Eye on iOS: Volume 10 page 2
Yes, we're long overdue for our latest update on iOS adventures – but hey, wading into the morass that is the App Store's adventure section is a perilous journey from which few ever emerge (at least, not with their sanity intact). It's like the Bermuda Triangle of digital distribution. Fortunately, you can learn from our experiences, as we once again offer you an extensive selection of popular ports, unheralded exclusives, and other games-of-interest for adventure fans that fall a little outside traditional genre lines. As always, there's something here for everyone: There's inventory, there's stealth, there's jigsaws galore; there's Twinsen, there's Hitchcock, and of course there's Tim Schafer (or half of him, anyway). Here's a sneak peek of what's to come:
Page 1: (Just scroll down!)
Page 2: The Silence, Steampunker
Page 4: Republique
Although we’re all still awaiting the release of Broken Age’s second act to complete the popular Double Fine title, we can already say this about its iPad port: it’s a must-buy, at least for those who don’t already own another version already. If you have an iPad and even a passing interest in adventure games, you’re only doing yourself and your device a disservice by not downloading this title immediately. You’re simply not going to going to find another iOS title with this caliber of story, presentation, voice acting, music, visual style, and humor that only Tim Schafer and company can deliver.
As is common with third-person point-and-click iOS adventure ports, Broken Age’s transition over to a touch device is so logical, smooth and intuitive, it’s hard to imagine playing any other way. Instead of using a mouse and a detached cursor, being able to tap and drag both objects and your character across the game world allows for a more tangible interactive experience.
There are no discernible differences between this iPad port and the PC original, but the iOS implementation is seamless: the inventory is swift and intuitive (pulled up from the bottom with the tap of a corner tab) and the hotspots and navigational scheme are flawlessly handled, making everything you touch feel precise. Simply tapping or dragging your finger to a destination carries Shay and Vella to that point. Dragging your finger across the screen also highlights hotspots, which can then be tapped to trigger an interaction, usually accompanied by either an animation or voiced observation. Hotspots also glow when inventory items are dragged over them, while double-tapping exits automatic moves you to the next screen.
As nice as it looks on a larger screen, Broken Age on iPad is a visual spectacle. Something about its cartoonish design is especially striking on the smaller screen – most noticeably if your device has retina display. Held in the palm of your hand, the game convincingly transforms into a storybook come to life, with a flood of lively and vibrant animations practically jumping off the screen. The iPad perfectly captures every color and tiny little detail the game has to offer, making it an ideal platform to play the title on. Even the subtitles are crisp and colorful, reminiscent of old school LucasArts stylings. The quality of the voice acting and music is equally impressive, so make sure to crank the sound up if circumstances allow.
If you haven’t already picked up one of this year’s most talked about and highly engaging adventure games, this is the time to jump on it. It's one of the pricier iPad adventures, and you’ll still have to wait for part two like the rest of us, but Broken Age will give you good reason to get excited about both adventure games and your iOS device.
Secret Files: Tunguska
The underrated 2006 point-and-click adventure Secret Files: Tunguska finally gets a full iOS port years after DS and Wii versions were released. The game features heroine Nina Kalenkov investigating the disappearance of her scientist father. His disappearance is, as you might guess, related to the bizarre (true life) 1908 Tunguska event—a mysterious, still unexplained explosion that carried roughly a thousand times the power of the Hiroshima atomic bomb. This scientific conundrum is mined for great conspiracy effect here, with the type of suitably ludicrous but at least imaginative resolution that you’d expect from an adventure game.
The game’s weaknesses, primarily its mediocre voice acting, are of course still present as this is a direct port of the PC version. However, Deep Silver has made a lot of intelligent design choices to make this an easy-to-play iOS port. On the iPad, the gameplay area is windowed to preserve the original resolution, with a border created for some of the key interface options, such as a very handy hotspot indicator. Many screens feature a large number of hotspots clustered together in this smaller space, and thus the reduced window size can make the game challenging to play without mis-tapping. But it looks great, with all the nifty cinematic cutscenes still intact and just as impressive so many years after initial release. The journal feature is also used very well in this game, a necessary tool to retain information and keep up with the story’s breathless rush toward its conspiracy-laden resolution.
