Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion Review

Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion is a top-down action and adventure videogame and it is poorly named. As the story begins, Turnip Boy has already committed tax evasion and owes more than $140,000 in property taxes for his Veggieville home. To begin paying back his debt, Mayor Onion recruits Turnip Boy to be his personal assistant, sending him on increasingly bizarre errands across town. Turnip Boy’s job crosses his path with a barn full of feral livestock, a refrigerated house crawling with zombified rotten vegetables, and a secret lab in a remote forest where mutated wildlife stalks intruders. The more inexplicable Mayor Onion’s requests become, the more it looks like Turnip Boy will never pay back his debt—but that might prove the least of his problems.

Turnip Boy receives his tax bill.

Despite its bizarre premise, Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion is in its broadest sense an adventure in the spirit of classic Legend of Zelda videogames. It emphasizes hack-and-slash combat with a sword in a lush, green world filled with puzzles for Turnip Boy to discover and solve. The more thorough he is in his exploration, the more prepared he will be for Mayor Onion’s next strange request, each of which sends the player character into a building that functions much like a small dungeon.

Within each dungeon, Turnip Boy discovers a new tool. Musty old boots let him kick explosive plants across rooms, removing obstacles and destroying fragile walls. A pair of mittens gives him the strength to push heavy blocks—nevermind that Turnip Boy does not have hands. A flowerpot generates two-way portals he can use to move himself and other objects across spaces and potentially around obstacles, if I can keep its simple order of operations straight in my head. Every tool Turnip Boy adds to his collection is key for finishing dungeons, but it also widens the space in Veggieville he has access to.

Turnip Boy kicks an explosive plant into a fragile wall.

As Turnip Boy explores, he must defend himself against hostile monsters. Instead of the usual collection of goose-stepping soldiers and man-eating demons, he is threatened by critters we normally see as harmless. The path leading to the sword is patrolled by snails. The outskirts of Veggieville shifts into a wilder forest where rabbits and deer frolic. In a videogame that tries to mine a lot of comedy from absurdism and non sequitur jokes, one of the best gags is the fact that timid and gentle herbivores are vicious maneaters to a living vegetable.

Outside of its dungeons, Veggieville thrives with activity. Almost every screen contains multiple non-player characters with something to say. The script isn’t deep. Speaking with the same character twice will have them regurgitate the last thing they said to Turnip Boy. This is useful if I miss an important detail the first time they speak and disconcertingly artificial if I’m looking for a way to progress the story forward or a character with something new to say.

Turnip Boy meets a carrot who assures him his box collection isn’t there to keep him in the level.

Some character dialog is funny, like a carrot who assures Turnip Boy that his “specifically placed box collection” definitely isn’t arranged to keep the player character within the level boundaries. Other characters make me pity the scriptwriter, like an elbow macaroni who repeats a sanitized version of the Navy Seal copypasta meme. Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion follows the comedic philosophy of pelting jokes at a wall in the hopes they’ll stick, with predictable success rates.

Most characters Turnip Boy speaks with have a task they want him to finish. On the very first screen, he meets a blueberry who wants to deliver a flower to their crush, a strawberry who lives down the road. Turnip Boy is recruited to be delivery boy. When he returns to the blueberry, he is given a copy of their Sun Hat to wear. Most of the rewards Turnip Boy receives for completing simple fetch quests are hats and other head decorations, with options as disparate as sturdy hardhats and regal crowns. I can cycle through any he has earned at any time in the pause menu. 

A blueberry has a request for Turnip Boy.

Most fetch quests require much more leg work than the blueberry’s simple flower delivery. Some requested items are found so long after Turnip Boy meets the person who wants it that I forget where to deliver it to, and there is no quest log to keep track of who wants what. Luckily, Veggieville is small, so it only takes a few minutes to retrace all of Turnip Boy’s steps and speak with everyone he’s met to find who wants a baby carrot or a can of spray paint.

Despite Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion’s wholesome Legend of Zelda influences, its protagonist is not a valiant hero. In order to obtain the sword needed to begin Mayor Onion’s first errand, Turnip Boy needs a watering can. His neighbor, Old Man Lemon, has one, but it’s a memento of his deceased wife. Turnip Boy is able to steal the can thanks to Old Man Lemon’s poor eyesight. The alleged hero’s first task is to steal from a helpless and grieving old man.

Turnip Boy’s first task is to steal a watering can from a blind old man.

The more I play, the more it becomes apparent there is something off about Turnip Boy. Though he lives in a world filled with animated fruits and vegetables able to communicate in complete sentences, express the full spectrum of emotions, and maintain a society built on a system of laws, Turnip Boy never fits in. He never communicates with more than an ellipsis—though this doesn’t seem to hinder others understanding him. No matter how strange, frightening, or amusing the situation he comes across while wandering Veggieville and interacting with its citizens, his face never changes from a vacant smile. Whenever he is presented with text printed on paper, whether in the form of a receipt, an advertisement, or a book, he tears it in half and drops it on the ground. I get the impression Turnip Boy didn’t deliberately commit tax evasion, he just doesn’t understand what the papers in his mailbox mean.

