Developer: Majaka SAS
Price: Free
Version: 1.0
App Reviewed on: iPad 2

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

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

Platformers make the gaming world spin round. Looking back through history, some of the most popular game characters of all time were all birthed within the confines of the extremely approachable genre. As such, iOS has never been at a loss for titles featuring everyone’s favorite running/jumping mechanics. One such newcomer is the extremely stylized Square Planet. Does this pixilated pleasantry have enough staying power to warrant a permanent install?

People play games to “have a ball.” In this case, the player actually is a ball. Using the gyroscopic controls, the ball is moved through the environment using the obvious means of propulsion. The stronger the tilt, the faster the ball spins. Returning the pitch to normal, restores equilibrium and stops motion. As for the jumping portion of the mechanics, all that is needed is a brisk touch of the screen, launching the bandanna boasting sphere skyward.

The plot of Square Planet spells out evil creatures capturing all the other balls of the world and locking them away in cages. It is the player’s job to find their way to said captives, and set them free. Along the way there will be many challenges that halt progress including a steady diet of moving platforms, pesky enemies, and deep plummets to an untimely demise. One neat tweak to the otherwise standard formula is that coins accrued through play can be cashed in for the right to use “secret” paths or extra abilities, such as being able to double jump. In most cases, these elements are critical to use in order to free every captive orb.

Rarely do games manage to find a way to make minimalism an effective art style. Borrowing a few pages from the Bit Trip school of visual design, the world is made up of entirely square structures, further enforcing the neo-retro vibe. Somehow, despite the obvious constraints, players will always be able to distinguish unique settings like the forest, sewers, or a prison. Even the ancillary enemy sprites are imbued with life, personality, and even humor, despite the lack of pixels.

While the game doesn’t tread too far from the beaten path when it comes to standard platformer design, Square Planet more than makes up for it in personality. The charm factor alone is enough to make the game well worth playing, so solid mechanics and sprawling stages are just an added benefit. Considering that this is a free game on the App Store, don’t even take a moment to second guess the download. Just do it…now.

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