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Developer: Honeyslug
Price: $0.99
Version Reviewed: 1.0
Device Reviewed On: iPhone

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

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

Chances are you’ve never played a game like Poto and Cabenga. Honeyslug’s title first appeared at GDC 2010 in the Gamma IV One Button Game Competition and drew a lot of attention for its unique concept and cute style and was eventually released online as a flash game.

As a writer and critic, one of the things I find most annoying in some reviews is when a writer spends time detailing the control scheme. I feel like it’s often a waste of words, but Poto and Cabenga is really a game that can only be understood by explaining how it controls.

This is a sidescroller at heart, but it’s unlike any you’ve ever played. You control two characters at once – a horse and its rider – both in their own environment, and it’s played with just one button: your finger. On the bottom screen is the horse, Cabenga and the top screen the rider, Poto. When you hold down your finger on the screen, the Cabenga moves faster. Release your finger and he jumps into the air. Simultaneously, when your finger is not on the screen, the Poto runs faster and when you tap the screen he jumps. The whole time both characters automatically move forward whether or not you touch the screen, and as they do so, they come across enemies who take away health points. Run out, and you’re dead. It sounds horribly complicated – and it kind of is, initially. But after a couple of minutes, the game becomes strangely second-nature.

The obvious attraction to Poto and Cabenga is its innovative concept. This kind of fresh game design is what makes the indie game industry so exciting. The first time you play Poto and Cabenga, chances are you’ll think, “This is impossible” or something along those lines. The idea of having to control both characters is best compared to patting your head and rubbing your belly at the same time. Just like that challenge, however, what Poto and Cabenga asks of you is absolutely possible. Eventually, it becomes somewhat second-nature, although it never truly loses its challenge. This is the kind of game you’ll want to keep playing until you master it.

The other element of Poto and Cabenga that stands out is its visual style. Its graphics are simple and there aren’t many special effects. But its use of color and simplicity make it a beautiful looking game.

Really, there are only two things about Poto and Cabenga I take issue with. The first is that playing it on the iPhone can be a little painful. The screen is small and it’s easy to block oncoming enemies with your finger. Sometimes this will cause you to get hit by enemies, maybe even causing you to die. These moments can be annoying, but they are few and far between. The second problem is that while Poto and Cabenga is undoubtedly an original and remarkably innovative effort, it does lack the depth to have significant lasting appeal. I simply can’t picture myself coming back to this one over and over.

That said, Poto and Cabenga is definitely the kind of game you want to experience for yourself. It costs a buck on the App Store, but can be played for free online. The iPhone version does feature a new “never-ending” mode, which lets you play, theoretically, forever – or at least until you run out of life. Is that worth a dollar, though? It’s hard to say when you can play for free online. If it wasn’t already available online, though, I’d call it a must purchase. But since you can try it before your buy it, I’d recommend that route.

Oh, and one last thing. The game’s title appears to be inspired by the pair of identical twins, Poto and Cabengo, who shared a secret language to communicate. Fits the game quite well.

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