Developer: kode80
Price: $1.99
Version Reviewed: 1.0
Device Reviewed On: iPad 2

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

Overall Rating: ★★★½☆

After a long wait, 1-bit Ninja creator kode80 is back with a new game, this time inspired by the 16-bit era:Oh Hi! Octopi! This combines something like Bubble Bobble with puzzle game elements. Octopi of four different colors drop in from the bottom of the screen. They must be hammered to make them stay still and not harmful to the touch. Then, a switch on the top of the screen must be hammered down to drop a bubble on to the screen, that can eliminate the same color octopi that it touches. However, bonus points are scored for chains of same-colored octopi that get hit, and additional chained octopi drop 10 point coins. So, getting large chains together is the goal, which becomes easier the longer the game goes on, where octopi fill the screen.

The whole thing has the feel of an early–90’s arcade game, with the colors, music and text. It feels like a lost title from the era, and with iCade support, it truly can be! 1-bit Ninja was known for its control scheme that used each thumb for actions and no buttons, and this game follows the same path. It’s at least easy to pick up, though actually mastering the controls takes some time.

And the controls are really just part of what kept me from enjoying this retro-style experience fully. Tapping left or right rapidly to smash the hammer feels awkward becuase the player character always moves a little in that direction. While it seems like there was an attempt to keep the kind of two thumbs controls that 1-bit Ninja had, this doesn’t feel like it works as well. Even on the iCade, it feels difficult, though the iCade Mobile made it easier to do the spin attack move by spinning left and right.

Also, the pacing of the game feels extremely slow early on, which makes it difficult to get to the point where points are bieng scored. The game feels like it should start around where level 2 or 3 starts, where things feel like they’re picking up the pace. That the game starts off with colored bubbles that aren’t used at all until later on is part of the annoyance, too. The scoring seems entirely out of whack, too: my scores felt largely propelled by the collection of a bonus letter, not by actually playing the game.

I discussed this with the creator on the recent episode of The Portable Podcast, and this is just a game that didn’t click with me. He feels like people may not be approaching the game quite how he approaches it, and made an extended gameplay video showing off his style. I’m still not quite a fan, but I appreciate the effort here.

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