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Developer: Crescent Moon Games
Price: $2.99
Version Reviewed: 1.0
Device Reviewed On: iPod touch 4G, iPad 1G

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

Overall Rating: ★★★☆☆

Gears is such a frustrating game. It has so many good elements to it, but is so hampered by the difficulty of actually playing it that it becomes unworthy of actually playing. The player rolls a ball around the various levels, trying to collect icons along the way in under a given time limit (that can be removed by playing on Easy – something that makes the game far less frustrating). The goalas are twofold – there’s just pure progression through all of the game’s 27 levels, as well as medal collection, with better medals awarded for faster times and greater numbers of icons collected. The game comes with universal app support and Game Center integration for leaderboards and achievements.

Gears is absolutely beautiful. The graphics on the Retina Display and iPad are just top-notch, and there’s even advanced graphical options for the iPad 2. That and the sound design create a wonderful atmosphere to the game, that is slightly enigmatic as to the story’s nature. It may ‘just’ be a ball rolling game, but there’s clearly a lot of work into making this look and feel like something special, as it is one of the most beautiful iOS games out there. The problem is when the game actually has to be played.

See, the problem is that the controls are horrid. The swipe controls that are enabled by default never feel natural. You often have to fight the controls to get going where you want, and when hills come up, I never felt like I was trying to roll a ball up a hill. There was a very real disconnect between the control system and the game and the controls, and that’s what kept me basically quitting the game in frustration many times. There are tilt controls, but they are bad as well, and I suffered from the same kind of disconnection as I did with the swipe controls. Tilting is supposed to be a more intimate control scheme, one where I can feel actually in control of what I’m controlling, but I found myself going back to the swipe controls every time I tried to use the tilt controls. Compare this to games like Tilt to Live or the Dark Nebula games, where once proper calibration is achieved, the game feels very natural, and there’s little question that my success is based off of me, and not just the control scheme. Is it easy to achieve this kind of synchronicity between player and device? No. But I feel like Crescent Moon Games has lots of talent to make a game that feels beautiful, surely they have the talent to make one that plays closely as well as it looks.

I don’t like to fight my games – this isn’t to say that I don’t like challenge entirely, but that I like the challenge to come from the content of a game, not the interface. Gears has compelling content, but an interface that dissuades me from playing. I know that a game like this can be done well, I’ve played other example of ball rolling games that have great control schemes? Why can’t this otherwise stunning game be one of those games?

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Posted in: Games, iPad Apps and Games, iPad Games, iPhone Apps and Games, Reviews

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