Developer: Trigger Happy
Price: Free
Version Reviewed: 1.0.1
Device Reviewed On: iPhone 4S

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

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

pop royale 0At first glance, it’s easy to dismiss Pop Royale: Ready, Set, POP! as a cheap Fruit Ninja knock-off because that’s what the game could have easily been. A lazier game would have just ripped off those mechanics, added nothing of its own, and called it a day. Luckily for players, this game, while simple, is decidedly not lazy.

In Pop Royale, instead of slicing fruit and avoiding bombs, players are popping fresh popcorn kernels while avoiding burnt ones. From there though, the game starts adding small touches to give the gameplay its own identity. After popping a kernel once, players can touch it again in midair to butter it for extra points. When groups of kernels are initially tossed up, instead of touching each one individually, players can quickly draw a line between them creating combos for even more points. Finally, by collecting coins that fall from the sky, players earn tokens for mid-round slot machines spins. Bonus lives, bonus time, and bonus points provide good motivation for more spins.

Together, these extra mechanics give players some more to do during rounds. They are hard to pull off while avoiding bombs so they create risky opportunities for higher scores. While they are ultimately little flourishes, they help keep players engaged, a crucial goal for what could easily be a pointless time-waster.

Pop Royale’s cheerful presentation also makes it hard to resist playing one more round. The 3D kitchen environment is bursting with sunlight and the bright, colorful, plastic appliances of an idyllic small town childhood. The popcorn itself looks buttery and delicious and because each round ends with shaking the bag to pop those last few kernels, players will always finish hungry. Between that and the intensely upbeat music, the game feels like an interactive commercial for an imaginary popcorn brand, in a good way.

The App Store isn’t exactly hurting for games like Pop Royale, but the least a game in a crowded genre can do is show some effort. It’s a light snack, but at least it’s tasty.

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