I’ve always been a fan of this game and its ambitious plot conceits. Eight years later, its production values still compare well even to many modern adventures, with the same goofy inventory combination puzzles that seem almost endearing in an era when the most popular adventure games are starting to eschew such puzzles altogether. Secret Files: Tunguska is a long and substantial game with lots of characters and interactions, and it’s one of the more competently ported adventures available. A universal app for both iPhone and iPad, it is highly recommended if you missed the PC version, or if you remember loving the game and are looking to rediscover it.
When designing a suspenseful adventure series inspired by the work of iconic movie directors, you could do a lot worse for your debut than taking your cues directly from the Master of Suspense himself, Alfred Hitchcock. From visual and thematic standpoints alone, Hitchcock’s influence seems tailor-made for a mystery-filled game experience. Independent developer Dale Penlington certainly thought so when he created the black-and-white 2D side-scrolling thriller The Silence.
After an opening credit scene that could have been ripped straight from one of Hitchcock’s own movies, complete with cutout silhouettes and flashy titles all set to a convincing noir score, the game proper begins. The Silence follows the story of a man who awakens one evening inside a dingy motel room, with no recollection of how he got there or who he is. Deciding to examine the room and immediate surroundings for clues to his identity, it isn’t long before he encounters an abandoned motel reception desk, and beyond it, a deserted town in which everyone seems to have disappeared for some bizarre reason.
Presented purely in dark silhouettes, The Silence certainly looks like something Hitchcock would have envisioned. Characters and items in the environment are depicted in purest black, with no distinguishing characteristics, and are offset against a generally foggy, gray background. The effect is stark and moody, and as fans of Hitchcock’s work will know, there’s something quite disturbing about a silhouetted figure, all in black, coming at you. Exposition – what little there is between characters, and some bare-bones narration – is handled via cutaway dialog screens, silent movie-style.
The adventuring itself is a little on the rudimentary side, with little player interaction. You move the protagonist to the left or right by continuously touching the corresponding arrow near the bottom of the screen. You can examine and interact with objects, or pick up some items, simply by tapping them. Occasionally the game switches to a close-up view to let you manipulate an object in more detail. Inventory items you’ve acquired are displayed on the left side of the screen, and will automatically work in the proper circumstances. For example, tapping on a lock will result in a message telling you it’s locked, but tapping it again once you’ve found the key will automatically unlock it. There really is no further interaction, except for the two top-down plane-flying sequences thrown into the mix, which require you to tilt your handheld device to make your plane fly left, right, forward, and backward while dodging birds or shooting down an enemy plane. These sequences are brief and simple to complete, though they do feel awkwardly out-of-place.
Although nods to Hitchcock’s work are fairly on-the-nose early in the game (the harbinger squawk of crows, the flickering motel sign), they lose their luster a short ways in (the airplane sequences might have been a North By Northwest nod, but then again maybe not). In fact, the narrative in general leaves a lot to be desired, steamrolling right over the disappearance of the town’s citizens during the finale, and culminating in a “shocking twist” ending that can’t be described as anything other than ham-fisted. Then again, a deep and gripping narrative may be asking too much, considering it took only about 45 minutes to run through the game (and that included two or three reboots due to sudden game crashes and title screen freezes).
I liked the premise behind the game. I liked the ideas it offered to explore, and the visual style it utilized to do so. For under a dollar on both iPhone and iPad (the game is also available for Android devices), it may be worth a look on those merits alone. I simply didn’t care for the way the story – a must for any adventure or Hitchcock fan – became relegated to the realm of farcical buffoonery in its final moments, ruining a promising setup.
Poland’s Telehorse Studios, a one-man operation, has released its debut game Steampunker, an interesting but ultimately confusing and unsatisfying effort that demonstrates the risk of adventures being lost in translation – or lack thereof. An iPad exclusive, the game is a 2D point-and-tap that takes place, as its title suggests, in a steampunk-style world where the hero, Vincent, must battle robots who have taken over. He does this by moving from room to room, with minimal backtracking and only small clusters of rooms available in each chapter, and solving puzzles that will be all too familiar to veterans of iOS adventures: puzzles involving flipping switches, turning dials, and other activities that can be performed with just a finger, and without any inventory.
