Readers may remember how much I liked Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion, principally because of how funny it was. It was an intelligent and somewhat loving take on a Zelda-y RPG – a small town hero gets a sword and goes on a rampage fighting some bosses – except the main character is a turnip. And also he tears up any paperwork handed to him. Turnip Boy Robs A Bank follows directly on from his Tax Evasion, and it’s not quite as funny or as focused, but it’s also an entirely different genre of game, and I have a huge amount respect for that.
It’s not going to be unrecogniseable if you played and enjoyed Tax Evasion – it still has the same amazing character art, largely the same cast, and the same sense of humour – but Turnip Boy Robs A Bank is an action roguelite. Having discovered his identity as the eldest son and heir of the crime boss Don Turnipchino, Turnipchino II is allied with the Pickled Gang (a gang of pickles he met at the end of the last game) to, you know, rob the bank. Multiple times, which is where the roguelitery comes in. Whenever you arrive at the bank, you only have a few minutes to raise hell before SWAT teams of the fuzz arrive. If you die, your take home is smaller, so it’s good to get while the getting is good, as you put the money back into upgrades and tools you need to open up new areas of the bank.
Not only will Turnip Boy need, for example, boots to walk through the toxic ooze near the back of the bank, and a torch to light his way, it’s also useful to get C4 early on so you can blow open safes. Such items can be sourced from the dark web, while a hench cyborg tomato will provide you with boosts to your health, carrying capcity, damage, the time you can spend in the bank, and also an AOE bag of milk that explodes (and apologises) when you’re hit by an enemy.
By this point you’ll already know if you’ll enjoy the tone of Turnip Boy Robs A Bank. I do! The jokes aren’t quite as numerous or obviously based on genre tropes, but I suppose it’s harder parodying a roguelike than an RPG. Many of the best yuks are predicated on you having played the original Turnip Boy game. When someone gives you a bit of paper this time, it is laminated; “They’ve learned”, you are told. But there is, to be completely fair, a high floor on how much I’ll enjoy Turnip Boy. The concept is just inherently funny, especially when you add Turnip Boy’s limited but extremely communicative suite of facial expressions. The fuzz are called the fuzz because the cops are mostly peaches. Come on. It’d take a cold heart indeed to not crack a smile at Turnip Boy having a boss fight with a giant mutant toffee apple, or a head of security who is in fact a potato called Sergeant Yeehaw.
Though the halls are full of bell pepper guards, the bosses are where your combat skills are put to the test. It’s not incredibly deep, but combat is relentlessly cheerful, and does require some pre-planning on your part. Turnip Boy can equip two weapons at once, the base two being a pistol and his wooden sword. You can pick up weirder and better weapons – a cactus that shoots spines, a massive scythe, an energy sword – but you can’t pack anything into your inventory for later. So every time you come across a new weapon you have to think about what sort of fights you’re going to have in the immediate future. If you survive your bank robbery, you keep whatever weapons you have on you, and can trade in the exotic ones against weapon research. You might want to keep the giant fish you found, but trading it in will unlock the shotgun as a starting weapon. Weapons are distinct enough in speed, damage and spread that you’ll have favourites, but the boss fights aren’t complicated Soulsian affairs, and mostly it’ll only take you a couple of attempts to nail the bullet hell of it all. Most tactics, once you learn the boss patterns, can be reduced to “run around pressing attack”.
There’s one boss in each corner of the main floor of the bank, each in a themed area of escalating difficulty and entertaining theme. When you run into the potato sergeant he’s the hardest encounter you’ve had, so you return to robbing the bank until you’re stronger and better. Then you beat him, go back to robbing until you have enough money to buy a cardboard box, use the box to get access to the toffee apple, and repeat that process. It gets a bit grindy, but Turnip Boy Robs A Bank makes an effort to keep things fresh by popping lifts around that main floor, and randomising where they take you. There are offices, a satanic thunderdome, a mushroom-based cult, a shower locker room where you can store weapons for later runs, a DJ who looks like a Dark Souls bonfire, and so on. On many of these floors you’ll find characters who either give you missions or are the mission objective in some way, e.g. office worker who wants signed divorce papers from her husband elsewhere in the bank.
So you can imagine how it goes. You find the maritally-disadvantaged lime woman on an office floor and, after cracking all the safes around her, find her husband and shake that sucker down for the papers. But then you have to cheese it ‘cos the fuzz are coming – but the next time you rob the bank, none of the lifts go to her office. Instead you find one lonely guy who wants a lot of pet rocks, most of which are gathered by doing favours for other people. A goblin wants a bodypillow, that kind of thing. These side missions are of variable charm, but even there you’ll find some attention to detail that maybe a different studio wouldn’t be arsed with. When you supply the pet rocks, they appear in his room, jumping around the floor.
It does lack the focus I enjoyed in Tax Evasion, but perhaps I just like roguelites less than I do RPGs. And though it’s in danger of getting tiresome despite the variety, Turnip Boy Robs A Bank doesn’t outstay its welcome. You can probably complete the game in about 8 hours, which is an ideal runtime if you ask me, and is more than enough time to make enough money to get all the upgrades and then some. The game also benefits from the extremely short length of each attempt to rob the bank, as you can make a lot of progress in about half an hour, which is about ten robberies, give or take.
So it definitely leans into the lite in roguelite, but it’s a good version of that, and it does much more with its story and characters than you might expect. Turnip Boy Robs A Bank fully commits to the bit, doesn’t feel the need to explain itself, and it’s having fun – all things that are big ticks. I suspect it’s not super welcoming to a player who isn’t already a Turnip Boy fan, and, indeed, it’s my second favourite Turnip Boy game, but I still hope there are more games in this world that are all a bit different, every single time.