Archive for the ‘Platformer’ Category

What would you get if you combined the adventure and exploration of Zelda with the arcade antics of Mario Bros?  You’d likely get Touch Foo’s Swordigo, a wonderfully fun and surprisingly deep platformer that ranks as one of the best of the genre to date on the iOS.  Filled with puzzles, quests and of course battles, Swordigo is an impressive game incorporated in a vast world with a good dose of RPG elements.

Set in the village of Cairnwood, the main character in Swordigo is an apprentice who finds himself thrust into the role of hero after his master is killed by the Corruptors, an evil legion intent on conquest.  Throughout the adventure, quests and battles will take you through worlds where locating treasure is just the tip of the peasant iceberg.

An effective platformer is often able to create a world that not only engages the player, but also provides a lasting effect.  Presented in 2.5D, the world in Swordigo has a unique charm and allure that takes on a life of its own.  From lighting effects to textures, each of the environments is filled with details that help the game stand on its own.  Running this on an iPad, the animation is smooth with good sense of depth.  Whether it’s the isolation of an abandoned castle or simply the wind blowing through the trees, Swordigo is one of charm and allure.

Of course, the hack and slash nature of the battle scenes make Swordigo even better.  The control scheme is pretty straightforward with left and right buttons for movement and action buttons for such things as jumping, sword hacking and slashing, moving/holding items, and conjuring magic spells. The button placement is customizable, and you’ll likely want to move the hack and slash button away a bit from the jump button which can inadvertently be hit.

Swordigo has an intuitive inventory system to keep track of acquired items as well as RPG elements.  From this area, players can also keep track of quests which are presented as conversations.

Something that sets Swordigo apart from the typical platformer is how the game is presented.  Unlike other platformers which are broken into different levels, Swordigo is one giant world presented at your footsteps for discovery.  For the player, this firmly and effectively establishes that feeling of mystery and exploration.  As levels are completed, other areas and places are revealed.

The RPG elements are another area that not only provides another layer of complexity to the game, but helps balance out the flow of the gameplay.    These elements focus on Health, Sword, and Magic.  For Health, you can increase longevity which will come in handy as the levels become more complex and difficult.  Sword boosts the damage inflicted on enemies.  Magic, which is represented by a meter in the HUD and gradually recharges after each use, can be recharged faster with allocating more points to this element.  The elements are easily customizable and designed with the casual gamer in mind within a user-friendly screen.

In Swordigo’s world, adventure is core to the enjoyment of the game.  Players will find plenty to explore.  Crystal shards can be acquired along the way which can be used to purchase health potions and weapons from the village store.  In addition, health and magic potions can also be found on the journey by destroying enemies, but also on occasion from cutting down plants.

Speaking of enemies, there are more than enough dangers lurking.  The living and breathing ones include a variety of giant grass spiders, cave crawlers, man-eating snapper plants, boulder shooting tortoises, and spike-laden turtles among others.

The bosses themselves can be pretty ruthless, and given the way the “levels” are presented in Swordigo, can appear at the most surprising times.  With names such as Szan the Angry, Boulder the Golem, Zak the Bandit Leader, and Edogani the Deadly, these battles are intensely satisfying.

The world in Swordigo is begging for exploration with plenty of nooks and crannies for doing just that.  Treasure chests are located throughout, but most of the time, they’re well hidden, requiring a bit of digging.  In fact, you’ll find yourself at the end of a particular adventure quicker than expected and then turning around to locate your booty.  That’s the beauty of Swordigo—often, the simplest path isn’t the well chosen path.

While the game is designed so that it can be completed without the deeper exploration, most will find these hidden rewards worth the risk.  These treasures can range from more powerful swords and spells to tools and gadgets that make advancing much easier.  Players may even discover RPG elements within these areas so they’re definitely worth checking out.  For example, players will come across a chamber covered in purple slime that requires the dragon grasp spell.  Other times, more powerful spells such as missile and bomb spells supplement your arsenal.

As is typical with other platformers, there are side quests to be found.  Swordigo does a nice job of integrating other characters that provide advice and warnings along the way.  Other times, they can rather mundane and harmless.

