Genre: Sidescroller | Developer: FatCow Games | Publisher: FatCow Games
Platform: iOS | Players: 1 | Rating: E (Everyone)
“Bringing depth to casual gaming” is a bold promise, but it’s exactly what developer Fatcow Games claim about their first release, iOS game Idyllic!. We check out the title, and find out if it lives up to this claim, or if it doesn’t go far enough in either direction.
Idyllic! takes a page from so-called runner games, like Canabalt or Robot Unicorn Attack. But instead of running automatically and timing your jumps, you are instead jumping constantly, while aiming your jumps in order to hit each island in the environment, and trying not to fall to your doom. Each island you land on goes from dried up to blossoming, netting you points for each one.
Aiming is done by tilting your iOS device left and right, something that feels quite intuitive. We’ve all played motion controlled games where you feel like you have to flail to get the on-screen reaction you want, or it seems random which movement means what. That’s why there’s something to be said for a tilt-based game where I didn’t once feel like I was doing something the game wasn’t registering, and I had just the right amount of control.
You also have a couple of other ways to help you hit that next island. In addition to tapping the screen to double-jump, you also have two different powers on buttons in each of the lower corners of the screen; float and pound. Can you guess what they do?
Naturally, the further you go and the more stuff you hit, the better your score. But unlike other games of this ilk, you don’t start at zero points each time. Instead, there are checkpoints every once in a while, and when you start the game up, you start with the amount of points you had at that checkpoint. This makes each time you play an attempt to further your overall point total.
This is where the depth comes in. The checkpoints are also stores that house upgrades for your jumps, powers, etc. So if you’re having trouble getting to the next checkpoint, you’re still accruing currency you can use to upgrade, so that it gets easier and easier to advance.
This is a fascinating idea, and it works fairly well. Instead of just trying to get better and better at the same thing, you’re slowly progressing what you are able to do, while still retaining the pick-up-and-play-ness of a typical iOS game.
But while the concept is solid and innovative, Idyllic doesn’t always get there in terms of execution. Now granted, I was playing this on a semi-old iPod Touch, but I experienced several crashes and hiccups while playing the game, most notably every time I tried to pull up the “help” screen.
I also couldn’t seem to turn of the in-game music or SFX, no matter how much I fiddled with the sliders. This can be quite annoying if you are the kind of person that likes to do your mobile gaming while listening to your own music or podcasts. The music, while catchy, also tends to not loop flawlessly.
The UI of the game only consists of buttons with symbols, no text. While this gives it a very sleek look, I sometimes had to stare at the buttons for a second before figuring out what it was supposed to do. When you’re playing, the buttons for your powers also feel a bit small, so it’s not always simple enough to slam on one of them to save you from dying. (The screenshots are from a previous build.)
My only complaint about the gameplay itself is that the checkpoints seem a little unbalanced. In the beginning, there was a lot of slow jumping, without any enemies or other dangers around. Now, however, I’ve reached a point where no matter how far I get, I never seem to reach the next checkpoint, even with slowly upgrading my powers.
Then again, CEO of Fatcow Games, Amit Patpatia, have been very outspoken about how important it is to iterate on your product. He has already promised a fix on the pacing, and it’s conceivable that when you try out Idyllic!, all my concerns have been fixed.
So between that, the fact that I am not sure how many of the issues are because of my review device, and the fact that this is the studio’s first release, I’m looking more positively on Idyllic! than I normally would. Like I mentioned, the concept of the game is very solid, and they do indeed strike a good balance between casual play and depth to invest in, so if you can look past the flaws I have brought up, I do recommend you pick up this neat iOS title.
A code for the game was given to The Gaming Vault for review purposes. Reviewed on an iPod Touch 16GB (2nd Gen).