Developer: ngmoco:)
Price: $2.99 (Introductory)
Version Reviewed: 1.0
23
Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★★
Game Controls Rating: ★★★★½
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★☆
Re-use / Replay Value Rating: ★★★½☆

Overall Rating: ★★★★½

In the gaming industry, there are a handful of developers that I am slave to, instantly salivating like a Pavlovian dog when they announce titles. For console and PC gaming, Valve, Bethesda, and Bioware have me wrapped around their digital pinky fingers. When you buy a game from one of these developers, you can tell just by playing the game that a lot of blood, sweat, tears and – most importantly – love, went into creating something that they themselves would want to play. These companies get it. They are gamers themselves, and they want to create the best possible experience in return for the money we’re shelling out.

Ngmoco:), with the release of Rolando, became that company for me on the iPhone. You could tell, leading up to Rolando that the developers appeared to be learning quite a lot between the games they were releasing in the store. With each successive title – Maze Finger, Topple, Dropship, and then Dr. Awesome – you could really feel that these people understood the unique attributes of the platform, and were hell-bent on developing creative games that delighted with their sense of art style, humor, and addictive game play. When word comes down the pipe that an ngmoco:) release is coming, in my head I mentally slot aside the virtual money that is already theirs.

When the original Topple first hit the App Store, we were in the early birth throes of game releases, where it seemed like all we were going to get were amateur board game ports or Big Name titles from Big Name developers that didn’t have a clue how to fully utilize the device. Then Topple arrived – and it was like those key moments on the Nintendo DS when everyone began figuring out the best ways to use the device for gaming, and then a grand epiphany occurred – this device is like no other; let’s build to its strengths with flare! Now that the days of Rolando have come and gone (and with it, our collective dollars and hours), many of us have been waiting with baited breath to see what the “Imagineers” at ngmoco:) would dream up next when they announced they were working on Topple 2.

Now that day has finally arrived. Topple 2 has landed in the App Store, and it is a sequel worthy of the numbered moniker in every respect. The animated intro leading to the main menu quickly lets you know that we’re not in Kansas anymore. Yes, we’re all back to stacking animated blocks again, but the variety of levels and modes that ngmoco:) have added really make the game a much deeper and challenging experience than its predecessor.

Initially, in the first stage, Topple 2 returns you to familiar territory, stacking blocks until you reach the goal line in as little time as possible. Having not read any material regarding the game’s new modes, I was a little worried that they were going to rehash the old game with a new skin (and oh, what a beautiful skin it is). Reaching the end of the stage, however, landed me in the game’s first new mode – Rescue. In it, you have to stack the blocks to the goal line as usual, but when you reach the goal (where a golden egg sits majestically awaiting your arrival), the egg drops onto your stack. Suddenly, you’re asked to remove the blocks one by one, letting the egg drop little by little back to the base without cracking open (and did I mention the clock? Oh yeah, it’s still there). In this early section of the game, the Rescue is easy, preparing you for the later levels where things get much more complicated (even iPhone-tossing complicated). After each stage has been completed, Free Play opens up on the island to return to at any time.

When I arrived at Stage 2, and suddenly realized that I was in a water world, and that I was upside down, I felt the invisible presence of the Ngmoco:) developers lurking behind the screen, smiling mischievously. Here was that extra touch of game play they were known for. The water stage puts the base at the top of the screen, and so you’re forced to build your stack upside-down, underwater. The sway of your stack feels muddier as you build, and when blocks “fall” (or you toss them aside because they’re frustratingly the exact wrong piece at the exact wrong time) they float up the screen, no doubt to the ocean’s surface that you never see. The water stage ends with another Rescue-the-Egg challenge, this time a little harder than the last.

As the game continues, each stage dressed in its own craftily designed theme, Topple 2’s other modes are introduced, thankfully giving us a lot more variation on the game than the first Topple. Next up is Balance Mode, an ingenious variant of play where you have to not only balance blocks on each other, but also balance them against each other on a scale that is teetering based on the weight of the blocks you have placed on a particular arm of the scale. On a later stage, Power Tower mode is introduced, which requires you to stack conductive blocks on top of each other, building what is essentially a…erm…tower of power to the goal line. The trick here is that they alternate between giving you the new conductive blocks as well as regular blocks, and it’s up to you to decide where to stack the normal Topple blocks (out of the way of your tower of power).

As with all ngmoco:) games, the art style and game play really shine on Topple 2. Since each stage is its own island, it allows the developers to play with thematic concepts that the first game lacked, tying puzzles together into packages with a unifying graphic sense. New animations were added to each puzzle as well. Including a nifty ribbon graffiti explosion when time runs out and the goal has been reached, scores popping into frame, and even going so far as to light up the eyes of the blocks on the Power Tower levels. All elegant touches that we’ve come to take for granted from this studio.

Multiplayer and Achievements are also included in Topple 2, guaranteeing many hours of replay-ability. The multiplayer component allows you to connect with someone on the same wifi network and play what the company is calling a “Stack Attack,” but I was unable to test it since the game had not been released at the time I was writing this review. You can also “play by email,” where you challenge a friend to beat your score.

There’s not much to complain about with Topple 2. Ngmoco:) should be commended for taking such a simple premise and enhancing it in unexpected ways to enrich the experience. I’m not sure how often I will come back to the game after completing the first run (I’m not much of an achievement nut), but the multiplayer addition should make it a worthwhile addiction to return to for a quick game with friends. If you liked the original, you should buy Topple 2 without hesitation.

Posted in: Games, iPhone Apps and Games, Reviews

Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,