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Quick Reviews from the Request Desk – 12.17.11
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This edition of Quick Reviews has us checking out a toddlerized version of an old favorite, a clever two-sided puzzler, and a physics puzzler that aims to impress but falls short. Let’s take a look…

Sprinkle Junior

Sprinkle Junior is a watered-down (awful pun) version of Mediocre AB’s fire-extinguishing casual title released earlier this year. The original puts you in control of a fire truck with an extendable ladder that is moved up or down by dragging the bucket. A fire hose attached to the bucket sprays a limited water supply when touched, and you aim the stream by twisting your fingers on-screen. There were a bunch of levels with plenty of puzzling elements to solve in order to extinguish the sporadic fires that have sprung up using the least amount of water. Multiple plateaus and curved landscape help in funneling water to engulfed areas. It took some thought and finesse to put out the fires quickly and move on to the next scenario. In addition to its pleasant graphics, the water physics were outstanding and worth the price of admission alone.

The latest version takes the original and dumbs it down to its most basic level, evidently gearing it toward the very youngest iPad users. We’d peg this segment in the 2-5 year old range. There is only 22 levels this time around and no need to really aim the water stream (outside of moving the ladder up or down), as its fixed orientation allows you to solve any puzzle. The puzzles themselves may be as basic as dragging on-screen elements out of the way to allow the water to reach the fires, but that’s about it. You do encounter similarly simple requirements like feeding blocks to a monster in order to progress, but nothing that a child couldn’t figure out quickly. The key component is that your water supply is now unlimited, so there is no frustration derived from running out of liquids before completing the task at hand. The graphics are just as good as the original, the soundtrack is cutesy, and the controls are easy as pie. There are no scores or any metrics of any kind. It’s simply a super simple version of a fun game that’s perfect for the toddler in your life who enjoys rubbing his grubby hands on your iDevice. A little pricey at $1.99, it’s a decent 3.5-Dimple option to occupy your youngsters.

Paul & Percy

Paul & Percy is a cerebral puzzle platformer from Kipper Digital. When twin brothers Paul & Percy realize their beloved biscuits have been stolen, they set out to track down the thief via a strange portal system. When both men step into the transporters, they appear on opposite sides of a split-screen gaming area filled with blocks in various formations. Each man must reach the next portal on his side in order to move on to the next area, though they’ll need to work together to accomplish this goal. Movements are limited to walking/pushing, stomping, and jumping, which are carried out via sideways, downward, and upward swipes, respectively. A tap of the screen switches control from one brother to the other, and holding your finger on-screen rewinds previous moves. The stomp mechanic can be performed on brown blocks and statues, pushing the stomped column through to the other side of the screen. This effectively changes the landscape of the other brother’s area, possibly allowing him to reach an out-of-the-way place or moving a brown block into a position to be pushed around, provided the block was not impeded or weighed down by other blocks. Since each brother can only jump one block height, positioning moveable blocks in stair formations is often necessary to complete the level. Bronze, silver, and gold medals are awarded based on the number of moves required to find success, with the gold medal indicating an optimal solution with no wasted moves. Achieving this honor is no easy task.

Graphically, the game has a bit of a Minecraft-like look to it, featuring mostly gray or brown blocks against dark backdrops. Of course, the occasional golden brown biscuit appears for you to recover, though you’ll need to be especially crafty to snag them. The graphics are decidedly old-school, though we feel this aesthetic works well here. The chiptune soundtrack is in keeping with the style of the game. Controls are simple to use, though not quite as responsive as we’d like. Tapping, for instance, doesn’t always switch players without a forceful or deliberate tap, and on more than one occasion, the game would rewind when we were attempting to move a player in one direction or another. We also had a tendency to want to tap to jump instead of swiping, as it just wasn’t as intuitive as we’d hoped. Replay value is good, as you’ll need to try several strategies before hitting on the optimal solution and earning gold. Also, forked pathways on the level map allow you to bypass some of the 50 available levels if you like, so you’ll probably have additional puzzles to go back and solve even after working through the game. There is no social gaming network integration, though there are a number of local achievements to earn. An iPad-only offering at $2.99, Paul & Percy is an intelligent 4-Dimple head-scratcher.

Toy Shot

Toy Shot is a physics puzzler developed by Appnori and published by Gamevil. It follows in the tradition of Angry Birds, requiring you to use a trebuchet of sorts on the left side of the screen to fire projectiles into destructible environments inhabited by enemies who must be destroyed to move on. There are pink gems spread throughout the environment that are collected when destroyed, as well. These gems are used to unlock new locations as you progress. There are well over 100 levels in all, which also feature castle defense levels and boss battles. At your disposal are a limited number of rockets, darts, bombs, and boomerangs to send hurtling through the sky. Additionally, a powerful dragon can be called upon for enemy-vanquishing fun, but it requires IAP to load up. Level design is fairly clever, allowing for chain reactions and targeted attacks to clear boards of bad guys. While the first few levels are a bit slow and easy, the difficulty ramps up fairly quickly to offer a decent challenge, though the level of precision needed in some areas can be a source of frustration.

Despite its solid core and decent execution, this is a game with a lack of presentation polish. The graphics are meant to evoke thoughts of childhood toys, mostly through images that look like Lego building blocks, but their flat look just doesn’t get the job done and the visuals end up as something of a cluttered mess, at times. The character animations are stiff and basic, though enemy AI is surprisingly resilient. Some crumbling structures don’t quite destroy the enemies, allowing them to wiggle their way out of danger amidst a pile of ruined blocks. It adds a cool challenge that we haven’t seen in similar titles. The soundtrack and audio quality are low points as well, as they provide a weak basement-recording feel to the game. In truth, it matches the visual quality in a way, just not a good way. The controls require you to touch a target symbol that resides in front of the trebuchet, dragging backward to set power and aim. In theory, it sounds standard, but in practice it’s a bit imprecise and awkward. The player does not get a good feeling for where the projectiles will end up, due to a lack of clear aiming guidance and the inability to see most of the targeted area while firing. There is a huge trial-and-error element, and the whole game feels a bit incomplete and rushed. Had more attention been paid to the aforementioned areas, this title could be making serious waves in the app store. As it stands, replay value is decent if you can get past the quirks and want to try to obtain all gems, top the GameCenter leaderboards, or earn some achievements. Our time with the game was worthwhile, but not overly enjoyable. At $0.99, Toy Shot is a disappointing 3-Dimple experience.

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