Since the explosion of mobile games began, there’s been a bunch that seem like they’d work just as well, if not better, on a game console, and with a controller. But while few mobile games ever make that transition, the 2D, side-scrolling, puzzle-driven platformer Leo’s Fortune is bucking this trend by bringing this iOS, Android, Windows phone, and Amazon Fire game to Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC, and Mac. And though it took a year to make the trip, it seems that it was time well spent.
In Leo’s Fortune, you plays a little ball of green fuzz with big eyes and a bigger mustache. Having lost all of his money, Leo sets out into the world, where someone just happened to leave a bunch of gold coins lying around where any bit of fuzz can just grab them.
As you might imagine, a lot of Leo’s Fortune will remind you of Mario’s better games, and not just because Leo has a bushy mustache and a bad European accent (though he sounds more like Antonio Banderas in those Nasonex commercials than Mario). Not only are there times when you have to move forward at just the right moment to avoid being crushed, but there’s some swimming parts, as well as moments where you ride in a cart like Mario’s monkey pal did when he got his own country.
But while Leo’s Fortune is a classic-style, 2D, side-scrolling platformer like so many of Mario’s best games — and the Donkey Kong Country games, and the Crash Bandicoot games… — it actually feels more like LittleBigPlanet than anything Ron Jeremy’s second cousin twice removed has ever done. In part, that’s due to the visuals, which are borderline photorealistic and have you running around in the cheap showiness of nature. Even all of the contraptions you have to deal with — be they levers, switches, or drawbridges — look as if they were made by a magical sprite that lives in your backyard.
The jumping in Leo’s Fortune also feels somewhat LittleBigPlanet-esque in the looseness of the controls. Though it’s more because, when Leo jumps, he does so by sucking air into his little lungs, and the resulting expansion of his body sends him flying. Once airborne, Leo can even change direction mid-flight or, if he holds his breath, float over great distances.
While Leo’s Fortune often recalls other games, it does have a lot of its own clever mechanics. Being a puffy ball, Leo can squeeze into some tight spots, though he still has enough weight that he can jump up and slam his body downward to work a switch or cause a level to move. Also, when he goes to jump, and sucks in air, he grows about twice his normal size. But he can also puff up when he’s in an enclosed area to lift objects or work switches to open doors.
In fact, what really sets Leo’s Fortune apart — and makes it so much fun — is when Leo has to use his skills to make some contraption work. Especially since these puzzles are always ones that could be made by someone in the real world. Sure, that person would need a really nice tool set, a lot of wood, a bunch of nails, some pulleys, and maybe a degree in engineering, but they’re still devices that could be built for real.
What also makes Leo’s Fortune a lot of fun is how, when dealing with those contraptions, you often have as much time as you need to figure out how they work. Though, at other times, you have to make split-second decisions or Leo will be killed, and the game does a good job balancing these moments. While it never has so many of the timed challenges that you become numb from nervousness, it also tends to throw them at you when you least expect them.
While Leo’s Fortune is clever and engaging, it’s far from perfect. The biggest issue being how people looking for a serious challenge might also find this to be a bit…not easy, exactly, but too forgiving. Though it does get harder as it progresses. It also doesn’t have much in the way of secret passages or shortcuts (save for an occasional golden gear that you only get if you jump at just the right time). The levels are largely linear, and even when you do see what looks like a blocked off pathway, it typically means you have to keep going until you find a switch, and then backtrack and take that other path.
It’s also easy, even in just the first couple levels, to think Leo’s Fortune might’ve benefited if Leo could manually squish himself down and get small, instead of only doing it when he’s being squished by something. Especially when you get to the level where he’s on top of a train and has to avoid obstacles passing by.
As for how well this works on console as opposed to a tablet, the answer is great. Well, mostly. On the plus side, it works perfectly with a controller; so well that I can’t imagine how you’d play it with a touchscreen. But, on the flipside, there were a couple moments when I got stuck because I couldn’t see something on my TV that I probably would’ve noticed if I was playing on a tablet…or if the light grey ball I needed to move wasn’t set against a light grey background.
In the end, Leo’s Fortune is a clever, inventive, and ultimately fun platformer. Sure, it owes a lot to Mario and LittleBigPlanet (and Donkey Kong, and Crash Bandicoot…), but by taking the tenets of those games and putting a puzzling spin on them, it not only becomes somewhat original and engaging, but it shows that some tablet games work on consoles, and sometimes even better.