The environments themselves are full of hidden doorways, switches, pressure plates, and moving platforms.  Often what you’ll find which players may find challenging and frustrating in the good sense is a locked door after making it through a dangerous set of obstacles.  Wouldn’t you know that the key happens to be located back on the other side of the obstacles?  Beyond the living and breathing enemies, the obstacles add to the character and enjoyment of Swordigo.  From swinging axes to randomly appearing spikes, getting through in one piece is a lot tougher than it looks.

Swordigo also incorporates a portal system so players can travel from one area to another relatively quickly.  This makes the treasure hunting process much more feasible for those of us who don’t have the patience of taking the long and treacherous way.

The gameplay in Swordigo is its core strength, and the fluid controls and the depth of the content are significant.  With plenty of areas to explore in its vast world, the hack and slash nature of the game give Swordigo the makings of an enduring classic.  As you level up your character, there’s a nice balance in the difficulty.  The sword wielding battles are both challenging and intense, but the game doesn’t insult your intelligence.  Players will face decisions in the path well chosen as well as logically solving puzzles and collecting the right pieces to do so.  Other times, success and failure comes to down to well-coordinated timing from jumping platforms to sword-blocking attacks.

Swordigo also has GameCenter and Openfeint scoreboards and if the depth of the game by itself isn’t enough, achievements.  Most players will likely forgo the achievements in the near term with the sole purpose of completing the game.

The game isn’t perfect, and these are more minor issues than game breaking ones.  For one, the checkpoint system seems a little awkward which is noticeable after your little apprentice hero is dispatched and then magically reappears.  There are times where it almost feels like you have to start the entire world over or simply dropped off at some random point.  On that note and not that I’m complaining, there isn’t a penalty for the apprentice hero’s demise which almost makes the game too easy for some because he regenerates with full health and collected crystal shards intact.  Visually speaking, during attacks on enemies, an oversized health and level-up status bars appears which can be distracting.  Finally, one potential annoyance is the ongoing beep when you’re running low on health which is similar to the tone found in some vehicles when you leave the keys in the ignition.

Swordigo is a deep and intense platformer combining strategic RPG elements within a charming adventure.  Effectively presented as a vast and mysterious world, Swordigo provides a graphically wonderful presentation with satisfying battles and exploration that should entice novices and advance players alike, keeping them engaged for hours.

Albie Meter: 5 Stars (one of the best platformers available on the iOS with hours of content and gameplay; plethora of nooks and crannies worth exploring; simple, yet customizable controls; user-friendly RPG elements should appeal to all skill levels; GameCenter and Openfeint support)

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“It fits like a glove” is something that can’t often be said about video games and the many platforms out there.  Too many variables come into play that can tip the playing experience for better or for worse.  In the case of Incoboto by Fluttermind’s Dene Carter, I couldn’t imagine this amazing and unique game being more well-suited than it is on the iPad.  Most players will not only feel at with this beautiful puzzle adventure, they’ll have an equally wondrous time of discovery.

In the spirit of the Mayan prophecy, the theme in Incoboto is one of devastation and ultimately rebirth and takes the player through an unfolding storyline.  Journeying through a number of worlds each with its own intriguing qualities, Inco is the little guy who leaves his own world to not only save other worlds but also for any survivors.  Within the galaxy, all the suns have been extinguished except for one named Helios and the responsibility lies with Inco to feed him.

The journey takes place in a galaxy through 16 star systems each full of obstacles and puzzles that need to be solved in order to secure the life source—Starpieces—Helios depends to stay bright.  Charming in nature, the environments and the soundtrack make Incoboto one of those games that will both relax and engage you.

The intuitive touch controls take full advantage of the iPad and in general work remarkably well.  To move Inco, press the spot where you want to move him.  If you feel more comfortable, players can also switch to the directional keypad.  Another basic control is jumping which Inco will do plenty of and is as simple as tapping and sliding anywhere on the screen.  Inco can also carry and drop items which are designated during the game, and throwing is achieved by dragging a line from Inco toward the target and releasing.

Visually, Incoboto provides an eye appealing galaxy full of worlds waiting to be explored.  The obstacles are many with lots of depth and animation.  If you’ve played Soosiz, you’ll have a pretty good idea of what you’re in for as you travel around each world.

