Developer: Keith Curtis/Black Chair Games
Price: $1.99
Version: 1.0
App Reviewed on: iPhone 4

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★☆☆
Controls Rating: ★½☆☆☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★½☆
Re-use / Replay Value Rating: ★★★☆☆

Overall Rating: ★★★☆☆

LAD is a dark and moody puzzle/platformer game. Like wandering along lonely, forgotten paths in the crisp, late-Fall air, LAD has an atmosphere of foreboding and sinister omnipresence. As a solo adventurer, the cryptic messages and hints of a deeper mystery are enough to compel a gamer to continue venturing forth. Unfortunately, the compulsion doesn’t last for long — especially once LAD’s physics and graphical issues begin to kick in.

Upon first inspection, it’s easy to draw comparisons between LAD and Limbo; the graphics and premise are similar. However, in the interest of fairness, I’ll compare LAD only to itself. As such, LAD offers plenty to be considered.

The striking black and white graphics do much to create an eerie atmosphere. There are plenty of details and other interesting things going on to keep the game from feeling like a flat, static world. However, they also make it really hard to see. The playable character is very small and easy to lose in the dark surroundings. I’m sure this was intentional — hazards and deadly obstacles become that much more ferocious when they are unseen and unexpected. Still, intentionally making a game hard to see clearly is a risky aesthetic choice.

My biggest complaint is about LAD’s physics, especially when jumping or falling. Jumping is particularly annoying, as the character immediately loses momentum once he leaps. It’s extremely difficult to time jumps correctly, leading to countless deaths. Even the double-jump mechanic barely saves players from coming up short over a dangerous obstacle. The result is that the player is left to endlessly repeat mundane actions, like moving blocks and other set pieces to solve various puzzles, just to get to the end of the level. With so many gaps and obstacles to cross (pretty much, everything that makes a platforming game what it is) if this one thing feels wrong, the whole game feels wrong. The puzzles are supposed to be the hard part of the game, not jumping over a short gap.

Another issue is that falling from too great a height is deadly, which in itself isn’t the problem. The problem is that it doesn’t always work as it should. I was actually able to kill myself several times simply by jumping too high while trying to get up onto a ledge. Again, physics problems that wound up ruining this game for me.

LAD is an interesting game that takes a great deal of risk to present a difficult challenge to the player. In my opinion, though, it just wasn’t worth it. First and foremost, make the game fun by fixing the physics. The dark and mysterious atmosphere is great, but I very quickly lost interest after struggling through the first few levels, let alone the much more difficult levels that follow.

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