Review: Turok: Escape from Lost Valley


It should have remained extinct

I'm not a fan of short intros where reviewers bluntly tell you to avoid a particular game. There are many different factors for why a title can end up so bad that you want to chug battery acid instead of playing it. Sometimes things don't come together as expected or a team lacks experience, which makes being overly harsh a pointless endeavor. Reviews should serve as a way to give feedback instead of venting your frustrations on the world.

That being said, Turok: Escape from Lost Valley is likely to end up the worst game I review in my career as a critic. For all intents and purposes, avoid this at all costs. It is not worth the frustration it takes to see the ending for yourself. You're better off assuming the video game series ended in 2008 with that stupid rebooted game by Propaganda Games.

If you must learn why I'm saying this, though, read on.

Turok: Escape from Lost Valley review

Turok: Escape from Lost Valley (PC)
Developer: Pillow Pig Games
Publisher: Universal Studios Interactive Entertainment
Released: July 25, 2019
MSRP: $14.99

In a refreshingly streamlined move, the title of Turok: Escape from Lost Valley tells you exactly what this game is about. Titular star Turok is looking to escape from the "Lost Valley." That's precisely all this game is about as there are very little cutscenes and dialogue boxes to clue you in to what is going on. Born from a contest that Universal held for smaller teams to do something with one of its IPs, this almost feels like the exact type of game you'd see spring up from a Game Jam session. It's light and to the point.

In a bold move from the shooters that came before, Escape from Lost Valley is an isometric action game that has more in common with Bastion than anything Acclaim ever released. You have a basic melee attack, a ranged bow attack, a dodge roll, and the ability to jump/climb certain ledges. It's all simple and, on paper, should make for an easy game to pick up and chill out with. Even the level design is rarely taxing, progressing in a mostly linear fashion with slight deviations from the main path for upgrades.

I also want to make note of the art style, which is another stark departure from what fans of the '90s games are used to. Turok, his friend Andar, and all of the enemies resemble Saturday morning cartoon characters instead of the dark, grisly interpretation that the shooters had. It's exceptionally cute, looks very sharp in HD, and is undoubtedly charming. It's also the best aspect of the game, giving a new look to an old classic that feels like a creative interpretation instead of just regurgitated nonsense. Sadly, that's about all the positives I can give for this game. Trailers and footage won't do Escape from Lost Valley justice, because it is probably the most broken and frustratingly slow game I've ever played.

As is the problem with most isometric action titles, judging the distance between you and foes is a crapshoot. It doesn't help that Turok's basic melee attack seems to go three inches in front of him, but oftentimes you'll be behind an enemy and unable to gauge where you are on the screen. Couple that with the dodge roll that somehow leaves you open to attacks after use and each system never coalesces into more than a massive migraine.

The actions are all simple and accomplished with basic button presses, but trying to execute them while hordes of foes are on top of you causes a lot of pain. The first level doesn't properly prepare you for how soul-crushingly difficult Escape from Lost Valley is, which is not something I was expecting from this art style. For the record, I'm fine with games being as difficult as the developers want them to be, but Escape from Lost Valley seems to have confused challenge with being plain unfair.

If you remove how often you'll be dying to sloppy controls, poor visibility, and punishingly awful bosses, the levels in Turok: Escape from Lost Valley would probably take about 15 minutes each. There are only six in the game and it seems effort was spent on bumping up the difficulty instead of providing honest challenges for the player. I'll give credit to each area having a different theme and presenting unique foes to the player, but they all function the same way and are often thrown at you in overwhelming numbers instead of complementing each other.

Turok: Escape from Lost Valley review

The best (worst?) example I can give comes from the third level. Your perpetually inept partner Andar – speaking of which, this game somehow does not feature co-op play – gets captured by "Monkey Men," so Turok has to fight them off to save him. While it starts off with only two enemies attacking you, the game increases that number twofold for five different waves of enemies. Their movement patterns are erratic and without repetition, so you have no idea where they'll be going. They sling vines at Turok that tie him up when they connect. Instead of letting the player smash buttons to get out of this trap, Turok sits there like a dumbass for a few seconds, which gives the enemies ample time to strike.

