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Freshly-Picked: Tingle's Rosy Rupeeland

For: DS

Already wilting

Product: Freshly-Picked: Tingle's Rosy Rupeeland | Developer: Vanpool | Publisher: Nintendo | Format: DS | Genre: RPG | Players: 1 | Version: Europe
Freshly-Picked: Tingle's Rosy Rupeeland DS, thumbnail 1
We would love to have sat in on the meeting where this game concept was pitched.

"So the hero is a 35-year-old virgin, who lives alone, has a penchant for dressing up in a green fairy suit and shaking his ample booty to saxophone-based freeform jazz?" queries a bemused-looking Nintendo boss.

"Yes," chirps back the enthusiastic Japanese designer. "By gamers, for gamers."

Well, maybe. Regardless of whether that imaginary designer has a point (our jumpsuit is currently at the cleaners), there is some logic in making a hitherto peripheral character the star of the show.

You see, the gin-blossomed Tingle has played a minor role in several of the more recent Zelda games and the prefix 'much-loved' hasn't been attached to his unfortunate moniker. So, if nothing else, he allows the developer to try out some new ideas without fear of offending fans of an established series.

But while Freshly-Picked: Tingle's Rosy Rupeeland is a fairly traditional role-playing game, involving much exploring of 11 strange islands, some dungeon trawls in search of treasure and lots of little errands for needy folk, it's money that makes this world go round.

Every successful scrap earns you a few more rupees. Find ingredients and you can mix them up in your pot at home – using your stylus as the wooden spoon – to cook up items to be sold. Map your travels and you can flog the parchment to the town cartographer, further boosting your cash and enabling you to throw your pennies into a magic pool. From its sparkling waters, a tower steadily increases in height, making it possible to leap ever further to new territories and ultimately elevating you to reach the fabled Rupeeland.

But it's a two-way deal. You have to slip some readies to the array of oddball characters that populate the game before they'll offer any useful information. As your stash of rupees also acts as your health – when you're skint, you're dead – it's especially galling when they reply with vague generalities. It discourages you from making small talk, too. It's a pity, given that this kind of idle chit-chat is often how RPGs gradually win your affections, as you banter with the locals and smile at their quirky life stories. Here, the dialogue can be witty, but it always feels business-like.

This becomes particularly apparent when you do perform some favour for a resident and the grateful soul asks you to name your price. But how much should you charge for returning a lost doll to a distraught kiddie? Just what is the going rate for curing a sickly spouse? Ask too much and you'll get nothing for being greedy, but ask too little and you feel you've missed an opportunity. There's no guide, or indeed logic, to what anything costs, so you never get the sense of satisfaction of knowing you've struck a good deal that we presume second-hand car salesmen thrive on. You simply end up feeling short-changed and frustrated.

Combat also leaves you wondering if you should have bothered. Wander up to an adversary and a cartoon-style dust cloud of flailing limbs enthuses, resulting in your deceased enemy offering up rupees or other useful items, but at the expense of some cash from your own purse. There is a little strategy involved, as through nifty footwork you can engage multiple foes and increase your potential gains, plus tapping the melee with your stylus is supposed to help, though it remains unclear how much this really contributes.

It's safer to get some bruiser to do the fighting for you and in one of the game's more interesting ideas you can hire a burly mercenary to join you on your quest. Again, you're never sure whether you paid over the odds for their services, but there is some pleasure to be had in directing your hired muscle to do the fisticuffs while you pick up the rewards. At least, having company on your travels is comforting, as you will be repeatedly trudging over familiar ground to return home in order to save your progress or sell your accumulated treasures back in town.

Now, we're hardly making Freshly-Picked: Tingle's Rosy Rupeeland sound like a joy to play, and though your teeth will frequently be gritted, you will also find yourself smiling. The busty Pinkle, the fairy who assists you on your journey with a flirtatious flutter of her eyelashes, the camp bridge builder taking a day off from his Village People duties, the angular Uncle Rupee who urges on your avarice… all are drawn with a real eye for detail and character. Lovely stuff.

And perhaps that's how best to approach this game. Enjoy what it gets right – the confident visuals, the familiar pleasure of finding and keeping, and the offbeat humour – and grin and bear the attempts at innovation that don't quite work. Nevertheless, even as your tower grows taller, it's hard to maintain the excitement, especially considering the proximity of The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass.
Freshly-Picked: Tingle's Rosy Rupeeland
Reviewer photo
Paul Drury | 5 October 2007
Freshly-Picked: Tingle's Rosy Rupeeland is a simple role-playing game that tries to freshen up the genre, but doesn't come up smelling of roses
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