And frankly, without much instruction or context. Perhaps chalk it up to a language barrier, but it’s often very difficult in Steampunker to understand what exactly you’re supposed to be doing. There is almost no text, no dialogue, and no clues other than obscure visual indicators. One puzzle involving turning dials to channel steam into a certain path is a perfect example of one that appears to be an exercise in trial and error, with incomplete feedback on how your moves are actually changing the situation and, at least to me, offering no clear understanding of how I solved the puzzle when I did so. There is a built-in “hint” system, but it provided no meaningful guidance for me at all. This artificially lengthened a game that would have been over quickly otherwise.
Once the individual puzzles are finished and you return to the navigation phase, the old-school 2D graphics (reminiscent of digitized Access Software games from the early 1990s) can make it very difficult to identify correct hotspots. Though there is good use of shadow and lighting effects at times, items such as tables and pipes are dark and bland, and some important items are almost completely obscured by an over-reliance on shadow effects. The quality and detail of the protagonist’s animations are impressive, but they're dramatically overstated when walking or climbing, leading to some clumsy-looking character motion. The game does boast a cool musical soundtrack (fully composed by the game’s sole designer, Mariusz Szypura) but that’s not enough to redeem an experience that is generally too obtuse and out of context to feel like an actual adventure story.
The Haunting of Willow Hill
After the sighting of a ghostly apparition terrorizes the town of Willow Hill, private investigator Myles Winter is called to the local cemetery to solve a mystery that the police refuse to acknowledge. So begins The Haunting of Willow Hill, a short and simple, first-person mobile murder mystery. It’s not an attractive, long, or challenging game, but it’s an enjoyable enough, nostalgic-filled experience despite some awkward design choices.
Due to the game’s rather straightforward gameplay and minimal level of difficulty, Willow Hill moves fast enough to hold your attention throughout its familiar whodunit narrative structure and formulaic point-and-tap scenarios. Each objective is rather simple, requiring only a small handful of steps to accomplish a task, such as throwing out trash or using a ladder to climb a tree, but this simplistic approach allows the scenes to change frequently and the story to move briskly enough to build up some momentum. Unfortunately, hindering that momentum are too many awkward, back-and-forth fetch quests between poorly-placed and sometimes inappropriately-attired characters, such as the lone female witness standing in the middle of a modern-day courtyard adorned in warrior princess armor without any provided context.
The character models are fairly lifeless, and the environments themselves are sparsely filled and don’t really cover a whole lot of ground, taking place primarily around a single graveyard and the surrounding area. Oddly, the animation gradually becomes more and more simplistic, to the point that the ending action sequence had me laughing in hysterics with its over-the-top campiness and minimalist execution.
Within the game’s limited areas you’ll find basic environment/inventory combination puzzles. They help form a short and simple murder mystery that will have you breaking into tombs, crawling into secret passages, and sneaking into musty basements cellars to find clues about whoever is responsible for the ghostly appearances in the graveyard. Before long, the stakes are raised when someone is found murdered, launching a suspect chase through and around the cemetery that entangles local legends and community conspiracies.
There are a couple of cheap jump scares, but ultimately this is more of a whodunit than ghost story. The game primarily has you guessing who the suspect is as you venture through its detective-style mystery, delivered through voiceless, text-based dialogue. The story twists and turns and delivers high on the suspense, reminiscent of an Agatha Christie or Stephen King novel. This is further re-enforced by a fairly solid soundtrack made up of atmospheric piano and synthesizer sounds that craft a soft, creepy tone as the story slowly becomes darker and darker.
The interface is exactly what you would expect of a fully-navigational, first-person mobile adventure, with movement and observation assigned to their own virtual thumbsticks on the left and right sides of the screen. Tapping a red knapsack in the top right accesses an inventory, where you can equip any object and then attempt to combine it with any other environmental object you tap on-screen.
Even with all its limitations – or perhaps because of them – the game manages to be something of a charming guilty pleasure. Somehow its dated visuals, cheesy story, and rudimentary puzzle design actually work in its favor, since The Haunting of Willow Hill seems to have been designed as a quirky tribute to the campy PC murder mysteries of a bygone era. Available for both iPhone and iPad, there’s nothing that will wow you from an aesthetic or gameplay perspective, but it can still be a fun way to spend an hour or two late one night.
Escape the Hellevator!
