Developer: Artificial Life
Price: $1.99 (“sale”)
Version Reviewed: 1.0.1

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★☆☆
Game Controls Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★☆☆
User Interface Rating: ★★★☆☆

Re-use / Replay Value Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Overall Rating: ★★½☆☆

iDroidsMania is a side-scrolling platformer for the iPhone that revolves around robot love. You play the role of HAXX, a farmer with a wife named Pixie and “dozens of babybots,” and your wife’s old boyfriend (“BAD RAMM”) has kidnapped her. Oh, dear; we’ve got to save the princess from the bad guys again.

img_00066 As far as platformers go, iDroidsMania doesn’t bring anything overly unique to the table, and its frustrating controls get in the way of gameplay. While updates could make it worthwhile, there are too many excellent platformers around (my favorites include Bounce On and EDGE) to pick up this clumsy attempt.

Each level in iDroidsMania is a simple progression from Point A to Point B, with a few variances. Some levels force you to fight BAD RAMM; others require a bit of searching in order to find a key, which unlocks the door at the end of each level. Enemies populate your path—but they don’t act like ordinary enemies. Running into them doesn’t damage your health until they chose to attack you, which doesn’t make much sense, and I seem to take damage every time I kill a robo-monkey. It’s often more efficient to simply jump over them. Also, the enemies don’t have much personality and aren’t that varied, and are often slow to react. There are clever tricks to some of the levels (for example, you can use your grappling hook to latch onto certain areas of the “ceiling” and swing across chasms) but they simply aren’t utilized enough, and the game usually spoonfeeds you the solutions. The challenge comes, not from the game, but from the control scheme.

img_00057This is where the nightmare begins—and unless you have a taste for mediocrity, also where it ends. Two buttons in the bottom-left corner control movement (left and right; there’s no crouch) while two buttons in the bottom-right are used for your weapon and for jumping. The wheel in the top-right can be tapped to change your weapon. The controls are decent, but they really aren’t suited to a platformer. It’s hard to jump and move at the same time, for example, and firing a weapon while in midair is difficult. Sometimes it works, sure, but I usually felt an annoying amount of lag. The unresponsive control scheme is further hampered by a significant design flaw: weapon selection. You use the same hand to switch weapons as you do to fire…meaning that you usually have to dash to safety before swapping out your grappling hook for a bomb. The levels get increasingly harder—not because they’re clever or require skill, but simply because HAXX’s miserable jumping isn’t up to par and you can’t attack quickly enough. I spent a good deal of time replaying levels where I died, simply because HAXX wouldn’t leap over a gap.

iDroidsMania does have some things going for it. The graphics, while dark, are still nice; the story is frivolous and has plenty of innuendo cheerfully scattered through the game (take a look at the “health recharge” station and you’ll see what I mean.) The “cutscenes” (well, scrolling images) that present the story are well done. But, honestly, the broken controls maim what could have been a good platformer, and the long load times don’t help either. Skip this one, and grab something decent instead.

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