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.

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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

 

Pony Island Review

Pony Island is more than it seems on the surface, packed with unexpected content and surprises. As a result, there will be minor spoilers in this article. If you plan to play the game, proceed with caution!

Bright. Cheery.

First impressions aren’t always accurate, and such is the case with Pony Island by Daniel Mullins. After purchasing the game as part of a Humble Bundle on the recommendation of a friend, I found my expectations dashed to the ground as darkness seized the game’s helm, steering Pony Island into realms of horror, madness and self-aware charm, similar to one of my personal favorites, Eversion by Zaratustra Productions.

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Pony Island is, at its heart, a meta-take on game design, imagining what a video game designed by the devil might look like. As Lucifer is a little socially awkward, instead of hiring playtesters to provide feedback for his games, he captures human souls and forces them to play, eternally trapped in a state of limbo. All communication with the Devil takes place in text boxes via an in-game computer screen. The game’s text-based horror and humor are masterful, well-timed and well-delivered, drawing the player into the Devil’s twisted and self-conscious mind. As the game progresses, it becomes clear that with some help, the Devil’s game might be deleted, defeating Lucifer and freeing the playtesters from limbo.

The entire game is controlled with a mouse and keyboard, but the gameplay is comes in three different forms. Firstly, there’s the computer’s operating system, in which the player can click around, solving minor puzzles and searching for hints in Lucifer’s computer. Secondly, in order to hack into the computer and search for exploits to destroy it from within, mini logic puzzles must be solved, typically by using repeat functions and arrows to warp a key through a maze of obstacles toward an end goal. The third type of gameplay is Pony Island itself, the game of the devil’s own creation. It’s a simple runner, with a click-to-jump mechanic and a laser-beam power that shoots from a pixel-art pony’s mouth.

Any of these gameplay types could grow repetitive after a long play session, but Daniel Mullins brilliantly paces variation between each of them, ensuring that once a Pony Island level starts to grow tiresome, the story progresses and the player is quickly presented with a computer-navigation or puzzle section. For the entirety of my playthrough, I never once struggled to the point of frustration on any section, as the puzzles were fair, the jumping sections were short with frequent checkpoints, and the computer navigation sections were cleverly designed and full of hilarious trickery. My only frustrations with the game arose from the final boss battle, which was a little underwhelming in challenge after the brain-busting charm of earlier levels.

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From the horrifying realization of where your character really is, to the laugh-out-loud moments of comedic dialogue with Lucifer, to the mind-bending puzzles and obscure thought process behind the whole thing, every moment of Pony Island is brilliant. The game’s controls occasionally frustrate during the Pony Island sections, and some religiously-sensitive players might find issue with some of the content, but as per the meta-narrative, that’s the point of the whole experience. The Devil was never meant to make a game, but Pony Island – the game about his terrible game – is masterful, and a must-play. Buy it.

5 Stars

 

Eggggg Review

Eggggg is a game like no other. Overflowing with torrents of vomit, sentient eggs, and classic 2D platforming, the game drips with an utterly unique brand of weirdness, wrapped up in nostalgic googly-eyed charm, and topped off with unadulterated explosions of vivid colors. From the title screen to the final level, Hyper Games establishes their twisted vision, and they’re not afraid to splatter it all over you.

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Eggggg isn’t lengthy, and its mechanics aren’t wholly original, but the presentation is out of this world. The entire game oozes with the charm of an old Nickeolodeon cartoon, thriving on gross-out humor, unsettling-yet-satisfying sound effects and an atmosphere of pure, idiotic joy. The game’s protagonist exists in a state of endless glee, his arms flailing behind him as plunges toward a host of saw blades, mutant chickens, and anthropomorphic eggs.

The controls are simple. To turn left, tap on the left side of the screen. To turn right, tap on the right side. To jump, tap again in the direction you’re running. After a few well-implemented tutorials, you’ll soon be wall-jumping, clinging to moving surfaces and rocketing through the skies with ease. It’s admittedly difficult to jump straight up or down, to tackle some of the game’s more devious challenges, but instances requiring this skill are few and far between. It’s easy enough to make it through the game’s paltry 20 levels, but the real fun of Eggggg lies in achieving three star ratings on each level, by grabbing at least 50 golden pieces and 3 golden eggs. Not to mention the multitude of hidden golden-balloon challenges, only uncovered by rooting around for hidden passages and invisible walls.

While purchasing Eggggg, I was curious as to how a simple vector-art platformer could possibly justify a 350MB download. However, as soon as I booted up the first screen, the reason behind the huge download was obvious. Eggggg’s graphics, animation and sound design are top-notch, overflowing with personality and detail. The animations are fluid and dynamic, the level design is expertly crafted, and the graphical fidelity is razor-sharp. Not to mention that the audio design is varied enough that I didn’t tire of vomit sounds during my three hours of playtime, which is a miracle unto itself. In a world of shovelware free-to-play titles, Eggggg is a breath of fresh air, and shows that there are developers in this day and age who still value their craft, and care about the gamer’s experience from beginning to end.

I could rave about Eggggg all day. If you consider yourself a fan of 2D platformers or gross-out 90s cartoons, buy it. If you want to make a statement to developers that meticulous detail is still valued in today’s marketplace, buy it. If you’re on the fence and aren’t sure if it’s worth the $1.99, skip your daily coffee and take the leap. It’s an utterly unique experience, and an absolute joy to play.

5 Stars