Friday, September 17, 2010

App O' The Mornin': Spikey's Bounce Around Review

This one was a bit of a surprise. Surprise is good in my line of work, because after you've seen the upteenth "run-to-the-right" game you begin to get a little cynical. (Have I missed it, or has no innovative soul yet broken new ground and made a "run-to-the-left" game? Please don't tell me: I just love the idea that it might exist.)

Spikey sat on my device for a long time before I played it, and for the most sound of reasons: I didn't like the icon. (Oh don't act like you never do it.) I also found the graphics unappealing. After spending time with it, I think the strange color palette and cutesy butterflies-and-flowers theme is maybe some kind of retro joke that eluded me at first glance.

At least, I hope so, because underneath its peculiar veneer is a puzzle game that actually does something different, and provides almost maddening degree of difficulty at times.The goal is to fire an alternately bouncy and sticky little ball in order to free butterflies trapped in glass jars. Flowers, vines, and other objects appear on the screen, and the more of these you collect, the higher your score. As you get deeper into the game, new factors are added, such as rubber bumpers, wasps, and other environmental elements.

You can't shoot Spikey quite all the way to the top of the screen, so you have to use his ability to stick to some surfaces and bounce off others in order to reach the tough spots. There are a limited number of shots per level, and creating the proper sequence of shots in the right direction can be almost insanely challenging at points. It's impossible to know how to do this from just looking at each puzzle, so you have to experiment in order to get it right.

I'm usually not a fan of puzzle games that require multiple trial-and-error attempts to solve. Spikey is a rank offender in this category. There are puzzles which can't be solved without nailing every shot, and sometimes failure to nail a shot isn't really your fault. Due to the structure of the puzzles and physics of the game, a simple mis-calculation can ruin an entire setup.

This didn't really bug me in Spikey. It simply adds an element of dexterity to the basic puzzle design, and gives it kind an arcade-puzzler feel. The challenge becomes not merely one of logically figuring out the proper moves, but also successfully executing each move. I'm okay with that.

Spikey's Bounce Around combination of ballistics, sticking, bouncing, and collecting--with things to avoid and limited shots--is not quite like any puzzler I've played. Sure, it's a variation on familiar themes, but it combines those themes in an interesting way, and fulfills the most basic requirement of any puzzler: it makes you want to keep trying and moving on to the next level.

There's a free taste available as a Lite version, and the full version costs $2. Give it a shot!


Matthew G. said...

I played through the Lite version this afternoon on your recommendation, and thought it was nice enough. I think I'm going to pass on the full version, though -- I can agree that it's not the worst trial-and-error offender I've seen, but in the end it still had a bit too much of that for my taste. Still, a pleasant diversion for a few minutes.

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