The Incredible Shrinking Studio
It’s not often that I get to review a game for a developer I previously worked with on a title I didn’t work on. Hell, it’s not often I get to review a game anymore. It’s honestly been a few years.
But dev3 recently released Flickitty for the iPhone and I have to say that I am impressed. Sure, Randall Schleufer is a friend of mine and we worked on Snails together, but that doesn’t mean I don’t get to review his game.
Besides, I paid for it, which means I can say anything I want On to the review:
The gameplay is pretty basic. You are on a horizontal and vertically scrolling map where you must accomplish certain tasks by touching/collecting/retrieving/breaking/moving items. The task-based play is actually brilliant for handheld design. You can pick out any of the tasks from any of the maps and do them at your leisure. Sandbox play if you will, or (I’ll make a lame joke since it’s with a cat) litter box game play.
To accomplish these tasks, you must fling your cat around the map using your finger. Think of rag doll physics + a rubberband + a parachute. It sounds confusing, and for the first few minutes it is. But you get the hang of it after awhile.
The graphics are beautiful. No, they’re outstanding. No… they’re outstandingly beautiful! The art style reminds me of something from a Tim Burton film or perhaps even closer to the Psychonauts game feeling. The mood is admittedly a bit dark, and makes me recall Abe’s Oddysee, especially with the giant factory and mines feeling.
Brilliant character design (you can just feel this is the same genius that worked on Snails) and hilarious animations (when hurting your poor cat) add so much needed flavor to a casual game on iPhone that all developers should take note.
The engine is smooth and the play control feedback is responsive and perfectly tailored to the platform. This comes as little surprise as the programmer is none other than Dan East (of Pocket Quake fame: the first programmer to port Quake to Windows CE, among other great achievements).
On rare occasion the frame rate drops during an auto-save (I think that’s what’s doing it) to a crawl, but this is possibly due to me testing on a first generation iPod Touch. (My iPhone took a dump on me).
The music, well (come on, this is not my music so of course I’m super biased: take this with a grain of salt) is actually quite fitting. While the music may not feel tailored to the game exactly, it seems as if a lot of work went into finding just the right track to fit the mood of each level. I think they did a pretty good job here. It’s honestly a bit too short and after the first few loops it will get on your nerves (instead of get stuck in your head). But well done, nonetheless.
Sound effects (again, grain of salt) are decent and they get the job done. But there’s nothing you’re going to be imitating (or trying to do on purpose in the game simply because you want to hear it again) anytime soon.
The game contains 5 maps with 4 major tasks on each level, which provides several hours of entertainment. I really couldn’t ask for more… but I’ll get to that in a second.
The developer’s humor (and geeky humor) is still very much in tact. Explanations and tutorials (and warnings) are short and to the point, yet still find room to add a snarky remark or crude humor (my favorite!). ‘Hello world!’ when you reboot the computers in outer space is great touch.
Speaking of outer space, nice touch with the Planet Schnoogie… err Space Dock level, it brings back memories of the old Schnoogbucks Space Station in Snails.
What? Outer space? Yup. Once you finally get used to the controls, and get some tasks done. You decide to check out another map and end up underwater, or in space. The developers throw you a sweet curve ball and play with underwater/zero-gravity physics. Fun!
As you complete more tasks, you collect more gear (stuff your cat wears), which is purely aesthetic. But hey, you can wear a top hat, a miner’s helmet, and even a pair of funny nose glasses. Awesome.
So… anything wrong with the game? Gripes? Well… a few. Perhaps I am a bit over-critical because I’m into game design myself, but hey, I’m a gamer! I have needs too!
Gameplay continues when you switch to the main menu instead of pausing the action. This can lead to running into hazards you didn’t intend to.
The head warning annoying. So annoying, they added an option in the menu to turn it off. Perhaps this was an intentional joke, I’m not sure. (I WANT to grab his head sometimes!).
Having tasks reset and penalized when running into hazards is an interesting/frustrating design choice. It took me 17 minutes to do the stupid rock task. Contrast with the mine cart task which I finished in 4 minutes easily.
Other than those minor gripes. I simply have some personal wants (I know, I know, I have codependence issues too):
I wish the maps would change or do something cool when you complete a task. For example, when you turn on on the power breakers, it would show you did turn on the power. It would be neat to see the areas visually improving as a result of your hard work.
I wish there was a way to break through walls with some tool or something (this is purely a selfish idea, I want to break stuff when I know how to get there but it seems like too much damn work).
Should be a way to stop the kitty while he is sliding across the platform by touching (and holding?), but there isn’t.
For some reason, I think that landscape would have worked better, as I keep running into crap I can’t see because of the narrow view on the sides. Then again, I would probably run into things on the top and bottom if it were landscape. *sigh*
I also wish the game would deliver me a pizza whenever I become hungry while playing it.
All that being said, the game is phenomenal and I really hope to see more from dev3 coming out in the future. All of this for $0.99 is already more than worth it.
People are already asking for more maps and tasks (and the devs are promising a level editor if you complete the game perfectly)… But honestly, as it is, I think the game is perfect for what it tries to do: Entertain.
Do check out the Flickitty site: here. You and your iPhone will be glad you did.