Developer: SummerTimeStudio
Price: FREE
Version Reviewed: 1.0.1
App Reviewed on: iPad 2

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

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

When the first obtrusive banner ads popped up as the menu screen for Vertical Cliff loaded, I repressed a small sigh and quietly put away any hopes I had that this was going to be an enjoyable experience. This isn’t to say that free games with prominent ads are never enjoyable, but more than just my personal track record with them has been spotty at best. Imagine my surprise, then, to find out that it’s not only not bad – it’s actually pretty darn good! Shame about those ads, though.

Vertical CliffVertical CliffVertical Cliff taps the rather barren territory of games based around rappelling (that is to say, descending a cliff face with the aid of ropes and gear), but puts an arcade-y action spin on it. Yes, this is no boring realistic simulation. Instead players will find themselves dodging lightning, angry cliffside-dwelling birds, and failure state-inducing dead zones, all while trying to maintain a rapid controlled descent down a variety of different tall environments. Levels are unlocked using a star-based system, where the stars are earned for various goals like completing a level with a certain score, within a certain time, or while maintaining a level of health or rope strength.

The base gameplay is centered around a contracting circle meter used to time your jumps. Good results maintain the status quo, while Perfect ones gradually fill a combo meter, slowly increase the distance you can traverse in one jump and reverse the decay of your rope meter. Bad and Miss results can leave your character not quite where they intended to land, on top of causing more rope damage and breaking combo chains. There’s a surprising amount of quick decision making that happens for a game that has such a relatively simple core mechanic, primarily brought on by the increasing number of traps and hazards introduced as the levels go on.

Vertical CliffVertical CliffNegatives are all relatively light. Beyond the already mentioned ad issues, the 3D models sometimes feel a bit generic – like a quick import from Poser. I also feel there’s kind of a ridiculously narrow gap in which to nail a Perfect jump, but I suppose that’s sort of the point, huh?

The ads and the price of the game had me concerned over the usual freemium traps of tightly gated content control, but Vertical Cliff seems to have none of these issues. New content unlocks fairly easily, as do the points and currency to upgrade your character’s abilities. The difficulty ramps up pretty quickly, but it was never enough to make me feel cheated. It’s really kind of shocking. I just wish there were an in-game option to “upgrade” the whole affair and remove the ads, as I do find they mar what is otherwise a ridiculously enjoyable experience.

I never thought I’d be begging a developer to actually charge money either, but this is me, going on record to tell SummerTimeStudio that I would happily throw a buck or two their way for an ad-free Vertical Cliff. I’m sure I’m not alone in that assessment, either.

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