From the very first time the title screen loads, it’s clear that Fezziwig’s Escape the Hellevator! is a tongue-in-cheek affair inspired by schmaltzy pulp serials of cinema’s early years. The game is a short but humorously morose journey through one man’s deathbed judgment. Beyond that, it’s a little difficult to summarize precisely what this game is all about, so let’s start at the beginning.
Escape the Hellevator! belongs squarely in the “Escape the Room” subset of adventure games. The story takes you through a series of locked rooms, and it’s up to you to decipher clues, use inventory items, and solve puzzles to unlock the exit and proceed to the next room. As such, there is little-to-no movement; you simply spin around your own axis in a 360-degree circle to see all areas of the room.
Clarence Ridgeway is having a rough day. On his deathbed, he is in the process of being moved to the emergency room on another floor via the hospital elevator. Right on cue, a strange priest lurking near the elevator doors grabs Clarence’s wrists and peers deep into his soul. Things go from uncomfortable to downright creepy when the priest senses the despicable acts Clarence has committed against his loved ones during the course of his life, and forces him to relive these condemning memories, to Clarence’s great torment.
This is where Escape the Hellevator! shines the brightest, in that it places gamers in some deliciously evil situations. Clarence’s desperate pleas fall on deaf ears as paintings of loved ones change to death masks in his memories, and walls become covered with graffiti encouraging him to “Do it! Do it again!” Whether it’s poisoning his grandma, embezzling funds, or setting fire to a tenement building, Clarence can’t escape the guilt of his past, try as he might.
The road to hell is paved with good intentions and, in this case, smoothly scrolling environments and clear, first-person graphics. Backgrounds are crisp and colorful, and there were only one or two instances where I really didn’t know what object I had just picked up; instead I just termed it a “generic green vegetable” and proceeded on my course (without any problem whatsoever). Inventory items, once picked up, appear in a vertical pane to the left of the screen, and you’ll carry quite a few of them at times (though they are always used within the episode in which you found them).
Clicking an item in the inventory bar brings up a close-up view of the object that can be rotated in three dimensions, which quite often reveals hidden clues or buttons and panels to further manipulate the object. Pinching the screen returns you to the Hellevator once again. The in-game environments themselves are also rich with hotspots to interact with, usually purposefully but sometimes just for twisted fun. I was pleasantly surprised at how much there was to find and do, considering you spend your time in a cramped space with limited movement possibilities.
Puzzle-solving requires a good bit of out-of-the-box thinking, and most episodes have a least one section that stumped me for a good 15-20 minutes at a time. However, help is there for those who need it. An in-game hint button gives some general clues to help steer you in the right direction, though (as I found out first-hand) the hints provided are very roughly based on your progress, and may have absolutely nothing to do with the specific puzzle that has you stumped at the moment. But fear not, for the developers have also provided a handy link to their YouTube channel, accessible right from the game’s main menu screen, which hosts a complete walkthrough video for every segment.
Each of the six episodes represents a stage in Clarence’s life, as he’s about to commit a new heinous deed. Between episodes, the story is told through graphic novel-style panels, depicting Clarence’s continued pleas for mercy to avoid suffering any more feelings of guilt. The art style in these cinematics is photorealistic, similar to the way it was done in Remedy Entertainment’s Max Payne.
Musically, Hellevator is a mixed bag, with only a couple of actual “tunes” – title screen and cinematics – then switching to a creepy background score during regular gameplay. These are further punctuated by scattered background noises, namely the mechanical sounds of the elevator plummeting to its doom and maniacal laughing, presumably by the creepy priest (Clarence certainly has precious little to laugh about). Again, it isn’t anything that’s going to wow you or win you over, but it sets the stage appropriately.
From the ostentatious title screen with its bandstand musical accompaniment to the sinful subject matter, Escape the Hellevator! is an entertaining ride from start to finish, with some moments of sincere head-scratching along the way. The plot is bare bones, but the gameplay, while not exactly deep, does contain some meaty morsels that will sustain your attention for the 2-3 hour journey.