While Incoboto is a game, each planet is a microcosm of the issues we face in the real world.  The Corporation has destroyed the environment, and many of the issues that Inco faces have been created to prevent progress in addressing them.  Each level consists of several small planets that Inco travels and navigates between.   Players will initially use gravity beams and jetpacks and later on evolve into more tricky devices such as grappling hooks and teleports.

The puzzles themselves do require a bit of exploration and coordinated moves as the solutions aren’t necessarily obvious or intuitive.  As with any platformer, there’s a plethora of moving parts, switches and items that unlock hidden areas and allow players to progress further.  Whether reachable by cranes or ledges, Starpieces are often located in less than easy to reach areas and often I found myself switching between the tap-to-move scheme to the directional keypad to improve movement accuracy.

The game feels linear in nature because Sungates open up once objectives are met within each level.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing because you’ll want to spend some time exploring the various worlds.  You’ll often come across an object such as a switch that is seemingly so out of reach and have you scratching your head.  The details are worth checking out simply because there are so many ways to interact with the environment.  And while many may want to rush through the game, Incoboto is one that should be savored.

Along the way, Inco is reminded of the Corporation via monitors activated by touch.  The messages can be ominous, and most serve as warnings of things to come.  The game feels balanced as the puzzles gradually become more difficult and test your logic and decision making skills.

Incoboto has GameCenter and OpenFeint support which provides for a variety of achievements.

Incoboto’s satisfying experience is one that many will enjoy because it evokes that sense that while the galaxy may be large, everything is connected in some way.  That may sound strange to talk about a game in that sense, but once you start playing, “there’s no place like home” will likely ring true.

Albie Meter: 5 Stars (imaginative game in an equally imaginative world; engaging gameplay that will have many rushing to complete it and disappointed once it finally ends; unique levels along with intuitive controls; well balanced difficulty)

The iTunes ecosphere is still very much a mobile device at heart with an environment designed with the casual gamer in mind.  That’s one reason why most of the successful games for the iPhone, iPod Touch and the iPad have been the cute pick-up-and-play variety (e.g. Angry Birds, Cut the Rope).  Munch Time by Gamistry is a hybrid platform puzzler that seemingly fits in that mold decked out with an adorable character, easy-to-use controls, and inviting environments.  About the only thing holding it back currently is the short content, but what is there should have the masses hungry for more.

Designed to appeal to the lizard lovers in all of us, the main character is Munch, a color-changing chameleon on the hunt for his lunch which by the way is a tasty slug.  The hunt through the 42 levels has Munch swinging through gardens full of obstacles.  Using tongue may sound objectionable, but using simple touch controls, gamers will navigate Munch using his tongue to reach the most obscure places.  Visually, Munch Time is vibrantly colored with a lighthearted art style nicely complemented by a lively audio track.

Munch is an acrobat which requires strong, yet intuitive controls.  The control mechanic is simple: tap wherever you want Munch to go.  Of course, this can involve maneuvering small areas next to bottomless or thorn-filled pits and there are certain things to keep in mind.  Munch’s movements are more or less limited to swinging using his tongue and scampering along the ground so planning ahead is a key to success.  In general, the touch controls are responsive and accurately register touches which can’t be taken for granted with these types of games.

Flowers are the main sticking point, if you will, for Munch.  Tapping on a flower will latch him to it, and tapping on others allows Munch to move from place to place.  The hitch is that different flowers have different effects on little Munch.  Other flowers periodically bloom and close and others turn in to cannons that can shoot him a great distance.  The other thing to keep in mind is that once Munch has latched onto a flower and then unlatches, that flower is no longer useable.

While Munch is a chameleon when it comes to using his tongue, he’s really kind of a second rate one in the color change department.  Because flowers come in a variety of colors, Munch must change color according to the flower before he can latch onto it.  To help with that, he relies on eating different color flies which presto-chango transforms him into another brightly colored lizard.

Along the way to reaching his food, Munch likes to collect stars for that narcissist personality of his.  Players have to opportunity to earn a maximum of 3 stars in each level which means clearing the screen of all stars.  While the game doesn’t have a timer, points are always awarded for how quickly a level is completed.

