up like Yoshi eggs, means more interesting stuff on the puzzle side...I dunno.

It's an awkward setup, made more awkward by how quickly the turtles will just kind of, and I'm sorry for using naughty language in a review about a children's game, fuck off and do their own damn thing once you've let go of the "obey Wario destroy Mario" button. (The button is not actually called that)

But, you have your turtle friends. All you have to do is get them to the goal. Feed everyone into that goal within the time limit, without dropping anyone. And then, when you finish, you can do a desperate race to get a whole mess of baby turtles in there too for a ton of bonus points. All of that is pretty standard.

Here's where things get kind of...weird, though.

Beat a level, and you get a mess of, like, three different currencies, and chests, and all that stuff. Like a mobile game. You've got sun points, and moon points, and cards, and you unlock chests full of the above, and you can trade cards with the turtle NPCs, and the cards do things like give you bonus points, or produce items for your genie friend to throw out of his hot-air ballon like healing items and power-ups and bombs...

It's a mess. A messy, messy mess. It's like one of those early mobile-game ports, the ones from around the first Angry Birds, where they kind of awkwardly tweaked numbers to reflect the lack of an in-game store but didn't really mess with the core systems. And because these systems are threaded throughout the entire game (unlike some actual mobile-first games I've reviewed, where they kept them mostly locked into one little corner) you can't even really ignore them.

And yet...This isn't a mobile game port. It's not on the iOS App Store, or the Google Play Store, or even the N-Gage Taco Shop. (The N-Gage Taco Shop is not a real service) As far as I can tell, TurtlePop is being presented as a Nintendo Switch exclusive, or at least primary, title.

And it's all been made like a money-grubbing free-to-play whale-fishing mobile game. Except without any of the money to grub or whales to fish for, so all the mechanics just feel...pointless.

So I'm left with two possibilities. Either the developers have such mobile-focused experience that that's what they just assume a videogame is. Or, and this is the really wobbly possibility. The whole thing is in this super kid-focused aesthetic, right?

So...What if it's made like a toothless version of a mobile game, because that's what kid games are now?

I'm not sure I like that possibility. I'm not sure I like it at all.

But that's not TurtlePop in isolate. No, to look at this game on its own...I mean, it's fine. It doesn't do anything wrong that I've seen, except maybe borrowing some of the addictive reward-loops of those whale fishers. Certainly not at the scale where I'd throw a hard Avoid on it. It's just not something special enough, on an increasingly stuffed Nintendo Switch eShop, for me to give it a nice shiny Recommendation, either.

I don't know. If it really looks like something you or, more likely, your kid would want to play, I'm not about to stop you.