Monday, August 10, 2009

Skwug Review


In the showdown between cute retro puzzle/platformer characters, Skwug battling Spaceman is like pitting a kitten against a puppy in a "licking-only" fight. It would be like watching two chubby infants rolling around on the floor armed with lollipops. Or a baby sloth giving a hedgehog a sponge bath (you dirty dirty hedgehog).

Alrighty, so I am reviewing these two back to back because they really are nice little games - each with that old skool graphical feel and each trusting their fun-factor to a simple but satisfying game mechanic. In Skwug's case, he can jump (doesn't even need legs, buddy) but the flashy ability is...wait for it...teleporting!

Yes that's right it doesn't sound like much, but Skwuggy (can I call you that?) relies heavily on teleporting to get past numerous dangerous obstacles (lava, lasers, spikes, you name it). Precision becomes absolutely key, as does timing, and by the 4th or 5th level you'll probably find your death tally getting pretty high. Don't worry kids, Skwug can regenerate instantly either at the beginning of the level, or at a checkpoint (nicely placed in the "easy" difficulty level) with no real penalty.

Levels are well designed to be quickly solvable, even if you have trouble executing. You probably be able to figure out what you're supposed to do, it's just that doing it is no piece of cake. As the levels progress, new twists are thrown in, like switches that need to be hit to open gates, and powerups that allow you to recharge your teleporting ability while in mid air (see normally you can only teleport three times - then you must touch the ground to recharge). So catching these powerups while teleporting around a level can get pretty hectic - even being a hair off probably means you've sent Skwugster to his death (you bastard how could you).

There are some little touches to Skwug, like a overworld map that shows progress from level to level - and as you go you start seeing various themes and tilesets which always helps change the pace. It's little touches like these that help add two shakes of "adventure" along with the platformer and puzzle, and I appreciate that. I also liked the steady difficulty curve and inclusion of some shorter levels that just need a couple well-executed (yet tough) moves that are repaid with quick satisfaction. I definitely found myself saying "yessssss" at my TV screen a couple times, which I jotted down so that I wouldn't forget it.

My only real complaint was that Skwug really does rest all of it's gameplay on that one mechanic, so you better like it, and you better get good at it. I would have liked to see a little premise and story (as usual) and maybe some SFX that allowed some of Skwugs personality to shine through better. Considering that I don't remember any music or the SFX right now probably means they didn't do much for me. And then sometimes I thought the game was a bit too picky about how close I need to get Skwug to a switch or powerup to activate it - given that you're forced to warp hectically around the level, some leniency on picking those up would have reduced my frustration level a little.

You will get addicted to this if you have even just one puzzle bone in your body. It's not a graphical showcase but most people who like these types of games play for the challenge and satisfaction of success. But be warned again that figuring out the route to the exit really is only half the battle - you'll need to be quick on the buttons too.

200MP is a good deal, and we might see it come down to 80MP.

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