Tag Archives: kid-friendly

REVIEW: Toy Plane

Taking a break from their usual fare of zombies, aliens, and other FPS combinations thereof, Sick Kreations is mixing things up and looking to expand its fanbase. With a bright palette, cutesy settings, and nary a corpse or gun in sight, Toy Plane (80 MSP) is assembled and visually-geared with younger players in mind.

True to the developer’s style, it’s a good-looking game. Yet under the ‘kiddie’ trappings lies a rather ‘adult’ difficulty, especially on the higher settings, ensuring that anyone can step in and find a reasonable challenge. Toy Plane mimics the simplistic control scheme of other arcade flight games, using one button to increase the height of your aircraft, and releasing it to descend. Generally, hold a steady path. Avoid miscellaneous barriers and the stage boundaries. There is literally nothing else to it.

Each difficulty setting (which determines how many hits your plane can take before crashing) has its own hub, and amateur aviators can test out their star-collecting, ring-dashing skills over six stages in three different environments. Though you can technically complete any level by reaching the finish line, progress is only allowed once you’ve acquired all of the goodies in one continuous flight.

Toy Plane - Screen

Somebody’s creepy neighbor went through a lot of trouble to construct a tiny airplane obstacle course.

No bosses or other gameplay mechanics are introduced. Collecting all six of the coins in the previous levels will unlock a space-themed bonus stage that is more ‘thank you’ than additional challenge. The one-life ‘Endurance’ mode will likely prove to be more of a timesink, as there is a certain satisfaction (and leaderboard) for trying to best your previous distance traveled.

There isn’t much left to tell. No broken wings or propellers present. It’s not doing anything terribly exciting or novel either, but Toy Plane does appeal to a broad enough market that someone somewhere at some age can squeeze an hour’s worth of entertainment from it.

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REVIEW: Avatar Maze Game

Avatar Maze Game (80 MSP)  is the sequel to Maze Game, and the bullet point on Willow Games‘ update is the inclusion of avatars. Much of everything else looks to be left untouched, which is to its detriment. As is the case in any endeavor that involves a maze, it all amounts to a bunch of trial-and-error pathfinding. Just ask mice.

Avatar Maze Game - Screen2

Hey, don’t tread on me, man.

It’s very straightforward; as your particular brand of avatar, find the correct route. Hey, sometimes the simplest concepts provide the most entertainment. In most levels, you’ll need to find keys that will unlock the way forward and /or lead to the exit heart. In between, it’s all dead-ends, backtracking, and key-swapping, with a soundtrack ranging from decent to innocuous.

This is countered a bit by the ‘shop’ in the world level hub (that contains twenty individual mazes that call upon four or five different styles). Gathering coins within each stage will enable you to buy certain upgrades and skills, like increasing the available ‘zoom out’ view, the walking speed of your avatar, or the ability to clear colored barriers that lead to stars, the game’s chief collectible (finding all of them and completing the game unlocks a few new visual styles). While not revolutionary, the upgrades and perks are a nice touch to encourage collection and give the exploration some purpose.

Avatar Maze Game - Screen

If you’re under the age of seven, this probably looks like fun to you.

Then it happened. Near the end, when I was ready to give the game a modest recommendation for the kindergarten set, Avatar Maze Game turned jerk-ish. It happened first on puzzle 11, then again (and more frustratingly) on stage 19, where it decided to marry the ‘starry’ theme of the level together with the floor you’re walking on, morphing the already trial-and-error wandering into trial-and-error-and-can’t-see-a-damn-thing-while wandering. Going slow and ‘feeling your way’ is the key, but who’s idea of fun was this? Note to developers: It is neither nice nor fair to booby-trap your game to the chagrin of others.

As a preoccupier (yes, I’m recreating it as a noun) for small children or the easily amused, you can squeeze an hour’s worth out of Avatar Maze Game, right up until the last few stages when the floor and background colors merge into a disingenuous pain. For grown-ass men and women, though, with much bigger responsibilities, better motor skills, and… you know… discerning taste, the prospect of wandering around simplistic or lost-in-the-dark mazes holds considerably less interest.

REVIEW: Little Acorns Deluxe

The list of games with former lives on phones or handhelds making the transition to consoles is long. The track record for success, though, is spotty. Various reasons abound. Sometimes the magic is lost in the translation, or the gameplay loses its luster in the switch to a new style. For the most part, I prefer to do my gaming with a controller, which has got to one of the chief motivating factors in porting to console. Well, that and money, probably. More than just a welcome increase to screen-size, Little Acorns Deluxe (80 MSP) is a pretty good example of a touch platformer that feels more solid and ‘at-home’ on console.

LAD’s visuals and concept are kid-friendly, bright and chipper, so its ‘other life’ as an iOS title isn’t surprising. The game plays like a mobile one would, leaving most of the challenge at the door and instead erring on the side of simple (but tight) controls and enjoyable collection; in this case, fittingly, acorns. Mr. Nibbles (their name, not mine) needs to feed a growing family. How else but to burn the candle at both ends across several stages ripe for the picking and gather ye acorns while ye may, stomping enemies on the head as you go along?

If you’ve played any platformer from the NES onward, you’ll be instantly accustomed. Outside of a jump button and the ability to swing by latching a rope onto preset points, the game keeps things as breezy as possible (again, a side effect of the once-touch controls). Hazards are kept to a minimum. Avoid water, bop an enemy to take him down, so on and so on. A timer (picking up clocks increases your limit, naturally) ticks off on each stage, though you’ll never be in any serious danger of hitting zero.

Scattered powerups will give you temporary effects, such as added jump height, a boost to speed, or a helmet that turns you into a one-squirrel wrecking ball against enemies and weaker walls. As further incentive, capturing the fruit that appears after you’ve rounded up a level’s acorns will unlock outfit pieces for your squirrel. It’s cosmetic only, but I never miss the chance to dress up wildlife against their will.

Little Acorns Deluxe - Screen

Sometimes the game flips the script and throws in baby squirrels for you to round up, or a boss race / chase to close out the year, though it’s really all about the acorns. And with a visual hourglass marking your progress after each stage, it’s satisfying watching your mound of acorns grow. Acquiring a set amount of will advance the scheme of seasoned levels forward one year, which increases the difficulty and adds new tricks and their required acrobatic feats, but never too much that it rains on your continuous acorn parade.

Whether you’ve played it previously or not, Little Acorns Deluxe will undoubtedly feel better with a controller in hand. The added local co-op is a nice gesture, though it’s the holdover gameplay and level design from the mobile version that will do all the selling. It’s a large game with plenty of levels (80) and side content to be had, with a light personality and balance that always favors fun. I have no objections. So far as squirrel-based platformers go, it’s one of the more enjoyable.