Developer: Sonic BOOM
Price: $1.99
Version Reviewed: 1.0.0

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★☆
Game Controls Rating: ★★★☆☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★½☆

iPhone Integration Rating: ★★★½☆
User Interface Rating: ★★★½☆

Re-use / Replay Value Rating: ★★★½☆

Overall Rating: ★★★½☆

IMG_0148Alice in Bomberland is…strange.

If you’ve read the original story, this should come as no surprise; Lewis Carroll’s world is bizarre enough, and a good game should never try to make a tale mundane. Alice in Bomberland tells the same story as the classic book, but with a twist: instead of Wonderland, Alice is in Bomberland—a place where, for some reason, everyone is trying to blow you up. The result is a unique action game where you’re constantly scrambling for cover, dodging bombs, and jumping over rockets while trying to snag the powerups necessary to survive. It’s hurt by mediocre controls and a lack of depth, but Alice in Bomberland is a quirky, entertaining diversion regardless.

Each level begins with a short clip of the story, including gorgeous illustrations. The story takes a backseat, however, as the characters you encounter quickly begin assaulting you with explosives. Some levels—such as when you’re falling down the rabbit hole—are entirely vertical affairs, where you float through the air and dodge projectiles. Others place you on solid ground, where jumping is all but a necessity.

The controls used for both scenarios are similar: a set of left/right arrows in the bottom left, and either an up arrow or a pair of up/down arrows in the bottom right, depending on the stage. While the controls work, they’re not the best, and I never quite got accustomed to them. Later in the game, “level-switch” powerups appear, which will suddenly jerk you out of a ground-based level and place you in a falling one, or vice-versa; thus, the controls for the two modes did have to be similar. But couldn’t we have bigger buttons, at least? It’s the controls that are the main sticking point for me. I just can’t hold my iPod like that forever.

IMG_0150While running around like the White Rabbit is fun, your goal for each level is to amass enough points to pass. Simple enough, right? Floating objects (powerups, “lost pages” of Alice’s story, etc) get you points, while being struck by a missile will cost you. (In addition to points, you also lose health.) This means that you can be playing for ten minutes and still be nowhere near finished if you don’t bother to grab the powerups, or if you keep getting hit. The powerups in Alice in Bomberland are as fantastic as they are ridiculous; along with the “Eat me!” cake, there’s a psychedelic potion that makes Alice’s world go trippy—think bright flashing colors, blurred vision, the works.

The idea behind Alice in Bomberland is fun, and the presentation is great; the the artwork is superb. But the controls quickly become frustrating, especially if you’ve got larger fingers, and there’s just not enough variety. Sure, you can unlock an endless mode and a developer commentary after beating the plethora of levels, but I’d expect to see endless mode long before beating the 48 included levels. The vast majority of the game plays in an identical fashion, and replay value just isn’t there.

That being said, Alice in Bomberland manages to be both cute and mildly disturbing, and it’s a refreshing break from your typical App Store game. Alice in Bomberland is a good diversion…just don’t expect it to be quite as epically enduring as Lewis Carroll’s original story, and remember to rest your poor thumbs from time to time.

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