The Republique’s only aim is to bring the population happiness. It is for this reason that citizens are watched at all times by cameras and its noble guards, the Prizrak. If it seems harsh at times, it is only in the best interests for all. So is the stated position of the Headmaster, leader of the Republique. But not all are ready to toe the line and simply follow orders. A major thorn in the side of the authorities was Daniel Zager, who evaded capture for months, distributing altered copies of the Manifesto. Now Zager has been hunted down and killed, but the fruit of his work is still out there. Caught in possession of one of his altered Manifestos, a young girl named Hope has been scheduled for “Recalibration”. But Hope has someone on her side. Someone who can control the camera network and override other security systems. Someone who may even be able to lead her to safety if they are clever enough. You.
Thus is the setup for Republique, as presented in an extensive opening cutscene. Whilst this initial scene lasts about five minutes, it includes some tutorial elements, allowing players limited control. As Hope is transported from her room to a prison cell, there is even an opportunity to get some idea of the layout of the complex. You may just want to sit back and enjoy the road though, as the fully realistic graphics are stunning to behold. Hope’s room is small but pleasantly furnished, with a bookshelf and a small bed. The prison section is stark and grey, with plain-tiled floors and harsh lighting. In between you pass through a sumptuous lobby with vibrant plant life and towering statuary. In assisting Hope with her escape, you will see all these areas again and more. Hope herself is a fully realised 3D model, wearing a plain grey hoodie. Motion capture appears to have been used, as she moves naturally when you direct her actions. This is especially noticeable in her facial expressions, exhibiting a look of real distress when she appeals directly to her phone camera at the start.
The sound is also nicely handled. The game is fully voiced, with an excellent performance from all concerned, especially the lead. As well as her main lines for the story, Hope reacts to in-game developments in a way that aids immersion. For example, if you lead her towards a guard, she notes their presence in a nervous whisper, even if you haven’t. She will also express concern that you have abandoned her if you go for a period without interacting with the game at all. The environment makes appropriate sounds as well, from the footsteps of Hope and the guards to the mechanical swish of doors. There is background music, but this is mostly a gentle sci-fi backing tune that is hardly noticeable. When danger threatens, a more dramatic piece kicks in to add to the tension.
Whilst she follows your instructions, you are a guide rather than in direct control of Hope. You have been given access to the system that operates throughout the complex, giving you complete control of the cameras. You start off with a view from a camera in Hope’s cell, which you can swivel and tilt using slide controls displayed on the edge of the screen. These include arrows which show where your current view is within the range of the camera’s movement. Whilst in this view, tapping on the screen directs Hope to that location. If you tap next to an object, such as a box, the white walk indicator changes to a green crouch indicator, showing that Hope will hide behind the object when she reaches it. Double-tapping causes Hope to go into a crouched run, vital in evading some patrols. You can also get her to interact with a handful of items.
Tapping an on-screen button reverts to a stylised computerised view, in which electronic objects you can interact with show up as icons. The main one you will be using allows you to switch cameras. You can also lock and unlock doors and pick up information from computers and the guards’ radios. At first you only have low-level access, limiting what doors and systems you can access, but upgrades can be obtained within the story. You also have a map which updates as you explore, and a record of the data and items you have acquired. Hitting the view change button again restarts the action from the last camera you selected.
The game has two difficulty settings. In normal mode, you have to keep your wits about you and act quickly, as capture is a constant threat. You must carefully time Hope’s passage past guards or find ways to avoid their patrol routes. Hope is unable to defend herself normally, though she can acquire some one-shot items to fend off a single guard if spotted. Those wanting to just enjoy the setting or find the stealth element too difficult can opt for the easier story mode instead. Whilst the difficulty setting is chosen at the start, you will be offered the option to downgrade to story mode if you keep failing a section. This is handled without breaking the immersion, with an inside man who offers to take some guards off-duty if that will help you achieve your goal.
The game auto-saves and has an effective in-world checkpoint system. If you are detected and captured by a guard, they take you to the nearest holding cell, setting your progress back only a few rooms at most. Your actions are limited by your initial means of contacting Hope in-game. The link is powered through her phone, and all system actions beyond basic camera use drain battery power. Whilst it is impossible to lose connection by draining the phone entirely, you are limited to a few other actions before recharge at a holding cell station is required. You also cannot reach cameras that are more than a room or two away from the phone Hope carries. This results in an immensely immersive experience, with the revelation of story through overheard conversations and stolen snippets of information feeling entirely natural.
