Developer: Moon Active
Version Reviewed: 1.0
Device Reviewed On: iPad 2
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Sam is bitter. And who can blame him. The poor guy is attached to a rope and plunged relentlessly downward by a scientist who kidnapped him and now dangles him into abyss after abyss to explore the underworld and collect shiny baubles. Not following? I wasn’t either, but when one starts playing Moon Active’s quirky new tilt-controlled avoid-the-obstacles game it starts to make sense. Our protagonist is not just on a downward spiral; he is constantly smashed up against walls and spiky rocks as he swings precariously from a rather thin thread. And apparently he wasn’t all that jovial to begin with, boor bugger.
Players guide Sam through 100 levels spread across five worlds in standard physics-puzzle format, trying not to cut his rope on the chainsaw blades and jagged rocks in his way. Sam won’t mind; the only time he lifts his sardonically despondent demeanour is when he dies and earns his wings and relieved grin.
But players don’t have to give Sam over to the ghost without help. There are power–ups like super cut-proof rope and (of course) exploding pigs to cushion some of his blows. There are gems to collect, and the tilt controls are responsive.
The game is so simple I’d be dismissive, but it’s altogether too much fun to look at and even listen to. Helping our poor hero take his beating, seeing his scornful expression and enjoying the sounds of his thrashing gives the title an unexpected schadenfreude-laden kick.
Oddly, Bitter Sam doesn’t work on first generation iPads or iPhones that predate the 4, which could spell a doom far worse than Sam’s since that’s a huge market share of gamers to burn. And while the game is clever and self-effacing it is also repetitive and lacking anything original in terms of gameplay to bring players back for more. Aside from the standard Game Center integration the replay value is on the low end.
Bitter Sam may descend but it’s not a deep plunge, nor is it innovative. But its comic appeal makes it a great a pick-up-a-play option for anyone who enjoys a pinch of irony with their gaming quick-fix.