Munch Time does have a sticky quality to it which can be attributed to the cuteness factor that comes through in the gameplay.  Munch is really one acrobatic lizard so swinging from flower to another requires a bit of hand-eye coordination and well-timed release points.  In most cases, Munch will swing from flower to flower which by itself requires some coordination.  Other flowers will have Munch doing loops until another flower is tapped to release him.  Where the devs do a nice job is in the controls.  The levels themselves are not overly difficult, and could even be easy for some.   There is a certain difficulty that comes from coordinating movements, producing the right amount of momentum and releasing at the right moment.  A star is often just out of reach because Munch doesn’t have enough energy behind him even if all the moves are well thought out.

Other times, tapping at the wrong time can mean the difference between reaching a platform and having Munch as a shish-kabob.  As you progress through the levels, more and more flowers will bloom and close which adds a level of difficulty since only open flowers are latchable.  The game does allow players to be creative in how they approach puzzles so that more than one solution is possible and doesn’t require using every flower to complete a level.  Also, while Munch is athletic, you find out pretty quickly that he has no glide to his game whatsoever.  Unlatch him too soon, and he falls like a stone.

Aside from the degree of difficulty, another minor issue is the lack of screen resizing or dragging which becomes more apparent in the later levels.  Typically, the early levels are small and entirely viewable so planning moves is relatively easy.  As the playing fields expand in later levels, the view is limited with players unable to scroll or drag the screen to view those areas.

Where Munch struggles is in the content which currently is rather short.  As mentioned, the levels aren’t overly difficult so most players should be able to complete the 42 levels that are there in less than 2 hours.  Depending on skill level, there is a degree of replay value in a trying to attain the 3-star rating for each level.  The game also has GameCenter achievements which is a plus.

Munch Time is a fun platform puzzler with a cute charm to it.  Intuitive controls and not overly difficult gameplay should draw wide appeal with casual gamers.  Well-timed moves and coordination add a certain degree of challenging play that most will enjoy.  While the current content is a bit short (more is on the way), what is there right now provides a strong foundation for those looking to add new to their iTunes game library.   At the least, Munch Time will whet your appetite for more.

Albie Meter:  4 Stars (cute and engaging gameplay with intuitive touch controls; level designs and vibrant colors should appeal to the casual gamer; content is on the short side with more levels and worlds on the way; degree of difficulty with the current levels may be easy for some with a certain degree of replayability; lite version is available)

Platformers have been a mainstay of video games since forever, and it’s always amazed me how Super Mario Bros became and has remained the standard in this genre.  It’s not uncommon for new entrants into the genre to compare themselves to the Super Mario franchise.  In the case of Crescent Moon’s Paper Monsters, the comparison is fair to a certain extent because this is a charming platformer that will likely have players begging for more.

Paper Monsters follows a relatively innocuous albeit imaginative storyline in a place called Paper Land that has been taken over for better or worse by paper monsters.  Playing the hero is a cute robot that happens to be made of cardboard.

For the most part, everything is made of paper (let’s just assume everything is recycled and environmentally safe), so there is an origami-like feel throughout but in a very good way.  While Paper Monsters is a 2D platformer at heart, the 3D graphics are easily among the most visually appealing in the genre.  It is simply a beautiful game, full of vibrant colors and multi-layered animation, complemented by a melodic soundtrack that sets just the right tone.  There is plenty to take in as you venture throughout the levels, and in some cases, you’ll see that things that you previously missed.

Paper Monsters is all about adventure so players will take the little cardboard dude through four chapters—Paper Hills, Yibiki Peaks, Cardboard Dunes, Papyrus Ruins—each with four sublevels for a total of 16 levels.  Also, once you’ve cleared the first chapter, Dash mode is unlocked.  This mode by itself would be worth the price of admission is basically a runner-type game where players guide one of the paper monsters at full speed through various environments.

When it comes to platformers, controls more than anything else can determine the success of a game.  Paper Monsters offers two types of controls—floating joystick and the classic touchpad.  Players who select the floating joystick basically breaks out the screen into two sides.  Touching anywhere on the left side controls movement and tapping the right side activates the robot’s jumping abilities.  Tapping the jump action twice results in a double jump.  With the touchpad, the bidirectional pad is fixed on the left side of the screen, while tapping the right side to jump remains the same.  In both schemes, an option doesn’t exist for flipping the controls.

