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Developer: BulkyPix
Price: $0.99
Version Reviewed: 1.3
Device Reviewed On: iPad 2

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

Overall Rating: ★★★☆☆

Gnu Revenge had the capricious Cupertino misfortune of being released on the heels of Angry Birds Space. While the latest from BulkyPix was on display at GDC 2012 and likely developed apart, the game still lacks both the buzz and addictive gameplay of the other space-physics hit.

The art is the game’s best feature. It’s bright and the characters are grotesquely adorable. The storyline, however, is essentially cast with characters from a watering hole in the African Savannah. In Gnu Revenge, our wildebeest hero is after the evil crocs for centuries of making meals of – you guessed it – mini Gnus. So he thrusts off into  outer space to free the kiddies – three to a level – and knock his toothy foe into the void. Why this happens in space is unexplained, but it’s a video game, not a documentary, so let’s go with it.

To free his kin, the ugly antelope doesn’t catapult into zero-gravity, but instead has a jetpack. Players control the thrust with a button. This is a completely different control scheme than Angry Birds has in any iteration, and potentially a compelling one. Not only is the means of propulsion different, gamers must control the thrust and momentum during flight in order to enter into a planet’s orbit.

The trouble is that the controls are super sensitive. It takes a millisecond too long or short to send the gnu, rather than the crocodile, into a black hole. There is no directional guidance, and the gravity fields don’t extend very far from the planets. The result is that success often takes tremendous patience and can feel accidental, rather than the by-product of trial and error. On the plus side, there is no limit to how many tries players get, so there’s no endless restarting.

The game has 72 levels spread across four environments that unlock sequentially. Gnus replace stars and three are up for grabs depending on how many were saved. Only the most punctilious will find that reason enough for replay, however. In later stages things do get more interesting with multiple planets, obstacles, and portals, but getting there can cause a lot of frustration.

Gnus Revenge is a treat to look at and adds several elements to space-physics games that Angry Birds Space doesn’t have, but bad timing is bad timing. The avian irate have only been cruising the final frontier for a few weeks and have their audience enthralled. Gnu Revenge fails to deliver the right simplicity vs challenge ratio or enough variation to stand on its own hooved feet.


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