Miles & Kilo Review

Since the release of Canabalt in 2009, auto-runners have cornered the iOS platforming market, and for good reason. For all their benefits, touchscreens are unfortunately cursed with a lack of tangible feedback, and aside from a few specific titles which benefit from onscreen arrows and buttons, virtual controls in mobile games are often clunky, unappealing, and result in wasted screen real estate. The alternative is a one-or-two-tap control method, without onscreen buttons, although this method presents its own set of challenges. Tackling multiple actions with a single tap can be confusing to a first-time player, so it’s important to somehow introduce varied gameplay with these limited controls, while still maintaining a connection to the player’s intuition. Miles & Kilo nails this style of context-sensitive control, harnessing the power of a single button to control punching, ducking and throwing, elevating the game to the top of the auto-runner pack.

Miles & Kilo Screenshot 1

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From Michael Burns, the creator of Kidd Tripp, Miles & Kilo follows the adventures of a boy and his lovable-yet-overly-enthusiastic dog. Both Kilo and Miles are cute, memorable characters, and the developer’s charming cutscenes are more than effective in endearing the duo to the player. However, well-designed protagonists can only carry a game so far, and thankfully, Miles & Kilo delivers with tight controls, creative twitch mechanics, and a sense of adventure rare in the auto-platforming genre.

The player’s primary objective is to complete each level within a tight time limit, while also maintaining a collection of five fruits in your inventory. The fruit-collection aspect of Miles & Kilo adds an element of risk and reward, as the fruit can also be used as projectiles. The whole experience is truly challenging, and while I was able to achieve an A rank on most levels within two hours of playtime, the even-more-satisfying S ranks were simply too challenging for me to nail down.

Does a player feel more satisfied with their performance when awarded with gold stars, or instead with the grade-school throwback of letter ranks? Does a one-star performance still feel like a victory, as opposed to the slap-on-the-wrist of receiving a D rank? Does an A rank conjure feelings of success when an S rank is just out of reach?

Aside from a pretty nasty difficulty spike on the game’s second boss, everything else about the game is immaculate. Chris Kukla’s soundtrack is fantastically retro, conjuring memories of classic NES soundtracks for Mega Man and DuckTales, expertly complimenting the game’s nostalgic overtones. Graphically, the whole thing is bright and whimsical, and the entire game ran at a smooth framerate on my iPhone 6.

Miles & Kilo is an absolute gem. It’s professionally crafted, loaded with charm, full of great music and has an exceptionally well-designed learning curve. Most importantly, it’s simply a blast to play. I’d love to see Kilo the dog in his own spinoff game at some point, as his unbridled enthusiasm is a joy to behold, but with or without him, I’ll certainly be on the lookout for more titles by Michael Burns in the future. At its current price of $3.99, I highly recommend that any fans of twitch platforming check it out!

5 Stars

 

MC Lars: The Video Game Review

MC Lars is an interesting character. From coining the term iGeneration to releasing tracks alongside the likes of Weird Al Yankovic and KRS-One, the California indie rapper has been bringing his unique brand of positivity and cheekiness to a jaded music industry for over ten years now. Considering his target fanbase, I’m surprised that Lars has only just now released a video game based on his music. The storyline of MC Lars: The Video Game by developer Synersteel Studios plays out in typical anti-establishment fashion: a group of evil record executives captures MC Lars, in order to drain him of morality and induct him into the greedy music industry. Of course, MC Lars doesn’t give in, and through the power of literary and social transcendence, shows the executives the true power of music. While the self-aware concept is humorous enough, the game simply doesn’t deliver in terms of gameplay, controls or ambition.

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MC Lars: The Video Game is a rhythm game with endless-runner mechanics, with each of the twelve levels set to a different MC Lars track. Tap on the left side of the screen to jump, and tap on the right side to attack with the power of music. Lars also possesses the power of flight, which he generally activates during a song’s chorus. While flying, vertical movement is controlled with a one-tap scheme, moving Lars up or down to dodge enemies and collect NES cartridges. This control scheme might typically be sufficient for a music title, but the game’s hitbox detection is shaky, transforming simple platform jumps and punches into a taxing, frustrating struggle.

In each level, grey and gold NES cartridges are collected in order increase the player’s point counter. However, taking a single hit from one of the game’s many enemies will instantly demolish your score, setting you back to a point counter of zero. With this system, you could hypothetically play a perfect round through a 4-minute song, but be hit by an enemy in the final bar, and receive a score of 0. Not to mention that being hit by an enemy with a score of 0 will end the round instantly. As additional characters are unlocked based on receiving high scores, I’d be amazed if the average player was able to unlock everything in the game without hours of painstaking level-memorization. Instant death is forgivable in titles such as Super Meat Boy  or Mos Speedrun, in which levels are short, and restarts are instantaneous. However, in MC Lars: The Video Game, taking two hits in a row results in having to play the entire level over again, which – in a music title – becomes extremely tedious, extremely quickly.

Poor controls and frustrating life-bar aside, MC Lars: The Video Game might still be entertaining for existing fans of MC Lars, or those who are curious to check out his discography. In particular, the final four levels highlight some of his best songs. Download this Song and Signing Emo are fun tracks from his early career, and admittedly more enjoyable to play than some of the more serious songs in the middle portion of the game. Regardless of the song quality, I would have appreciated the option to listen to completed tracks in a separate menu, as it can be difficult to enjoy the songs while being accosted by the unforgiving gameplay.

Aside from the 12 tracks available, Lars recorded a meager handful of vocal samples for the game, ranging from “Are you serious?” to “That was tight.” The game’s introduction and cut scenes are devoid of vocal samples, which seems strangely lazy on the side of the developers. If the game is about MC Lars, why not have him record vocals for the cut scenes? MC Lars genuinely seems like a passionate guy who has made a career out of defying industry expectations and doing his own thing, but this game honestly feels like the exact opposite of what he stands for, and comes across as a poorly-executed marketing plan, released with bare-minimum content in order to create some viral buzz.

I really did want to enjoy MC Lars: The Video Game, as I’ve been a fan of Lars ever since he released his EP with K.Flay back in 2009. However, the game is undeniably sloppy, low on content, overly-punishing, and generally disappointing. At the cost of $4.99, I can’t recommend it to anyone but hardcore Lars fans.

2 Stars