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Developer: Chillingo

Price: $.99
Version Reviewed: 1.0
Device Reviewed On: iPad 2

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

Overall Rating: ★★★½☆

Universal Studios teamed up with Chillingo to release this side-scrolling platform racing game featuring, if not the most famous of the truly classic cartoon charters, certainly the one with the most iconic laugh. While the game fails to capture the authentic cartoon feel until near the end, it is redeemed by the ageless appeal of the semi-famous ensemble cast, while borrowing basic Tiny Wings gameplay. Players have the option to play as Woody, Miss, well now Ms. Meanie, Winnie Woodpecker, Chilly Willy and Buzz Buzzard.

The game succeeds in character recreation but not in level design. I wanted that vintage hand-drawn look in backgrounds, but of the three included locations, only the last, Circus captures the vibe or whatever they called it in the 1940s. When they do get it right, though, it’s sweet eye candy. Also, the music and sound are perfectly pitched.

The controls, which work well, involve the familiar “tap to fall, let go to ascend” mechanics, with speed-boosting coins in valleys, but Woody Woodpecker’s not endless. It’s 30 vaguely different short races, with tapping confined to one screen side, so the other is free for two power-up buttons. One gives a speed boost, the other launches the character’s unique weapon.

Getting perfect slides and pulling airborne tricks add score boosts and players must finish in the top three to unlock the next level. One can earn up to three thumbs-up based on placement – come in first for three. Opening successive worlds is done by accruing 40 thumbs to unlock Arctic and 80 to get to the enchanting Circus.

There are stormy clouds to avoid in one realm, icy caverns constraining jumps in another, but it’s a good thing that Woody appeals to children, since they are the most likely to find this game very challenging.

If the final world is a tease, showing the game’s artistic potential, the multiplayer mode is equally coy. It does add replay value and a twist, but because it’s all anonymous matching via Game Center, with no local  or play-with-friends options, it left me wanting something a bit more social.

In the end it’s a matter of where Chillingo runs with this. With the addition of new settings with the charm of Circus, more robust multiplayer action – and my personal wish – an endless mode that gets progressively harder, Woody Woodpecker could be epic. As it stands, it’s a great bet for kids, a kick for nostalgia junkies and for all, at $.99 for a universal build, it definitely offers some ha-ha-ha-HA-ha’s!


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