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Quick Reviews from the Request Desk – 12.11.11
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Our latest segment of Quick Reviews has us checking out a trio of new releases. Inertia: Escape Velocity is a physics-based platformer that uses gravity as a control mechanic. Mad Chef is a tap-based game of flinging knives at food stuffs as they pass across the screen. Swingworm is a cute puzzler with a stretchy protagonist who must collect berries as quickly as possible. Let’s take a look….

Inertia: Escape Velocity

Inertia: Escape Velocity is a physics-based, space-themed platformer from Red Fly Studio that gives you full control over gravitational pull in order to collect space scrap speedily and efficiently. You play as Hermes, a space junk collector with the ability to influence gravity at the touch of a button, using momentum to propel his body through treacherous terrain in a quest to snag as much of the valuable collectibles as he can while searching for the finish line. There are a number of control schemes involving movement buttons, sliders, and the like, as well as jump and inertia buttons. While the orientation of the buttons in many of the schemes may not feel natural or ideal, there are likely to be one or two schemes that should work for any player. Learning to control Hermes effectively is a bit of a challenge, and we never felt fully comfortable with this aspect of the game.

The graphics are decent, exhibiting a fun space theme with a good level of detail for a side-scrolling 2D adventure. There are 35 levels to play, allowing you to earn stars for completing the level, collecting all scrap, and reaching the endpoint within a strict time parameter, which we found to be ridiculously difficult to best with any regularity. Collected scrap allows you to unlock subsequent levels and progress through the game. An Inferno mode provides an even greater challenge for players who want to up the difficulty, though you’ll need to shell out extra dough as this mode is available via IAP. The soundtrack utilizes brooding atmospheric tunes to set the scene and various sound effects complement the arcade-like experience well. Replay value is decent if you want to attempt to earn all stars, and OpenFeint integration provides global leaderboards. At $1.99, Inertia: Escape Velocity is an interesting 3.5-Dimple offering.

Mad Chef

Mad Chef is a quirky tap-based affair from Foursaken Media. Your goal is to become a well-respected chef, but your beginnings running a food cart with your trusty sous chef are humble. With only a handful of disgusting recipes (Ratwurst, Pigeon Pie) at your disposal, you need to tap ingredients as your sous chef tosses them across the screen. Tapping the proper ones will fling knives into them, with the added difficulty of any missed items resulting in a knife striking one of your customers standing in the background. Orders arrive on a clothesline strung across the screen top, with completed ingredients falling off one-by-one until completed. Food Cart is timed, so once the clock runs out, you collect any money you’ve earned and hopefully enjoy a reputation boost. Money can be spent on new recipes, a better sous chef, a fridge, and other amenities. Before long, you’ll be running restaurants and raking in the big dough. Special bonus rounds require you to hit any and all ingredients tossed by the sous chef, giving you a huge influx of cash. A Take-Out restaurant mode provides an endless twist for gamers who’d rather not race the clock, forcing you to identify foods by category (a relative difficulty based on the image quality) while several patrons await their meals. As with all Foursaken offerings, there’s a ton of content once you really dive in, giving you huge bang for your buck.

Graphically, Mad Chef has a look and style that evokes thoughts of South Park. The characters inhabit a colorful world of weirdly odd shapes, devoid of any significant detail. Regardless, the aesthetic is pleasing in its simplicity. Animations are fluid and fun, though we did experience some slowdown during Rush Hour with all of the craziness happening on-screen. The audio is crisp, clear, and cheerful, with humorous sound effects to boot. Controls are strictly tap-based and quite effective, even with overlapping targets. You can even strike off-screen objects provided that you tapped on them prior to their disappearance. Knives seem to home in on the moving objects, only missing and hitting customers if you mis-tapped in the first place. Replay value is very good, as the high score nature lends itself to repeated plays and the breadth of options leaves you with plenty to do. GameCenter integration provides global leaderboards and achievements to earn. For the low price of $0.99, Mad Chef is a surprisingly captivating 4-Dimple delight.

Swingworm

Swingworm is a new puzzler from 10tons Ltd. that puts you in control of a stretchy worm who must make his way through dozens of levels, collecting berries for a beetle so that he can earn the opportunity to climb the Beetle’s super tall tree. Controlling the worm is as easy as dragging from his head or tail in the direction that you want him to go. His body only stretches so far, so you need to connect him to parcels of land which act as anchor points. There are a few objects that must be handled delicately, like spiky spots that charge you a time penalty if you hit them, ice that cannot be anchored against, and snow that must be avoided. You can earn up to 3 stars per level for besting the timer thresholds, reaching the elevator with all berries in tow as quickly as possible.

Graphically, Swingworm has a fun cartoonish appearance that would fit in well in a children’s book. The animations are good and everything runs smoothly. The soundtrack is upbeat and cheery, as the whole game feels geared toward a younger audience. Controls aren’t as tight as we hoped, and it’s difficult to judge just how far it will stretch. Given that the head or tail attaches to land as soon as it contacts it and our finger often obscures our view, this can lead to some frustrating repositioning in order to meet your goals. Additionally, swiping the background to pan wasn’t as responsive as we’d expected, causing more frustration for this key feature needed to discover where the off-screen berries are. Both of these issues were negligible on the larger iPad screen, which gave us plenty of room to see and pan around, which seemed oddly more responsive on the bigger device. Replay value is decent, provided you need to return to snag uncollected stars, want to compete on GameCenter leaderboards, or enjoy collecting achievements. Otherwise, it’s a bit of a ho-hum offering that’s fine the first time around but won’t compel you to play again often. A universal app for $2.99, Swingworm is a 3.5-Dimple game.

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