...and his head was shaped like a GIANT rupee!
Imagine an alternative universe to Hyrule, where the people you meet are odd, the things you see are odd, and the places you go are also odd. Along with all of these out of place sights is the oddest one of all, Tingle. A minor character introduced in the Legend of Zelda games, Tingle hoards rupees and dresses like a fairy. Tingle's origins are introduced in Rosy Rupeeland by a character with the name of “Uncle Rupee". Before this quest, it seems that Tingle was just an ordinary man with an unfulfilling, ordinary life. Much like Link though, once he receives his green uniform, he is bound to an adventure in which he must go along with whatever he is confronted with.
Unlike our Hylian hero, Tingle's quest is for personal gain. Uncle Rupee offers him everything he could desire in a place called Rupeeland, and the way to reach it is by dumping increasing numbers of rupees into a pool beside Tingle's house. Firstly though, Uncle Rupee decides that the only way you can go on this quest is to transform your clothes into green tights. Apparently, this also means that you must dance around in a quirky manner, wiggle when you open a chest, and make crude faces whenever you talk to someone. Initially, Tingle's only source of rupees is from the island he lives on, but reaching certain thresholds of rupees causes the pool to rise into a tower. As the tower increases in height, it opens up new islands to explore. The problem now: how to find such large quantities of rupees?
Rupees are of utmost importance. It is imperative to never use all of your rupees, as they act as a life meter. If you reach zero, it's game over, and a low rupee count severely restricts your ability to battle. Ingredients are one important source of income for Tingle. At home, he has a cooking pot in which he can create potions from recipes or random addition of items. These can be sold to villagers for high prices and are vital for funding your quests.
Being a big fan of fairies, it must please Tingle that he is offered a fairy assistant. This assistant goes by the name of Pinkle, and she does not seem to visually resemble the Zelda fairies we know, starting with her rather small, pink outfit. She seems to live inside a DS-like computer in Tingle's house, communicating through this computer and also by contacting Tingle while he travelling through a phone-like device. She administers saves, hints, and offers a height comparison for the tower while making "ooh aah"-type sounds at him.
Fighting enemies takes place all around you while adventuring, as expected. For a while after Tingle bumps into an enemy, he rolls around with it in a cloud of dirt. Rupees will start to tick away from your total. Your choice is then either to tap the screen to speed up the battle and lose fewer rupees, or walk around and catch more enemies in the cloud for a combo. The larger the combo, the more items are dropped by the defeated monsters. Enemies have different attack patterns and drop a variety of ingredients. Some of the more valuable items can only be won from a group of enemies, and it's not made easy. You could be trying to catch as many flying pigs or alien-faced cows as you can while going for a mushroom that you can only engage when it sprouts four legs and walks away, just to get larger numbers of the ingredients that you use frequently. You can see the cycle begin to shape itself: you need rupees to be able to go into battle for collecting ingredients, and you need ingredients to generate rupees.
Battling by yourself with not a weapon in sight gets difficult, so the first recommendation is to hire a bodyguard. They can be contracted by negotiating payment and will stay with you until their own lifemeter depletes. They help you to finish battles sooner, as well as lose fewer rupees. There are different types of bodyguards to suit different needs. For example, some will chase after quick enemies, while others just sit back until you add them to the fight, allowing the largest combos. Bodyguards come in all shapes and forms, including a sad but serious clown, a secret agent, or even a dog.
Negotiating payments is in fact one of the themes of the game. It's already been mentioned that just about everything you do comes with a rupee fee, and the amount of this fee is decided through bartering. This is the only way to get vital information, items, or even reward money. If you over- or underestimate, you could potentially lose a large number of rupees. Resetting the game seems to be condoned though, because you are reminded to save before setting out on an adventure from the very start.
This is where the equivalent of levelling up in an RPG shows through. Fight monsters to fetch ingredients, then turn these into recipes and sell for them rupees to feed your tower or to increase your life before you start on a new area. Quests and dungeons do not necessarily give you enough rupees to increase the tower's height enough to reach the next area, so you can find yourself in this cycle for quite some time before making progress.
The tasks you can complete on each island for the rupee haul vary greatly. Most islands have the set format of a dungeon that you have to pay to enter, then a maze-like setting to work through, followed by a boss. However, sometimes you have to solve puzzles or fetch items or simply gather new ingredients. Dungeons are always worth the price of admission, and the bosses yield large numbers of rupees in battles that are never the same in format. This part of the game contains much of the original gameplay, since your quests have so much variety, but there is little to do before a new area reverts to an ingredient source.
Aside from the variation in tasks, though, the game really is quite simple and extremely linear. Dungeons are simple mazes, and your other quests are mainly a matter of walking around. You are told what needs to be done and where you need to go. The strangeness of the surroundings wears off after a while and is no longer surprising. It's essentially an entire game of side quests, with rupee generation as the main game and the most frequent time sink.