For the most part, both control schemes work well, although the floating joystick tends to feel awkward and even loose depending on the type of environment that needs navigating.  I find the classic touchpad to be my control preference primarily because it feels more natural.  A nice tweak in a future update may be to include some floatability to the touchpad.  Fortunately, players can easily switch between the control schemes at any time by pausing the game which is extremely useful based on the environment.  In general though, getting around is not difficult at all.

Paper Monsters is all about the goodies and the waiting to be discovered hidden secrets.  The game offers a tutorial in the first level of the chapter, and along the way, players will see “?” sign posts that offer information on rewards and obstacles among others.  Besides getting the little paper robot through each level safely, the objective is collect buttons and paperclips while dodging the various paper baddies and maneuvering obstacles.  Of course, there’s also the building up a high score thing if you’re into that.

The foundation of the game is silver and gold buttons.  Silver buttons are worth points and bonuses, while Gold buttons are used to buy goodies for your diligent robot friend.  Every 50 silver buttons automatically changes into a gold button.  As players accumulate gold buttons, they can be used to purchase outfits and gear in the Buttons Store.

The developers include IAP in the Buttons Store so players can purchase additional buttons in order to trade them in for items.  IAP has been a mixed bag in the iTunes store because some games make additional purchasing contingent to advance in a game.  Not so in Paper Monsters.  Because buying these outfits and gear doesn’t provide any gameplay advantage, nor have any impact on progressing in the game, players don’t really need to make any additional purchases.  On the other hand, this could be an opportunity to include more power ups in future updates which can only add even more variety to the game.

Each level also contains three gold paperclips and once all of them are collected in that level, additional bonuses are provided.  Also, players will come across Gift Boxes that when unwrapped contain additional bonuses such as extra health and Adventure cards which unlock hidden areas.

The gameplay is where Paper Monsters makes it mark.  Each whimsical level has places to visit.  Warp pipes allow for travel to other areas, and many of them lead to platforms in the foreground.  While the game is not overly difficult, the sections in the background are much smaller and even hidden by objects in the forefront.  You’ll find juggling mines and cannons as well well-timed jumps all part of the job.  Plenty of variety exists throughout from jumping on mushrooms to riding through moving platforms to reach other areas.  Jumping on baddies turns them into confetti roadkill, and the controls are more than adequate enough to make precision jumps from one platform to another.

Depending on your objective, you can either aim for a high score which involves collecting as many buttons and dispatching enemies as possible or you can simply speed through the levels by playing it safe.  Of course, scoring as many points as possible means bypassing what are seemingly difficult obstacles, and the game provides a well-balanced approach.  I’ve replayed numerous levels in order to collect missed items and improve my score.  In either option, there are checkpoints identified by a colorful pinwheel.  Starting over from a checkpoint can be a little pointless since this entails beginning at zero so only use this if the objective is to clear the level regardless of score.  Regardless, collecting items and secret paths adds to the replay value.

There are also a number of achievements through GameCenter which are pretty standard since they focus on acquiring treasure.

Paper Monsters does have its share of shortcomings.  The levels tend to be on the short side and frankly, there aren’t enough levels in general.  While nothing in the game is groundbreaking which not intended to be a slight, the boss fights with the likes of Mublum, Paperus, Bill the Spider and Lord Papyrus can feel less than satisfying because of the lack of difficulty.

Crescent Moon has created a charming and imaginative world with Paper Monsters.  With vibrant worlds and even more charismatic characters, this platformer should appeal to almost everyone.  This is a terrific platformer, and it’ll be interesting to see what the devs come up with in future updates because players will undoubtedly want more.

Albie Meter: 4.5 Stars (a visual treat of a platformer in an imaginative world; easy to learn controls with replay value; intuitive gameplay with plenty of places to visit; may be too easy for some with mediocre boss battles; chapters can be short but future updates should address this)

It’s safe to say (or maybe not) that the platformer genre is a junkyard filled with graphics-heavy wreckage, boring gameplay shells, and less than appealing characters.  One of the first video games that many of us remember—and I am talking about the younger and semi-young set—is Super Mario Brothers.  A platformer at heart, we didn’t love it just because of the cartoon graphics or the catchy sound effects.  We loved it because it was fun.  That’s what you have with Terra Noctis by FireFruitForge, a retro platformer that brings fun back to the genre.  Great controls, a strange yet curiously charming storyline, and super fun gameplay make Terra Noctis a worthy addition to your gaming collection.

