Land-a Panda, a physics-based action puzzler from Big Pixel Studios, is now available from the app store. Combining Cut The Rope-style gameplay with Big Pixel’s familiar graphic style, this has the makings of an addictive and high-score-competitive gem.
Land-a Panda Pros:
- Addictive gameplay on par with most popular iOS games
- Clean graphics and fun animations
- Simple touch control system
- Lots of levels with more on the way
- GameCenter and OpenFeint integration for global leaderboards and achievements
Land-a Panda Cons:
- Graphics can be a little too cutesy for older gamers’ tastes
- Audio is serviceable without being all that great
- Level of precision needed to complete some areas will cause lots of retrys
The goal of the game is simple: get the male panda (Yang Guang) through the dangerous obstacles to the loving arms of his female partner (Tian Tian). Additionally, there are 3 coins spread throughout the level for Yang Guang to collect to show his girl how much he loves her. The level can be passed without collecting the coins, but you gain additional points for collecting each, as well as bonus points for the speed with which you complete each level. High-score junkies will really enjoy trying to find the fastest, most efficient path through each level to max out their scores.
Cannons are used to transport Yang Guang from the starting point to the heart of his beloved friend. Tapping a red balloon releases a weight that propels our hero into a nearby cannon. Tapping on the cannon will fire him toward another cannon. The cannons show some interesting variety, too. Some will automatically reposition themselves. Others move in predictable patterns, whether in a circle, side-to-side, or up-and-down. Still others require you to manually rotate them using left and right rotation buttons that appear at the screen bottom. It is a fun mechanic that also employs a great puzzling quality, as you must figure out which order to maneuver through the cannons to capture the coins quickly and find Tian Tian. Physics play a major role, as Yang Guang will fall in parabolic fashion, requiring you to shoot high and arc our hero’s path into the cannon. Timing your shots is important, as you’ll also need to control Yang Guang’s momentum so that he does not overshoot or undershoot his targets. As mentioned, obstacles abound to slow you down or kill Yang Guang. Spikey orbs, green floating enemies, stone barriers, breakable bricks, and even empty space. It feels very much like Cut the Rope with its varied elements and use of physics and momentum to arrive at your goal with all three coins in paw.
Visually, the game looks very much like Big Pixel’s other offerings, such as Piyo Blocks and Meow Meow Happy Fight. The colors pop and levels are laid out in a clean and deliberate fashion. The sound effects are serviceable, although Tian Tian’s cries when her boytoy dies can get annoying. The background music is decent, and you do get access to tunes from your own library if you like. Controls are touch-based, requiring taps on cannons to fire, taps on rotation buttons to move cannons, and drags on the screen to pan around the level. These were easy to use and very responsive, although we spent a lot of early time tapping the screen instead of the cannons. It was a bit difficult to wrap our mind around initially, but it makes the most sense given the panning method used.
Replay value is good, as many levels will require additional playthroughs to capture missing coins and reduce your time through the level. There are currently 4 worlds with 20 levels apiece. More are expected in future updates, but the initial 80 offer a good deal of play time. OpenFeint and GameCenter integration bring global leaderboards with cumulative scores for each of the 4 worlds. There are also a number of achievements to earn. With Land-a Panda’s $0.99 price tag (a separate iPad version will run you $1.99), it’s only a matter of time before this 4.5-Dimple puzzler makes a run up the charts.
Land-a Panda Review,