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Review by: Bob Mandel
Published: March 3, 2000
Sometimes, timing is everything. Tonic Trouble took three years to make, and for a variety of reasons, was significantly delayed after its scheduled release in early 1998. Created by many of the same French designers as Rayman 2, Tonic Trouble was supposed to precede that landmark title, but followed it instead, and therefore has a lot to live up to. As a straight action-platform title with no pretensions of being anything more, evaluating Tonic Trouble will help us answer the question of whether being a latecomer to the crowded platformers club will be a help or a hindrance.
The story is intentionally bizarre. A purple alien janitor named Ed accidentally spills a strange tonic over the Earth, and it changes everything it touches in weird ways. An evil Viking named Grogh gains control of the tonic, and becomes obsessed with ruling the world. Frightened and stunned, Ed is ordered to set things straight. To start the action, he experiences a wild ride down a ski slope, which introduces you to the arcade reflexes needed throughout the game, and then he is off to save the world. There is no reason from the outset to believe Ed has any possibility of achieving this monumental goal, as being a member of the lowest rung of society, he possesses absolutely no assets that would help him along the way. Rather than being endearing and creative the way Rayman is, the also-limbless Ed is just cheerily incompetent. You get to guide him as he attempts to achieve this seemingly impossible task.
There are 12 amusing worlds in Tonic Trouble. Some of the more endearing ones are Doc’s Cave, which includes a beautiful hidden lava river; Vegetable Headquarters, which contains the most ominous assortment of salad ingredients you would ever see; Glacial Cocktail, filled with sangria-laden rivers and giant fruits; Pressure Cooker, which incorporates taunting guards; and Crazy Tower, with its upside-down hourglass. I also like the Desert of Inverted Pyramids, which shows the artistic flair of which the designers are capable. The basic concept for each environment is often quite novel, but the execution and function have little to do with the story. As you move through the game, you accomplish three primary objectives in order: One, freeing Doc; two, finding certain items for Doc so he can build a machine to send Ed to Grogh’s tower; and three, defeating Grogh and his guards, and retrieving the tonic. The more items you gather, the more new worlds and special powers become available. The environments are quite diverse, but are not nearly as absorbing and full of life as those in other action-platform titles.
You encounter about 40 extremely colorful characters along the way. These include Doc, a paranoid genius who is building a machine that will give you access to Grogh’s fortress, but who is trapped in a cave by an out-of-control robotic suitcase; Suzy, Doc’s fashionable daughter; and Dinocow, a gentle mix of a dog, a cow, and a tyrannosaurus. Tomatoes, carrots, corn, turnips, onions, mushrooms, peppers, and beans, normally considered healthy food substances, are transformed into vicious killers. They crush, slice, roast, bite, and mash opponents. You run into countless tonic-affected mutants along the way, and oddities such as burning toast and mummies add to the fray. It is nice that the characters appear and re-appear quite naturally, rather than just waiting for you to bump into them, and that they react differently to your presence each time you encounter them, but very few have the kind of well-developed personalities that get your emotions flowing in a sympathetic, or unsympathetic, manner.
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