Mailmen, Sandstorm Interactive‘s quirky stealth game predicated on delivering mail and avoiding ornery dogs, has been published by Ayopa Games and is available from the app store. Featuring multiple characters with unique abilities and a cast of cleverly coordinated dogs, Mailmen delivers (yup… we went there) a charming old-school experience.
- Fun, cartoonish presentation and decent puzzle design
- Upbeat and cheery soundtrack
- Simple tap controls with large buttons
- Multiple characters with unique abilities; multiple dog types with unique traits
- GameCenter integration for global leaderboards and achievements
- Controls can be clunky and confusing, no automatic camera controls
- Overall gameplay is short
- No restart option on level end screen
You take control of three mail carriers: Johnny, Charlie, and Dave. Johnny is a macho man, with a coif of hair that his hat couldn’t hope to contain, a pair of speed boots, and the ability to hog-tie a dog in no time. Charlie is athletic, able to leap into trees and toss a tennis ball to confuse charging dogs. Dave is the heavy, using his muscle to move large boxes and his savvy to zip into a fire hydrant costume before the dogs spot him. Depending on the mission, you may control just one mailman or a team. The goal throughout the 18-level campaign is to deliver mail to residential boxes or pick up mail from blue bins without being bitten. A number of dogs patrol each level, and each dog has a different ability. Chihuahuas bark to alert bigger dogs to your presence, beagles have a greater visual range than others, bulldogs are quick, German Shepherds are fierce when not sleeping, and so forth. The scope of each dog’s vision is represented by a colored cone. Yellow indicates that they are on alert, while red denotes that you’ve been spotted and they are in attack mode. If a dog reaches you, you can tap a button to blow your air horn to momentarily distract the nuisance and possibly get away. In addition to completing your given task, you can earn up to 3 stars per level for some combination of successfully depositing mail in all mailboxes while picking up any mail that needs collecting, speedy delivery, staying healthy, and snagging all stamps that are spread throughout the level, which can often take you a bit off course or put you in the path of danger. Despite a slow, hand-holding start and quick initial levels, the difficulty ramps up fairly well as things become more complex and your missions get fairly lengthy.
Graphically, the city is a very bright, colorful, and cartoonish representation of a sleepy suburb. The lack of humans and wealth of patrolling dogs gives you the impression that the canines have risen up to take control and they won’t stand for your junk mail any longer. The isometric viewpoint gives you the ability to see a great deal of your surroundings and work out a viable solution to complete your task. Smooth animation and cute cut scenes introduce you to each level and its objectives. Arrows alert you to the location of mailboxes or objectives, and dotted lines indicate patrol paths of the dogs. The soundtrack is cheerful and whimsical, providing a nice backdrop to the zany gameplay.
The controls are the largest blemish. A single-tap will move the mailman to the chosen location, though he’ll take the quickest route which means that lining up a path to collect a row of stamps can be troublesome. A line-drawing mechanic would have been preferred. When you reach a mailbox, a slide-to-unlock type graphic appears requiring you to swipe on the screen to complete the task. Double-tapping on dogs will cause Johnny to tie them up, double-tapping on trees causes Charlie to climb, and double-tapping boxes will cause Dave to lift. Dedicated buttons exist to select ball-throwing or hydrant disguising abilities, and character buttons are also present when multiple characters can be controlled to switch focus. These buttons also indicate remaining health. Overall, the combinations of tapping, double-tapping, and finding the right buttons in the heat of the moment can be difficult and awkward, leading to unnecessary injury or level restarts due to sorely lacking checkpoints. You also pinch to zoom and drag your finger around the screen to pan, which is completely manual and another major annoyance. We would love to see the camera follow the selected character rather than force us to deal with one more control issue. Your viewpoint can additionally be rotated with an on-screen button.
Replay value is mild, with the goal of snagging all 3-star ratings being about the only factor to draw you back in. As a bonus, each 3-star rating will unlock a collectible commemorative stamp that can be viewed in a snazzy album. There are supposedly hidden items to find around town, but we don’t recall having stumbled upon anything interesting during our time. GameCenter integration provides global leaderboards and an achievement system, too. An iPad-only offering for $1.99, Mailmen is an interesting 4-Dimple puzzler.