Videogame player characters often engage in sociopathic carnage which is politely ignored by most non-player characters around them. They enter a person’s home, rob them of all their valuables, smash all their delicates, interrogate the inhabitants, then leave as though nothing they have done violates any social norms. Turnip Boy parodies these tendencies by playing them completely and uncomfortably straight. He causes mayhem everywhere he goes and nobody questions his behavior. It’s just another day in Veggieville with their unsettling and impersonable neighbor Turnip Boy.

Turnip Boy communicates almost exclusively with ellipses.

Based on its title, I expect Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion to have something subversive to say about taxation. If I hoped to be enlightened with a new argument for or against taxation, I was disappointed not to find one. The real concept it seems to have in its sights is the concept of government itself.

Of the three main collectibles in Veggieville—hats, heart fruits, and documents—it is the documents which give the most sense of importance and progress. It is the only type given a checklist to ensure every one is found. If Turnip Boy defeats the final boss without finding and destroying every document, the villain’s dying taunt is that “the government will live on through the documents you missed!” Since documents include receipts, private letters, and anime fan art, that’s a bizarre statement. Only by finding every document can Turnip Boy fight the secret and actual final boss, a god who promises to bring “taxation without representation throughout the galaxies.”

Turnip Boy tears up a receipt he finds on the ground.

Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion is too silly for anything it says about taxation to be taken at face value. The topic was picked seemingly to create a provocative title. Any other reference to these ideas are to make jokes at the expense of easy targets. I don’t believe there is any actual ill feeling about either government or taxation to be found here. Its choice of these topics is instead indicative of how its humor is broad and lazy. If there is legitimate grievance, it’s muddied under too much irreverence to be felt.

However much I might criticize Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion for its attempts at comedy, I must acknowledge that comedy is hard, and it does have several jokes that make me laugh. Maybe its problem is it doesn’t fully commit to its own absurdism. 

Turnip Boy creeps through a dark bunker, watched by a shadowy figure.

The closer Turnip Boy comes to completing Mayor Onion’s errands, the fewer overt jokes are made and the story becomes distracted with explaining how the characters came to life. This is not a question I was asking of the narrative. In a videogame about a Turnip Boy committing tax evasion, “how does a turnip become a boy” is not an issue at the forefront of my mind. Rather than letting a society of vegetables that mirrors and mocks our own exist on its own merits, the narrative is forced into the shape of an origin story. 

Once the story begins poking needlessly at this topic, the tone swerves hard into tragedy and horror that clashes badly with the rest of the silly and light-hearted plot. Once the penultimate dungeon is finished, it swerves just as discordantly back into nonsense tax jokes. None of these diversions feels necessary and it makes the entire videogame suffer as a cohesive whole. 

A clairvoyant cat helps Turnip Boy find missed collectables.

I am not given much time to dwell on how Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion is a comedy that often fails to be funny and over-explains its own premise. It’s a tiny videogame. Including time spent wandering trying to find NPCs who will open access to the next dungeon, it takes me a little over two hours to complete every dungeon and find every hat, heart fruit, and document. The first time the final boss is defeated, a new character appears in Veggieville who helps Turnip Boy track down the collectibles he missed. With only a single difficulty level, I am given little reason or incentive to play more than once.

As though acknowledging how short Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion was upon release, it received a free expansion called The Sunset Station Update. This adds a new area to Veggieville, the titular Sunset Station, where Turnip Boy may board a train called the Limitless Line.

Turnip Boy dodges a sword swing from Conductor Onion on the Limitless Line.

The Limitless Line is a typical and rudimentary endless mode. Turnip Boy fights his way through an endless row of train cars filled with enemies and bosses. After boss fights, he can choose a powerup that makes him move faster, hit harder, or adds random effects, such as refilling his health, when he defeats monsters. Turnip Boy loops through the same four bosses over and over in a potentially infinite loop until he is finally defeated by the progressively stronger enemies. Only one boss is new. Every other enemy and boss is recycled from the main adventure.

I appreciate the effort to inject some more life into Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion, but the Limitless Line is too constrained by the core videogame’s simplicity. The basic monsters are not dangerous even after they gain a few damage increases. Only the bosses are at all threatening, and the looping nature of the mode ensures I soon find tricks that make them trivial as well. Turnip Boy does earn currency with each attempt he can spend on new hats and powerups for the Limitless Line, but getting all of these only adds a few more hours of playtime. The Sunset Station Update is a feeble and repetitive addition.

Constant references to taxes is the kind of humor Turnip Boy encounters in Veggieville.

Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion’s pervading problem is shallowness. None of its ideas feel fully developed. As a Zelda-style adventure, it’s short and small with little to discover, though I compliment the density of what is there. As a comedy, it’s often a miss and becomes indecisive in the story’s second hour when questions that don’t need answering step into the forefront. Even the addition of an endless combat mode in the Sunset Station Update feels like an afterthought. I wish Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion were as fun as its inexplicable title and its bright, cheerful graphics suggest. It is adequate and so short it barely makes an impression.