Regardless of the difficulty you've selected, the enemies attack you for three hit points of your health bar. I don't think I need to tell you how irritating this becomes after a while. You can't predictively move to dodge these attacks, getting the enemies to even open themselves up takes forever, the stupid intro dialogue box appears every single time you restart, Turok's attack has such a limited range that you'll often miss and leave yourself open, the dodge roll is almost worthless since enemies can ignore it, the arrows are pointless as the enemies move too quickly…I know I'm rambling here, but the thoughts racing through my head and the words leaving my mouth during that moment nearly made me want to drop kick my door off the hinges.

This doesn't let up for the entire game, either. As I said, instead of providing a healthy challenge to the player that requires skill to overcome, it seems Pillow Pig Games cranked up the "difficulty" to compensate for the obscenely short levels. Even knowing how to combat these threats doesn't make said moments any easier. The game is just unfair with how it taxes the player at any given turn. Worse still, it actively wastes your time in certain moments by having you repeat unskippable moments of dialogue or cutscenes.

Turok: Escape from Lost Valley review

I could almost forgive some of this, but the true moment that took the cake for me was in the last level. To accurately describe the anguish I went through, I need to set the stage a little better. When I first started Turok: Escape from Lost Valley, I selected "Hard" because I was seriously not expecting much. The first boss destroyed me, so I falsely assumed that mode was balanced for co-op play. Co-op isn't an option (as stated above), so it's really meant for masochists. I dropped it down to "Medium" and was able to progress to the third level. I was promptly flattened by the third boss. Since I hate myself a little and really wanted to give everyone the best review possible, I restarted a second time, swallowed my pride, and put the game on "Easy."

So after all of this, I managed to progress to the final level after four-and-a-half hours and came across a boss fight with two invisible lizards. You can see their tracks on the ground, thankfully, but they often popped up from behind me as I was aiming at what I thought was one of them. Andar, my ever-valuable friend, would peg me with an arrow and interrupt my attack. At that same moment, a lizard would spring up and bite me from behind while I was unable to move. Trying to dodge roll to escape more damage, I ran straight into the second lizard I couldn't see who bit me again and sapped my health to near half. Since the game wasn't done devouring my existence with that, the original lizard hit me a third time and left me with a single point of HP. Why not just kill my family, while you're at it?

Did I ever finish the game? As a matter of fact, I did.

After cursing up a blue streak, shutting the game off for the rest of the day, and punishing myself at the gym for a few hours the following morning, I managed to topple the bastards after five more attempts. I have no idea why I was so determined, but the deed is done. Shortly after, the final boss was in front of me and he was comparatively a joke. Turok: Escape from Lost Valley can't even keep its BS consistent.

Turok: Escape from Lost Valley review

But really, the idea of this title isn't a bad one. I don't see why Turok can't be a cutesy action title having more in common with the comic line than the '90s shooters. I even really dig the art, which hurts me to write about how awful everything else is. I know this was made by two people and conceived from a contest, but this really is not an acceptable release.

My only hope with writing this is that people honestly read the words I've put down. I really don't want anyone to take a quick glance at the score and go, "I knew it! My childhood is dead and these developers are jackasses!" I loved Turok as a kid and those games still exist as they were. I don't feel that Escape from Lost Valley is a betrayal of my youth or anything melodramatic. I mostly am just upset that this brilliantly adorable game turned out so shockingly poor.

So unless you're in the mood to ruin your day and possibly take a few years off of your life, do yourself a favor and skip Turok: Escape from Lost Valley. Whatever the core concept was, it has not turned out well.

[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]

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Turok: Escape from Lost Valley reviewed by Peter Glagowski



Any good they might have had are quickly swallowed up by a plethora of issues. The desperate or the gullible may find a glimmer of fun hidden somewhere in the pit.
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Peter Glagowski
Peter Glagowski   gamer profile

Former Dtoid staff member. more + disclosures



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