Rather than any overt puzzles, the game’s mental challenge comes almost entirely from working out how to get past guards in various ways. The control you have over systems allows for a variety of strategies. Just by using the cameras and timing your moves carefully, most guards can be bypassed by a patient player. The observant will find there is more than one way around some of the obstacles, with some being easier than others. Alternatively, with many patrol routes going in and out of rooms, you can hamper guards by locking doors behind them, or with one of the upgrades, even lure them away from their assigned routes entirely.
The first episode is available free for both iPhone and iPad, offering a good few hours of game time. This ends on a cliffhanger, indicating that the subsequent episodes will form a single complete story. Episodes 2 and 3 are already available as in-app purchases, with the remaining 2 episodes scheduled for release within the next few months. Alternatively, a single one-off payment can be made for all episodes at a reduced overall price.
Little Big Adventure
Back in 1994, the world of video gaming was first introduced to Dr. Funfrock. Belying his jolly name, the doctor was an evil tyrant, ruling over the world of Twinsun with an iron fist. As the only person with access to cloning technology, allowing him to create clone guards anywhere in the world, his rule seemed unassailable. Then a young Quetch by the name of Twinsen started having prophetic dreams about Twinsun being destroyed in a cataclysmic explosion. Imprisoned for promulgating this heretical prophecy, Twinsen soon found himself on a world-spanning adventure to prevent his visions of destruction coming true. Now, twenty years after the original release of Little Big Adventure (aka Relentless: Twinsen's Adventure), iOS gamers can experience this classic tale in all its glory, with a port that is truly faithful to the original, for good and, occasionally, bad.
The game is presented in a third-person isometric view. Initially you are confined to a sparse prison cell, but soon escape to the green grass and gravel paths of your home town. Later sections of the game will see you visiting a dark and forbidding lost temple and the snowy heights of the mountains that divide the world into two separate hemispheres. Whilst they may not stand up well against modern PC games, the graphics do well on the iPad, the size of the screen being a good match for the original resolution. There is a wealth of background detail to the scenery, be it the lush carpets in some of the nicer buildings or the coiled barbed wire protecting military installations. Characters are moderately simple 3D models, with their unusual shapes (such as the ovoid head of the hero) being fairly evident. The models are nicely animated, and the hero has three speeds of movement: creep, walk and run. In creep, Twinsen crouches, whilst walking is performed standing upright. Move up to a run and Twinsen leans back momentarily before thrusting his whole upper body forward as he pounds along.
The sound is also carried over from the original and is top-notch. There is an extensive soundtrack, with each area having its own theme. The desert has a widely echoing theme with whispering strings that speaks of harsh winds in wide open spaces. The mountains are accompanied by pan-pipes whose solitary tones evoke the cold wasteland you travel through. There are a bunch of atmospheric sound effects as well, such as water dripping in a cave. These effects are not just limited to the background either. Even simply walking around creates a wealth of sound, as the tapping of your feet on a stone floor becomes a soft shushing as you cross a section of carpet. The game is also fully voiced, and the voice actors bring appropriate feeling to most of their lines. The only real issue with the voice work is in repeated dialogue, such as the questions you ask everyone you meet when looking for a particular item or person. These are said in the same tone every time, becoming slightly grating after a while.
Initially this iOS port only came with a simple touch control. This meant you tapped where you wished Twinsen to move, executing various gestures to get him to jump or attack. Whilst this works well enough for generally getting around, it proved difficult to use in those sections where fine control is vital. Fortunately, a Virtual Pad option has now been added. With this method, sliding your finger around the bottom-left corner acts like a small joystick, with buttons superimposed on the bottom-right for all the major actions. This makes the more precise actions much more an exercise in skill. Using two fingers allows you to zoom in and out or slide the scenery around to get a better view in both control settings. This can prove a problem, however, as attempting to align the screen for a jump can result in a careless move instead.
