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Mobile Musings – Little Acorns, Toy Factory, Mafia Rush & Sticky Sheep

Little Acorns

(iTunes Preview)

In Little Acorns, you are a part of a scurry of squirrels that return home to find that a bunch of woodland critters have taken over and stole all of your acorns. Your job is to retrieve all of the acorns back in your families possession.

You play a squirrel that has the task of collecting all your acorns back across levels that are dotted with spiders, bees and other nasties that are trying to stop you from doing just that. Various levels include falling ledges and even ice which makes it much more difficult to control. Add to the mix, a time limit for each level and the game becomes even more challenging. Across each level, various power ups are located to help you along your way which include, super jump and invincibility. Once you have collected all the acorns within the time limit, you are then given the option to try to collect the extra five fruits within the time limit as well which if achieved, will give you a new cosmetic item for your pixel squirrel. Some levels even get you to collect baby squirrels that are jumping around as well which gives the game that added replay factor and mainly stops the game becoming repetitive.One of the best parts of Little Acorns is not just the overall level design itself but the way it is graphically. Its bright, colourful, simple and lovely to look at. I adored its looks personally and children will love it even more. If you love 2D platforming games, then you will love the graphical look of this.

Controlling your on-screen virtual squirrel is easy enough with the touch screen controls. The on-screen controls consist of a left, right and jump button and thats it and its great that the developer has kept it simple. The one problem I do find with the control system is that like so many other games on mobile devices that use on-screen controls, they can be tricky and fiddly to use. This is mainly down to the fact that the on-screen buttons are too small. There will be times when you think you have your finger on the right button, only to realise that your finger has moved to another part of the screen which isn’t used for controlling the game. It doesn’t happen too frequently which is a good thing but, it does happen. I can understand the reasoning for having the controls kept to a minimum but if it hinders the way the game is controlled, then it can only be a bad thing surely?

Sound-wise, little Acorns is very good with a good soundtrack and fantastic sound effects throughout the whole game. The main music for the game really works well with the fun element that Little Acorns is all about and the same for the sound effects that you will hear every so often as well. The level design of little Acorns is done fantastically well and feels like a platforming game should. Simple and easy to progress without too much of a problem at first but rewarding yet more difficult later on. The pacing with the game really stands out as it could have become just another repetitive platforming game but by adding new elements into the mix throughout the whole experience, the game is always kept fresh with various new scenarios for you to deal with. Be it a swinging device, water or a critter with a gun.

If you love 2D platforming games, then you will love this. Yes, it’s not going to eat away at your brain cells and make you a wonder what the hell you have to do next, but if you want a game which does exactly what it says on the tin (or App Store) then Little Acorns is for you. Fun, addictive and harmless fun.

8.5/10

Toy Factory

(iTunes Preview)

The premise of the game is very simple; old and unwanted toys from around the world join together to create new toys that will not become worn and used over a long period of time. Your goal from within the Toy Factory world is to produce, stock and run a toy factory and to keep your customers coming back for more. If you have played any of the Sims titles, then the layout and overall setup of Toy Factory will be very familiar.

At the start of the game, you are given tutorials on how to start building, maintaining and selling of the virtual toys in it’s manufacturing and selling processes through various ways. The tutorials show you how to buy the machinery to make the toys, the Ins and outs of making them, how to pack them and how to display said toys in the shop section to keep your customers happy. Various different machines can be bought to make various types of toys and the same with materials. Wool, wood thread etc is all there for you at the touch of an on-screen button.

The bigger your toy factory empire becomes and the further you progress through the game, the more expensive materials and the making of the toys themselves become but also more rewarding as well. Also the game isn’t just about the manufacturing side as you also have to run and maintain a shop where the toys that you have produced, sit proudly on displays for eager customers to get their mitts on. Various options are available to make your shop feel more ‘welcoming’ including new windows, displays, tables and various other little touches like plants and colourful props for instance. The more toys you sell, the more you can produce and the process starts again. Make, sell, make sell with other layers added in to give the experience more longevity and depth.

One criticism I have for the game is that although its very simple to understand for the most part, during the earlier stages it feels very ‘trial and error’ due to the fact that the learning curve for the manufacturing side of things has quite a severe change of pace which at times feels like you are being a little rushed into decision-making.

Visually, the game is cute and colourful and with the game being centred around toys themselves, you can see why developer, Chillingo went for this type of style for the look of the title. The interface is easy to use and won’t cause many problems although a few times during my playtime with the game, the screen froze and another time, I was hitting away at the screen while trying to select an object only for the game not to respond to my touch. It does happen, but it’s not frequent enough to worry.

One nice little feature that is included in Toy Factory is the inclusion of ‘friends list’ which to sum up, means that you can check out other friends creations and buy toys which in turn, rewards you with prizes.

Toy Factory is a pleasant experience that will keep you hooked due to level of depth that the game has. Those that love a good project manager style game, will undoubtedly love this. It has its flaws that pop up now and again, but for the most part, Toy Factory is classic ‘pick up and play’ gaming that is rewarding, easy and, most importantly, fun.

