What do you get when you combine magic, martial arts and hard-shelled reptiles? Nope! It’s not Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles! The correct answer is Turtix, a charming yet challenging, classic-style platform game.

So, what’s the side-scrolling story with this hero in a half-shell? It’s all about magic gone awry.

Turtix, star pupil at the School of Magic, cast a difficult and powerful spell one day unsupervised by his teacher, the old shaman. Regrettably, the magic ran amuck and shattered the Amulet of Peace and Harmony. Now unprotected, dark forces have invaded the land and evil henchmen have kidnapped all the young magicians-in-training. Thus, at fault and determined to set things right, Turtix embarks on a quest to rescue his fellow students and gather the amulet’s shards.

Turtix spans five islands, each with a different theme (Asian, Egyptian, Artic, etc.), and sports dozens of enemies to defeat via two game modes, Story and Arcade. Story Mode transpires one level and island at a time, while Arcade permits you to replay any completed level. Easy, Normal and Hard difficulty settings allow you to match your level of gaming expertise. And, keyboard, mouse and joystick (or any combination) are all supported.

As far as side-scrollers go, Turtix is standard fare. The goal is to negotiate each level, jumping from platform to platform while avoiding enemies and traps, collecting gems, rescuing captive turtles and, at the end of each island, defeating the “boss” who guards a piece of the amulet.

Foes include simple nasties like snails, bats and penguins, as well as more troublesome adversaries such as turtles (most enemies are of the carapace-covered variety) wielding throwing stars, bones and magic bullets. To eliminate an opponent, simply jump on their head to stun them and give a swift kick to finish the job. Some, however, need to stop and lower their defenses before being subdued. Otherwise, Turtix takes damage. Others are impervious to attack and must simply be avoided. Traps, conversely, are stationary and consist of hazards like spike pits, water and various deadly mechanisms.

Power-ups, the staple of heroes everywhere, are surprisingly limited. The Double Jump, received early on, could be considered the first. But, it’s not so much a power-up as an acquired skill, one that allows you to reach the higher platforms and gems that follow. True power-ups include the Fire Spell, used to stun enemies at a distance; Magic Hearts, for restoring lost energy caused by damage; and 1 Ups, providing an extra life.

In addition to nabbing power-ups, collect every gem you can find. These earn points toward your total score, as well as provide an extra life for each 50,000 acquired. Special gem-collecting levels earn an additional life, but time is limited so act fast to collect its trinkets.

What about freeing those helpless little turtles? Well, jumping on top of their cage does the trick. Though, it only works once the enemy guarding them has been dispatched. Meanwhile, game saves are handled automatically. Birds, interspersed throughout each level, act as checkpoints, raising a check-marked sign when you pass. Die before reaching the end of the level and you’ll reappear at the closest checkpoint.

Regarding presentation, Turtix is definitely no tortoise — it leads the pack! It’s one of the most visually stunning casual games available, depicting a vibrant world with multiple levels of parallax scrolling (background images move slower than foreground images to create an illusion of depth). Characters are beautifully illustrated and animated, and exude the designers’ sense of humor. For example, pause too long and Turtix pulls out a boom box for amusement. And speaking of music, it’s cheerful, easy on the ears and themed to match each world. In a nutshell (or is that a turtle shell), Turtix is a treat for the senses.

It’s also great fun regardless of age. In fact, it’s a wonderful game for the entire family, thanks to its multiple difficulty levels. It’s definitely one of the more forgiving side-scrollers.

Turtix, however, does have a few cracks in its shell. Almost all enemies are dispatched in the same fashion, by jumping on their heads (or using the Fire Spell), then kicking them. Some added variety such as shooting nets at enemies, knocking them off platforms or dropping boulders to squash them flat would have enhanced the action. Additional power-ups are warranted, too. Otherwise, there’s little to criticize.

Whether you’re a fan of classic platform games or have yet to indulge, Turtix is a must have download. Go ahead. Stick your neck out and give it a try!