Developer: otlabs
Price: FREE
Version Reviewed: 1.1
Device Reviewed On: iPad Air

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

Overall Rating: ★★★☆☆

The phrase “style over substance” is such a cliché at this point that pointing out it’s a cliché is almost another cliché. And yet, with Messy Time – Sky that’s the only phrase that comes to mind. Its art style is truly fantastic, but the gameplay just feels like a thin excuse to deliver that art style.

messy time 4Let’s just get the gameplay out of the way. In Messy Time – Sky, players tap on incoming enemies to keep them from crossing their borders for as many rounds as possible. One enemy slipping through isn’t an automatic game over, but health is limited. However, accidentally tapping on the occasional black sheep will cause an automatic game over as fast as its accompanying lightning strike. There are a few interesting side things going on like coins to collect and power-ups like bombs and slow-motion hourglasses, but the game really is just a bunch of frantic, mindless tapping.

messy time 5That’s because players aren’t supposed to be thinking about the game. They’re supposed to be paying attention to the immaculate hand-drawn artwork. From the lavish opening movie onwards, everything in Messy Time – Sky looks like the coffeehouse scribbles of a French surrealist art student. Bizarre objects like giant flying mouths and underwear held up by balloons are composed of sketchy lines and muted colors. Meanwhile, the playfield looks like a diorama full of paper cutouts that give it a sense of faux depth. The sheer amount of clutter on screen can actually make the game more difficult than it needs to be. Players may have a hard time separating background debris from the enemies they need to be tapping. But there’s no denying just how impressive the game looks, or how catchy its jazzy big band soundtrack is.

In Messy Time – Sky, players are confronted with a choice. Are they willing to sit through mediocre, but not necessarily awful, gameplay for the sake of great visuals or not? What they get out of this game is entirely dependent on their answer to that question.

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