7/10

Mafia Rush

(iTunes Preview)

Mafia Rush is a twin stick shooter in which you play the part of mafia gangster. The game includes four different categories you can take part in. robbery, attack, defend and survival. Each game mode works very similar to the next apart from a few slight differences. For instance, go for the robbery mode and you have to steal money from a bank while killing thugs that are trying to kill you. Go for defend and it’s a case of the same premise (shoot anything that moves in front of you) while staying alive for as long as you possibly can. The trouble with the game is although it seems like there is enough to keep you occupied with the amount of modes included, they are far too similar and don’t have enough variety. After trying out all the different modes, it feels a bit like déjà vu. Once you have completed the various missions put in front of you, you are rewarded with money which you can then use to purchase different weapons like rockets or flamethrowers.

The biggest problem with the game is something that needs to be nailed on to make the game a good one from the off, and thats the controls. I’ll be honest here and say they are horrid. You control your mafia character by using the left on-screen touch circle to control his movement and the right on-screen touch circle to control the shooting element but the controls and his movements are rigid at best and for the most part, it feels as if you are completing the missions in front of you with luck rather than any skill factor being used on your part. It really does feel like hard work at times and it’s a shame as it could have been so much better. Later levels become very frustrating due to the controls being very hit and miss and having half of Sicilian mafia bearing down on you at any given time. Ultimately, the game feels dated and something that you would have loved and enjoyed back in the mid 90′s when the Sega Game Gear was in its prime but not now.

Graphically, Mafia Rush is no blockbuster either with most environments and other factors like the enemy, all looking rather bland and dull. Each mission looks the same as the last for the most part and this really doesn’t help when they didn’t look good when you started the game for the first time. Glitches can be found dotted about within the game along with screen freezes and also your character getting stuck in the objects placed around the levels. The sound that is used in Mafia Rush works brilliantly within the whole concept and setting of the game with both the main music and the voices done fantastically well and are probably the only part of the game that has been nailed.

Mafia Rush could have been a fantastic shooter, showing good promise early on, but ultimately failing to build on it. Sluggish, bland, frustrating, glitchy and awful controls, this is more Al Gore than Al Capone.

2.5/10

Sticky Sheep

(iTunes Preview)

Sticky Sheep is a physics-based puzzle game which sees you take control of Baxter the dog and making sure with Baxter’s control, you get all the sheep to safety. Your aim is to get all the sheep onto various targets dotted about each level. To control Baxter and to get the sheep placed on the various targets and safely out of harms way, the game uses the trajectory of your on-screen finger. Use your on-screen prompts to adjust the direction, speed and angle of where the sheep you are targeting, will end up. Those that has played a game on the iOS App Store called, Holes and Balls, will be very familiar with the way the control scheme works in Sticky Sheep. The physics in the game feel very much like a snooker ball in the way, both Baxter and the sheep roll. The harder you pull back Baxter, the longer he will roll and the same when hitting the sheep. Very much like you would expect a snooker ball to react when its connected with a snooker cue.

The game starts off pretty straightforwardly with the first few levels being a simple affair but gradually, the difficulty increases with various hindrances causing problems for you to deal with. These include, electric fences, bombs and gates that need to be opened by hitting a switch. Coins are located across the levels for you to collect along the way as well. Once you have progressed further, you are introduced to new sheep with different physics as well. Sheered sheep slide faster than your average wooly sheep that you was used to in the early levels and green sheep carry a radio active disease which causes them to bounce all over the level. Its great having the inclusion of a different variation of sheep as it makes the game more challenging and more rewarding once you have progressed further through the game. Complete a few levels at the start and a new arcade mode opens up in which the game is pretty much the same but a time limit comes into play with combo moves adding extra time to the clock. By getting the sheep closer to the middle of the target, you will receive better medals (gold, silver or bronze) and also, more points.

Graphically, the game is fine in the area which you play, but nothing about it will make your jaw drop. It’s okay looking overall, but one thing I will say is that the developer could have made the outside of the pens and the environments, look a little nicer as it looks a little bland and dull and with the game only using a small amount of the screen itself, they could have made the parts that you don’t interact with, a little prettier. Just to keep it looking fresh and vibrant.

One problem that I did find with the physics in the game is that sometimes, Baxter and the sheep seem to roll for either, far too long than they should or not far enough when real physics come into play. This can become frustrating at times, especially during sections later on when you have various other animals including a runaway ewe to deal with and Baxter has done his job by hitting the sheep, only for the sheep to stop short of the target even though the previous level, you hit a sheep with the same amount of power and the trajectory carried on for a longer period. It seems a bit hit and miss at times which is annoying but it won’t ruin the experience too much.

Sticky Sheep supports Game Center and Crystal Network integration and also has a Facebook element that lets the world of social networking know your latest achievement. Nice little touch to have and it makes the game more competitive but in a friendlier tone.

On the whole, Sticky Sheep is a fun, addictive game that can be enjoyed by the whole family. There are problems with the physics, which is unfortunate, but with the support of the developer hopefully these issues can be rectified over time. If you like your puzzle-based games and at a very cheap price, then Sticky Sheep is a worth a look.

6.5/10

Join the discussion
  • Brenda

    Toy Factory is a lot of fun. The screen does freeze and doesn’t respond to touch. :-(

  • Gari Clark

    I personally didn’t have any screen freezes when I was reviewing the game myself but thats a shame that does happen. Im sure they will release an update to get rid of that problem at some point though.