The story in Terra Noctis is unusual to say the least involving a nightmare named Allen.  (Feel free to fill in the blank with your own personal nightmare).  Unfortunately, he’s struggling in the fright department and in danger of flunking out of school.  One night, he discovers a way to become more frightening, which involves gobbling the heart of the scariest monster he can find in the dreamverse.  Thus we begin our adventure which while not as frightening as you would think, is a charming and amusing one.

The guys at FireFruitForge really did a fantastic job presenting the story through comic book cut scenes.  The color scheme which primarily consists of different hues of blue and aqua against muted backdrops helps to add to the wonderful murkiness of the dreamverse.  And, in doing so, sets the retro tone for the overall game itself.

Terra Noctis has a ghostload of worlds, each of which consist of a bounty of levels.  Worlds have names such as Green Steppe, Rusty Fields, Weeping Woods, and Hazelnut Desert.  When first beginning, you’ll run through a tutorial in Green Steppe where players are taught the basics such as moving, jumping, aiming and shooting.  The tutorial is well done and of course you can revisit unlocked worlds and levels at any time.

On the journey, Allen’s goal is to score 100% at each level.  To do that, you need to capture fairies, coins and letters (these spell SCARE).  The fairies come in blue and red and they each have their uses.  The blue fairies are used to purchase a number of powerups including extra lives, speed, bombs, strength and health by visiting Pumpkin World managed by Terra Noctis hottie Pumpkin Girl.  She’ll sell you anything and everything you need but only if you have the right color fairies…sounds like real life.

On the other hand, red fairies are important because a certain number are needed in order to unlock new worlds.  Along the way, you’ll also receive a time bonus based on your speedy ability in completing the level.

An issue I have with many platformers is the level of frustration that comes from poorly implemented controls.  But, what sets Terra Noctis apart from other platformers are the controls which are well thought out and work.  Most of the time, I felt like I had full control of Allen, and he responded as intended.  The controls consist of a d-pad for moving right and left, and two buttons: jump and cover.  Tapping the jump button twice allows Allen to double jump.  The one area that felt awkward is the aiming mechanism that involves tapping in the spot you want to shoot and then dragging to rotate the directional guide.  The mechanism takes somewhat getting used to, but it’s a minor issue in the scheme of things.

The gameplay in Terra Noctis is simply fun.  There’s really no other way to describe it because players will discover different paths and crevices as well as monsters that unlock doors and new entrances.  Along the way, you’ll come across a number of sign posts which provide useful information as well as nightmare ammo refill stations.  Allen may be scary but he doesn’t have unlimited nightmare powers yet.  Allen even gains a bat sidekick later on that Allen can ride across different areas.  The sidekick is a nice touch especially since he’s actually useful since he’ll provide warnings of danger and give you the head’s up on secret areas.

As Allen travels throughout areas, there will be plenty of opportunities to jump platforms and ledges, destroy monsters and flying creatures, and experiment with different paths. Similar to Super Mario, monsters are dispatched by jumping on them, while others require shooting.  In general, monsters run the gamut from Pac Man-like blobs to airborne bats and flies.  There’s even a cannonball shooting plant to deal with.

Terra Noctis uses OpenFient which has plenty of achievements, but unfortunately, no GameCenter support at this time.

FireFruitForge has a winner in Terra Noctis, delivering a well packaged platformer complete with creative levels, easy to use controls, and most importantly, a fun game.  Players will enjoy this romp through dreamverse, and for that alone, the journey not the destination will be worthwhile.

Albie Meter:  5 Stars (thoroughly fun platformer with responsive and easy to use controls; 2D muted visuals set the right tone while catchy soundtrack will linger in your head after you’ve stopped playing: plenty of variation in the levels with replay value from accumulating additional bonuses; OpenFeint only achievements)

Fact: Platformers in the iTunes store are a dime a dozen (not literally but there are plenty to choose from).

