Sleeping in a mountainside cottage, you’re awoken by a rumbling that you soon realise is the sound of an avalanche. There’s only one option: don your skis and get the hell of out of there. You launch yourself down the slopes, building as much momentum as you can and even hitching a lift with the other animals racing down the slopes too. Yeti piggybacks, penguin snowboards, eagles that carry you and snowmobiles that pelt you full speed across the snow. But you’re doomed to failure. The avalanche will inevitably pick up too much speed and you’ll be covered in a blanket of white.
Mere seconds later, you wake up in your mountainside cottage. There’s a strange rumbling, loud enough to wake you. You soon realise it’s the sound of an avalanche. There’s only one option: don your skis and get the hell out of there. And again. And again. And again. With Ski Safari, you get to experience Groundhog Day in stunning 2D, but with snow. But is it any fun?
Thankfully, yes – for a time. In a lot of ways, the app is similar to Tiny Wings. It uses an equally simple one-touch control system, where you touch the screen to jump and hold it to do a backflip. If you mistime the backflip, you’ll get a mouthful of snow and have to hastily tap the screen to get up before the avalanche reaches you. Ski Safari also uses a very similar objectives system to Tiny Wings. As you traverse the mountain, you’re given three objectives to complete. Complete one and it’ll be replaced with a new objective the next time you play. Once you’ve completed a certain amount of objectives, you rank up, unlocking something worthwhile in the meantime. Generally, this is a higher score multiplier limit or an animal to accompany you out of the cottage (giving you a speed advantage when you set off down the mountain).
However, Tiny Wings was mostly fun because of the skill it involved. Timing jumps and judging the lay of the land correctly was key to survival. While both elements are important in Ski Safari, as well as nuances in gameplay such as angling yourself parallel to the slope such that you drift through the air for longer distances, there’s also a lot more luck involved in its gameplay. If you happen to crash into one of the game’s many obstacles after a jump, something that often can’t be helped, you could well find your run coming to an end prematurely. This invasive element of luck can become frustrating.
Really, though, that’s the only problem with Ski Safari: it’s less engaging than it might be if it was more skill-based. Otherwise, it’s brilliant. The hitching-a-ride-with-animals system is clever, the difficulty of objectives ramps up nicely (though some objectives are unimaginative), and the music is catchy as hell. There’s game center integration so you can boast about your scores to all of your friends, and the graphics are charming in their simplicity. It’s not as games like Tiny Wings, but for just 69p Ski Safari will still give you hours of fun.
Does Ski Safari sound like your cup of tea? Do you prefer games that involve more skill? Let me know in the comments!
Oliver Stockley currently writes iPhone app reviews and features for The Smartphone App Review and also has his own iPhone app website, AltiApp.com.
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When I first saw screenshots of Swordigo, I was sceptical about the game’s quality. They make the app look clunky and boring. Thankfully, I still purchased the Zelda-like adventure platformer and quickly discovered its brilliance. Swordigo is a lengthy 2.5D whirlwind with a well-balanced difficulty curve, excellent touch controls and heaps of variety. I’m hooked.
The game puts you in control of a blue-haired apprentice as he attempts to track down a legendary sword, which might otherwise be destroyed by the evil Corrupters. The storyline is bland, but works well as a vehicle for the gameplay, which is the app’s real focus.
As you adventure across a whole spectrum of different environments, you’ll encounter enemies to kill, platforms to navigate and puzzles to solve. To do so, you use the game’s fairly minimal touch controls: buttons on the bottom left of the screen allow you to move left and right, whilst those on the bottom right make your character jump, swipe his sword or cast a magic spell. All of the buttons are well spaced and react quickly, allowing precise control. If you don’t like how the controls are arranged, they’re also fully customisable. You can move all of the on-screen elements to suit your preferences.
Despite its limited combat options - sword swiping and spell casting - you’re unlikely to tire of Swordigo’s combat system. Swords can be upgraded and new spells unlocked, expanding your offensive abilities as you progress. Over the course of the game you’ll come across a wide range of different enemies, each with different attack patterns, meaning that you’ll have to develop a number of different offensive tactics in order to survive. From spiders to skeletons to weird spinning balls of grass, you’ll constantly be surprised by what you come up against. Occasional boss battles add to the game’s sense of variety, with threatening-looking bosses popping up to really test your combative mettle. Killing enemies gives you experience points with which to level up your health, weapon wielding or magical abilities, enabling you to cope with the tougher enemies that surface as you progress through the game. This RPG-style XP system adds yet another layer of depth to the gameplay.
As with the game’s combat system, its platforming sections are varied, littered with hidden areas that encourage exploration. In these areas, you’ll often find treasure chests brimming with experience points or soul shards, the in-game currency. You can use soul shards to purchase new weapons, health potions and so on. As the game progresses, your platforming prowess is put to the test more and more, with different obstacles and enemies standing in your way. Elements of puzzling are also introduced in the form of boxes to carry, switches to flick and more. Level design is of a consistent high standard, ensuring that you’ll want to keep playing.
One minor issue that I have with the game is the placement of portals, the game’s checkpoint system. Although they are generally evenly spaced throughout the environments, I found that these checkpoints were occasionally a little too far from tough enemies. Resultantly, you might end up replaying small sections of the game three or four times before managing to reach the next portal. It’s not a major issue, but the possibility of having to replay more difficult sections of the game several times does kill its pace a little – the level design doesn’t lend itself to being replayed.
Overall, Swordigo is very difficult to fault. Its graphics might be a little clunky in places, and the story somewhat bland, but none of that stands in the way of the app’s compelling gameplay. The game contains a clever combination of platforming, combat, puzzling and RPG elements, providing massive amounts of content for the tiny price of £1.49. It more than deserves a place on your iPhone.
Oliver Stockley currently writes iPhone app reviews and features for The Smartphone App Review and also has his own iPhone app website, AltiApp.com
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