The gameplay is unchanged from the original, so fans of the game will be able to experience this wonderful classic all over again. Newcomers will find an action-adventure that starts off with a simple man seeking his freedom and missing girlfriend and ending up becoming the saviour of his world. This premise may seem clichéd, but the transition from lowly nobody to hero is extremely well handled. The world has a wealth of characters, as the humanoid Quetch are not the only inhabitants. You will also meet the elephantine Grobos, as well as the Rabibunnies and Spheros. You are encouraged along a story path, but are largely free to travel around as you wish. Initial access to most areas is only limited by the need to acquire a suitable means of transport, or because the odds are overwhelming. Early on you will acquire a magic ball that you can throw to attack opponents or hit switches from a distance. This initially has little power, but builds up to a truly devastating weapon by the end. Fighting is usually a last resort though, as using your wits and finding unguarded paths is almost always better. You will also need to perfect your platforming skills, often having to jump gaps with a fair amount of precision. Players of the original will have mixed feelings on hearing that getting from your boat to the White Leaf Desert is as hard as it always was.
But there is more to the game than just action. Even getting out of the prison at the start requires wits, as the gate is too heavily guarded for an unarmed prisoner to simply walk out. For the most part, your opponents are a lot more heavily armed than you, so deducing ways to avoid them is vital. The prophecy is also somewhat opaque, and you have to travel far and wide to pick up all the clues needed to progress. Many areas, such as the mythical Temple of Bu, involve more direct puzzling, figuring out switch combinations and working through mazes. Even using your magical attack ball can be a puzzle sometimes. Depending on what movement mode you are in, Twinsen will throw it slightly differently. Add in the fact that higher levels of magic allow it to bounce off walls several times, and the cunning player can hit switches and enemies from unusual angles.
Even with these intellectual challenges, however, if you are solely a traditional point-and-click player then this game is probably not for you. Whilst much of the game can be taken at your own pace, some of the manoeuvring requires a reasonable amount of dexterity. There are even some parts, such as a hole-filled corridor you must navigate pursued by a rolling log, where you have to operate under pressure. But if you are happy having a bit of action with your adventuring, this is a classic that has stood the test of time well. Little Big Adventure is available from the App Store for both iPhone and iPad, and though I can’t speak to the experience on iPhone, I would say this is well worth a look for any iPad owner.
Deponia - The Puzzle, Edna & Harvey - The Puzzle
If you’re looking a way to kill anything from five minutes to a couple hours and you’re a huge fan of Deponia or Edna & Harvey, Daedalic Entertainment’s offbeat comic adventure series, their respective iPad-exclusive spinoff puzzle games could be a satisfying diversion. But be forewarned about what to expect, as these are essentially just a succession of interactive jigsaw puzzles.
On the left side of the screen, a partially completed jigsaw depicting a random screenshot from one of the original games is formed out of squared segments. A red outline will highlight which piece of the broken screenshot needs to be filled in next. On the right side, a selection of random squares is available to choose from. Tap the correct matching piece on the right for it to automatically slide into place, thus unveiling the next series of pieces to choose from. Choose the incorrect piece and you lose time on the timer. Solve the picture entirely within the time limit to complete the puzzle and move on to the next screenshot, with more pieces and a harder time limit each time, gradually increasing the difficulty of each puzzle. Run out of time on a single screen and you’ll have to start the same puzzle over. Although the overall time limits are generous, the penalty for mistaken piece selection is not, so you’ll have to be careful about choosing the right piece each time to successfully complete the current puzzle.
A repeat of the same jigsaw formula over and over represents the entirety of both games, with increasing number of pieces, harder time limits, occasionally changing music from the original games, and differing pictures providing the only variety. Each screenshot appears in the chronological order of their respective series, starting with selections from the first game, moving into screenshots from the second game and so forth. The menus themselves are also screenshots, but with an overlaid line of circles displaying all the levels available, with question marks over any you’ve yet to unlock. The objective is to simply to unlock all 90+ screenshots.
Since neither title offers any new adventure content for fans of the original series, the games are theoretically better suited for fans of jigsaw puzzles in general. Ironically, as the timed challenges sometimes rely on your recollection of the original games’ backgrounds to complete them in an efficient manner, they are ultimately more appropriate for existing fans. Either way, these titles offer nothing particularly compelling to separate them from the cavalcade of puzzlers already on the App Store. At less than a dollar each, both Deponia – The Puzzle and Edna & Harvey – The Puzzle are cheap enough for some light entertainment, and their bite-sized setup makes them fitting for short mobile gaming sessions on the go, but anyone seeking more of what made the original games so appealing will find these casual spinoffs sorely disappointing.
Stephen Brown, Evan Dickens, Randall Rigdon, and Pascal Tekaia contributed to this article.