Developer: Retro Dreamer
Price: Free
Version Reviewed: 1.0
Device Reviewed On: iPad

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

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

Everybody has a different solution for a bad day. A binge session of junk TV; a hot bowl of soup; a sappy movie. Unfortunately for Campbell’s and rom-coms, however, there’s a new sadness cure on the block, and its name is Happy Fall.

At first glance, that may seem like an exaggeration; a falling platformer using gyroscopic controls? Been there, done that. Not, however, with indie studio Retro Dreamer at the helm. This is a team known for modern mobile classics like Velocispider and Duckers: games that go beyond unfocused nostalgia to create coin-op memories for a modern era. And with this latest outing, they’ve most definitely done it again.

Happy Fall’s strongest asset is its simplicity. Far from trying to reinvent the wheel, Retro Dreamer focuses on giving it some extra elbow grease; perfecting what’s old to make it feel new again. Right away, players will be greeted with some of the most tightly tuned motion controls they’ve ever felt. Descending the game’s endless platforms is an effortless affair filled with an all-important sense of control. Players have the ability to strategize on an almost unnoticeable level; to choose when they’re going to zoom ahead after power-ups or hang back while the screen descends in order to see what’s coming, knowing they won’t be caught off guard by the game’s foibles.

Retro Dreamer complements the strong foundation with a robust set of bells and whistles. The power-ups–like enemy-clearing bombs and progress-saving revival hearts–all feel like succinct answers to the question ‘what would makes this experience less frustrating?’ Meanwhile, collecting the letters S-H-I-N-Y will unleash satisfying invincibility, sending the jelly blob hero down through all platforms and enemies for a limited time. Using everything in tandem helps to clear through a diverse, addictive set of achievements. In this way, plumbing Happy Fall’s fast-moving depths may eventually feel frustrating, but never unfairly so, as the the game always seems so utterly on the player’s side. It carries with it the optimism the arcade era never seemed to have.

A large part of this optimism comes from the game’s crisp, adorable aesthetic. More than smile-inducing, playing Happy Fall actually feels wonderful. The love put into every sprite and asset oozes from the screen, and also, there’s pudding with a monocle.

Pudding. With a monocle.

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

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