Fact: Platformers and tilt controls are a risky proposition that mostly don’t work…unless you’re talking about Crazy Hedgy by Cybertime.

Crazy Hedgy is an addicting and most importantly, extremely enjoyable 3D platformer that delivers a terrific experience for gamers young and old. Visually, Crazy Hedgy provides a high-quality extravaganza with surprises throughout mixed with an equally engaging level of gameplay. When it comes to platformers, Crazy Hedgy sets the bar high early in 2012.

Your job is fairly straightforward, and that is maneuver little hedgehog dude Hedgy throughout the 35-level story mode while collecting jewels and coins. Of course, you’ll face a number of obstacles from equally cute, yet dastardly enemies as well as traps and challenges. Also, collect enough coins (25 of them) and you unlock Arena mode, which is frankly something I know most will enjoy.

The Cybertime devs certainly put a significant effort into creating a 3D world that is not a feast for the eyes, but it’s actually a world you want to play in. While this statement may sound strange, I’ve had enough experiences with other platformers where the environment just wasn’t engaging and ultimately not very enjoyable. From the colorful cartoon-like enemies and the deceivingly fun looking traps to the wispy clouds and clear blue lakes, Crazy Hedgy provides a great journey for those willing to do so. Combined with the melodic soundtrack, that won’t be a problem with Crazy Hedgy because you’ll want to take the view in when you’re not rolling around.

One of the strengths of Crazy Hedgy is the controls which are a combination of tilt and touch. Tilt is used for moving Hedgy and changing your viewing angle, while touch consists of punching, shooting, blasting and jumping. Regardless of how you feel about tilt controls, I can safely say that Crazy Hedgy may the game that convinces the anti-tilt party to switch sides. The tilt controls simply work extremely well. The devs did something that makes the game perform even better: auto calibration at each level. As soon as a level is completed, a calibration box appears to recalibrate your device.

At the start of the game, players are taken through a tutorial that teaches you the basics from rolling around to punching out sack dummies. As you travel through the levels, your key objective is to collect enough jewels which appear in a variety of shapes and colors and gold coins. These coins are far and few between so you’ll want to collect as many as you can since you’ll need them as well as minimum number of jewels to complete a level and unlock the next.

Jewels and coins are also used to purchase upgrades of which there are a number that you’ll enjoy experimenting with. These include:

* Crazy Potion (boosts strength)

* Grab Attack (grab enemies, crates and barrels and throw them against each other)

* Super Helmet (head gear protection for head butts)

* Mega Magnet (attracts gems to Hedgy)

* Power Gloves (super punch damage)

* Bubble Gum (spits chewing gum into the face of enemies)

* Hedgy Heart (keeps Hedgy healthy)

In addition to the upgrades, apples can found along the way that Hedgy maintain his strength and handsome spiky complexion.

Besides traveling around, players will love the battles with enemies. Whether it’s punching enemies or shoving them into spinning spikes, the visuals will bring a smile to your face. You can either shake enemies to get more coins or even get them to fight ech other, which is as enjoyable as if you were pummeling them yourself.

The degree of difficulty is always an issue with any game, and Crazy Hedgy overall feels well balanced. Jumping on trampolines can be task (just don’t jump and let the trampoline do the work), rolling around spikes and traps, and dodging enemies all come with a degree of risk. Other levels include timed exercises in futility in addition to tougher enemies. Of course, the checkpoints along the way help keep your sanity. As well, the game includes a number of surprises on each level that should keep players engaged. From different enemies to more complex environments, Hedgy won’t be complaining about being bored.

Overall, Crazy Hedgy is a great looking 3D platformer equaled only by its terrific controls. With plenty of surprises and replayability, Crazy Hedgy is definitely worth checking out. As I mentioned, the year is still young, but Crazy Hedgy sets a high bar.

