Developer: Mattel
Price: $0.99
Version Reviewed: 2.1
App Reviewed on: iPad 2

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

Overall Rating: ★★★½☆

It would be quite the feat for a person to make it through their entire life without coming into contact with the classic midway game, Whac-A-Mole. Why moles deserve such abuse is up for debate, but that doesn’t change the fact that the cultural phenomenon is known both far and wide for its vicious mole melon mashing. Now Mattel has seen fit to adapt the machine into the closely renamed Whac A Mole, and bring it to iOS. Can it match the smashing success of its mechanical predecessor?

IMG_0596Pretty much the only thing that this new interpretation of the Whac A Mole brand shares with the vintage midway title is the concept of “bopping” wayward varmints on the noggin. Otherwise, the game is pretty much a glorified on-rails shooting gallery, where players touch on screen where they want to swing the mallet. From there it is pretty easy to determine that variations on the same theme will make up the good majority of the action, with an occasional boss fight mixed in for good measure.

Fortunately this isn’t just a situation where heads pop out of the ground waiting to be whacked. In some cases, the critters might be launched into the air like a cannon, climb out of the ground and come running at the player, or even pop up holding a sign that indicates what direction the player needs to swipe on-screen. These are all welcome deviations from what could otherwise become a rather monotonous slog, but sadly that isn’t enough to fully redeem the lack of variety.

IMG_0599Making matters somewhat worse are tactics like moles that pop-up at the very last possible moment with a “swipe” sign, just as the camera pans them out of screen. In most cases it is near impossible to predict when this will happen, resulting in failing a mission and having to replay stages many more times than what may seem necessary. It is hard not to feel cheated when this happens, and it only intensifies bitter feelings towards the uneven difficulty of the campaign stages. If there were some sort of a level progression this may be understandable, but the challenge is very much hit or miss.

If mole maiming mayhem is what the player is jonesing for, Whac A Mole should more than fit the bill. However, the core experience is an increasingly monotonous slog in desperate need of difficulty balancing. There are certainly worse ways to spend $0.99 on the App Store, but that doesn’t mean that this title is necessarily worth the cost of admission. Caveat emptor. Your mileage may vary.

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