Our latest installment of Quick Reviews takes a look at a bleak platformer, an epic geometric battle, and a maze-style puzzler.
DEO is a stylish physics platformer from Strapped to a Meteor. It features a very dour, bleak graphical interface that represents our dying world. The goal of the game is to revive the lifeless planetoid pieces by having our main character, a plucky red orb with gigantic black eyes, leap from his starting place to the red goal platform. This occurs while the planetoid piece slowly rotates in place. There are a series of small grassy spots upon which he can safely land. The rugged terrain will cause him to slide into the dangerous black areas if he waits too long to jump, and there are several ruts into which he can slip and not escape due to the angle of his leaps. Sliding off of the planetoid into oblivion is also a common occurrence. Jumping is controlled by touching the screen quickly for tiny jumps or holding your finger to charge his bounce, creating a powerful leap. Timing is key and quite difficult to anticipate other than by feel. He only ever leaps toward the right, too, so you cannot correct an overjump even if he does land on a safe platform. There are no timers to battle, points to earn, or social gaming aspects to create replay value, just the singular and lonely goal of restoring a world abandoned by others and forgotten by time.
It’s the difficulty in judging the jumps that most frustrates us, though the confusing menu system also led to plenty of frustration. It is unclear how many levels you’ve completed, how many remain, or how you can bypass levels you’ve already completed, as we’ve been forced to replay certain levels again and again due to these issues. Every 3 completed levels should unlock another section of the planet to conquer, but figuring out where your progress stands is confusing due to the lack of on-screen information. Additionally, a number of levels obscure the green grass until you land on it, making it a weird guessing game that can feel like a waste of time rather than a fun challenge. What started out as an interesting and fairly enjoyable venture quickly dissolved into annoyance at these shortcomings that marred an otherwise good time. There are 96 levels to play and the simple controls, atmospheric audio, and stylish graphics are all positives, but the game just doesn’t hit the mark for us when it counts. For $0.99, it is a 3.5-Dimple app that’s priced right provided that updates will address our issues.
Cubes vs. Spheres
Cubes vs. Spheres is ShockPanda Games’ minimalistic physics platformer with castle defense qualities and light RPG elements. Set upon a white-washed world with blocky outcroppings in the distance, red cubes stream over the embankments and roll their way towards your circle. If enough of them reach you, it’s game over. The only way to defeat them is to flick spheres at them, blowing them to pixilated bits and eliminating their threat. There are several types of spheres that can be purchased using points you earn by completing levels, though you do have infinite access to the standard blue spheres that you start with. You can upgrade these spheres to split into 3 or more spheres by tapping the screen. Other special spheres include a fire sphere that explodes upon contact or detonation by tapping the screen, an anchor sphere that barrels through multiple cubes, a decoy cube that attracts cubes and explodes in their faces, a homing-missile sphere that locks onto the closest cube and destroys it, and more. These additional sphere types are limited and, once used, will need to be repurchased. Balancing their use and the use of the standard spheres is important for survival. There are 3 difficulty levels, with 10 game levels in each.
The controls are a bit of a mixed bag, requiring some effort to get used to. It can be difficult to judge the depth of the level and the positioning of the cubes, resulting in missed opportunities by overthrowing a sphere or splitting it at a point where the spheres roll harmlessly between cubes instead of right into them. A slow flick should result in a slow roller, while a forceful flick should whip the sphere quickly, though this isn’t always the case. Additionally, since one of the viewpoint control options involves swiping to look around, there is naturally some confusion that arises when you intend one action that results in the other. There were also times where the flick mechanic was completely unresponsive and trying to aim at a cube at the very edge of your viewing angle is tragically difficult. Still, the game remains a lot of fun and stockpiling a bunch of alternative spheres and unleashing them in one epic battle can be a blast. GameCenter integration provides global leaderboards and 3 dozen achievements to earn. A universal app for $0.99, Cubes vs. Spheres is a very solid 4-Dimple effort.
Spacelings is a new puzzler from HotGen that requires you to use a tractor beam to rescue Spacelings who are trapped in more than 100 mazelike levels. Limiting the number of times you can turn the beam at a 90-degree angle will force you to think outside the box as you scheme to rescue the stranded spacemen. Swiping on the screen will bend the beam around obstacles, as well as pick up anything in its path. Once the beam contacts the Spacelings, they’ll be slowly pulled toward their destination. Swiping the beam toward its goal can speed the return of the Spacelings, saving valuable seconds as your timer ticks down. A number of elements will need to be negotiated in order to ensure the safe travels of the Spacelings. Mines, bombs, teleports, and more will try to disrupt your plans.
Successful completion of each level can earn you medals for full rescues, quick rescues, destroying enemies, and even earning all medals within a single attempt. GameCenter integration brings global leaderboards into the fray for overall scores and medal collection, as well as an achievement system with nearly 2 dozen achievements to earn. The graphics are a bit busy, but passable without impressing all that much. The audio is ethereal and similarly good without standing out in any way. Controls are simple to use and fairly intuitive, though there are moments where they can feel a bit clunky and cause some frustrations. While the level design was good, it never left us searching for a solution for long, making it a nice option for younger gamers who may struggle with complex designs and tricky solutions in other offerings. A universal app for $0.99, Spacelings is pretty standard fare, racking up a respectable 3.5-Dimple score.
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