App Reviewed on: iPhone 4
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First off, let's be clear. This isn't the Android Angry Birds-like game Pandas vs Ninjas. In fact it's nothing like that game except for the fact that it features pandas and ninjas - and honestly, what games worth talking about don't? In Panda vs. Ninjas we're talking about a singular panda who's able to take out ninjas by landing on them. The game is a puzzle-platformer that takes a leaf out of And Yet it Moves, an excellent little indie title that started life out on the PC but eventually made its way to WiiWare in 2010.
As in And Yet it Moves, the puzzling revolves around revolving - the screen, that is. Tapping the left or right of the screen rotates the entire world 90 degrees in that direction, but gravity stays fixed so if the panda suddenly finds himself without a floor he'll fall until he lands on another platform. This is the only way to move the panda, with the idea being to get him through the level so he can land and squish on each of the unfortunate ninjas dotted around.
On a basic level Panda vs. Ninjas works very well. It's simple to rotate the screen, and the momentum physics that show themselves best when the panda falls through a few rotations are bang on the money. The game is also appreciably responsive which makes it easy to perform quick back-and-forth rotations, something that's very useful in the later levels. Clearly the developer has put some thought and effort into working out how to make this screen-rotating play work on iOS devices.
Unfortunately, not enough thought and effort has gone into the level design. The puzzles barely evolve throughout the 60 or so levels the game currently offers, even with the introductions of moving obstacles and slippery ice. It doesn't help that each puzzle barely takes 20 to 30 seconds to complete, something which makes the whole game blend together into a rather forgettable mesh that's over in under an hour at best. It also doesn't help out that each puzzle is either too spelled out in terms of environmental clues like little nooks that the panda can be rotated 270 degrees through, or too easy to cheat by quickly rotating the screen around to almost platform a way through the level.
As a quick diversion for the price, Panda vs. Ninjas is so well designed at the base level that it is very innocuous. Nonetheless it feels like an opportunity missed in its present state. At the time of writing there are two more worlds - presumably 60 more levels - promised to be added later for free, and maybe the developer will use them take better advantage of a well implemented, engrossing brand of puzzler.