Albie Meter: 5 Stars (high-quality 3D environment and spot-on tilt and touch controls; content and plenty of surprises ensure replayability; catchy soundtrack rounds out the polished package)

Many of us gamers grew up with platformers, and I wouldn’t doubt that Mario or Sonic were among the first words some of you spoke.  With the success of the iTunes store, we’ve seen plenty of console games ported over to iOS.  One such game is LostWinds, a platformer adapted from the Wii which as a whole delivers an entertaining, albeit not perfect experience.  LostWinds is lively and soothing all at the same time that will have you smiling with glee one minute, and i-device smashingly frustrated the next.

The story in LostWinds is about a boy named Toku who is empowered and assisted by sidekick Enril to defeat Balasar.  You see Balasar is an evil spirit who escaped imprisonment is now intent on ruling the beautiful island of Mistralis.  Speaking of beautiful, the devs behind LostWinds built the game using a 3D engine so everything from the trees and caves to the towns and fields take on a surreal aura.  Arguably, this receives high marks on the gorgeous meter, providing a peaceful and pleasant environment.  The shadows and background movement are additional touches that add to the experience.  One of the things that struck me right away was how everything in each scene felt alive.  While trees sway with the wind, blades of grass flap and mushrooms have a bit of bounce.  Just what you want from a platformer, right?  Well, it works, and I would be surprised if you turn some heads firing up this game out in public.

In addition to the great visuals is the equally entrancing soundtrack which I’d almost equate to listening to waves while falling asleep.  Again, the devs create a rather dreamlike experience in LostWinds unlike what is typically seen in platformers.

The objective in LostWinds is to find Balasar which undoubted takes you through a muckety-muck of strange creatures and a discovery of new abilities and items for out little Toku.  It’s also about exploration and puzzle solving so all the elements are there for a solid platformer.  In LostWinds, the premise is about rediscovering memories, and there are several that you’ll be tasked with finding.  Along the way, you’ll uncover abilities such as gust, slipstream and vortex among others, which by the way are catalogued in a special section accessible anytime during the game.

As you progress through LostWinds, Toku and you will need to solve a number of puzzles.  Because the game is designed for a younger audience, many will find the puzzles rather simple.  In many cases, it’s locating and placing something onto another (e.g. activating switches, pressure points). The best part of LostWinds is the exploration because you’ll come across doors and passages.  It’s really this discovery that offers the most challenge because if you miss and item early one, you’ll likely need to go back and find it before being able to progress.  Of course, the enemies are always fun such as the Glorbs (looks just like they sound), crabs (not the Boston kind), and birds (not Big Bird).

For many, the movements in LostWind will require a bit of patience and open-mindedness.  Unlike the typical directional control pad and action buttons found in platformers, movement is done by touch.  Moving from one place to another requires tapping the location.  Movement from one side of the screen to other can also be accomplished through tap and hold.  To jump, create wind or even burn a path (via slipstream for example), requires swiping the screen.  For example, destroying enemies is done by gusting them—swooping them up with your wind (exactly as it sounds) and then slamming them into the ground.  It’s not elegant, but it works.  Put another way, line drawing to direct your abilities is a key part of the LostWind.

Initially, I found the control mechanism frustrating and somewhat tedious on my iPad.  Jumping from a small ledge to another could be rather imprecise which often led to slowing my progress in the game.  However, after playing through LostWinds and gaining abilities, the control scheme does become more second nature.  Drawing straight lines—like a mad hatter in some cases) seems to work best.

Playing the game on the smaller screen iPhone, I found the touch controls can be difficult to use effectively which noticeably came down to finger size.  The bigger your fingers, the more frustrating the controls could be.  (Note that I have average-sized fingers perfect for a hand model, but not for throwing shot puts).  For most, the controls will be a hit or miss proposition which simply comes down to personal preference.  In considering alternative control schemes, a directional control pad with special ability buttons may be a necessary compromise in order to appease a wider audience.

LostWinds is a polished and imaginative experience that offers a change of pace from the typical fast-paced platformer.  The wonderful environment and soothing soundtrack along with the relatively low stress gameplay makes it accessible to audiences young and old.  However, the touch controls are a mixed bag, and won’t be ideal for those expecting a more traditional platformer control scheme.

Albie Meter: 4 Stars (offers a unique personality and charm in a highly polished 3D/2D package; difficulty level of puzzles more ideal for the younger audience; touch/swipe controls work well after practicing, but some may find them frustrating; controls more ideal for the larger screen iPad)