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Air Penguin (iPhone Game)
Member Name: savvyshopper6476
Air Penguin (iPhone Game)
Date: 10/05/11, updated on 03/06/12 (127 review reads)
Advantages: Simple plot, child friendly, superb graphics
Disadvantages: Sensitive handling and additional power ups need to be puchased
Whiling away the time and skimming through the app store in search of yet another new game I happened upon the rather curiously named, Air Penguin, an adventure animation with cute cartoon graphics (the apps main picture looks a little sinister and has no real bearing on the actual animation) and a simplistic story plot. In a gaming world where Angry Birds still very much calls the shots and dominates the downloads charts, only a handful of games have come close to rivaling it's supremacy. Air Penguin, seemingly jumping on the feathered theme bandwagon has been billed as a top 5 app in more than 40 countries worldwide and number one in more than 16, not a direct threat to Angry Birds (not yet anyway) but with great potential containing all the required attributes to have wide spread appeal not least being aimed at children thanks to the cute and endearing characters, bright visuals and ditsy background melodies but also because it's varying levels of difficulty offers challenging play for adults.
Developed by Gamevil, an American games publisher located in Los Angeles who, since they were established in 2000 have quickly gained a reputation for developing a range of imaginative and innovative games. Predominantly developing for mobile devices such as iPods, iPhones and iPads, Gamevil also now have gaming applications for the PSP, Facebook and DSiWare. Unfortunately, to date there is no lite version of Air Penguin for any of the mentioned platforms and so I had to purchase blind without a teaser and paid 59pence through the app store for the full version (1.0.1, last updated April 2011) for my iPod, which is the game I will be reviewing.
Air Penguin is quite simply an action adventure with play based more on skill than luck, the synopsis of which is quite simple. Your catapulted into Antarctica, South Pole and Air Penguin (the podgy little main character) needs your help to make his way across the ice floes navigating treacherous waters and land hazards to rescue his family and friends trapped on the precarious, melting ice caps. One might be forgiven for thinking there could be an underlying message here about global warming but you'd be wrong as this innovative adventure game uses only the polar landscape as a backdrop for it's story, so no educational values here what so ever.
Gone are the standard tap/swipe controls abandoned in favour of multi directional tilting. Highly sensitive and responsive, tilting the iPod left and right and forwards and backwards to increase and decrease speed sounds easy but with several maneuvers requiring to be completed in quick succession it's not as simple as you first may think. Moving and manipulating the penguin to the precise area on the screen occasionally results in awkward angles which, is unfortunately inevitable with this style of control. None the less it does make a refreshing change from the sometimes awkward tapping controls, particularly for adults with larger hands but unfortunately I just can't master these controls, having a tendency to over steer which results in more game time submerged in the water than keeping my feet on dry land, the sole purpose of the game!
There are only two modes of game play. Story mode, a slightly mis-leading title as not so much a story, more a succession of one hundred levels of varying difficulty starting gently and slowly gaining memento as the difficulty of each level intensifies. The aim of each level is to guide your Little penguin across the frozen islands, somersaulting, skating and belly sliding your way to the level end signaled by a winners flag. So far, so simple but a multitude of enemies in various guises appear throughout the games including ink shooting squid, hungry sharks and a variety of sea creatures as well as ground hazards including pot holes, sun bathing seals and fragile melting ice all of which is there purely to throw you off course and if that wasn't bad enough some of the floating ice caps are cracked and on the verge on submerging under water - one jump might just be too much to hold your little penguins weight! Quick thinking and fast reactions are required to time maneuvers perfectly and ultimately complete the levels with points being awarded in several areas including speed of completion and achievements. The first few levels lead you into the false sense of security that it maybe a little too immature for the older player but don't be fooled as that changes the further you advance through the game.
It's almost statutory with games of this ilk that objects need to be collected to "enhance" the play. These come in the form of orange fish (what else would penguins like to eat?) which once collected can be redeemed to "virtually" purchase a range of power ups to assist you to either defeat or impair the enemies, including, shark bonk, octopus nose twisting and swordfish parachute to name a few! but here comes my first real gripe with the game. Fishes can also be purchased using "real money" through the Air Penguin store and then swapped for your chosen power up. They're fairly cheap (100 fish - 59pence, 350 - £1.79, 700 - £2.99 and 1500 - £5.99) but completely unnecessary in my opinion. It's a cheeky (and popular) tactic of gaining extra revenue and one that I personally hate due to the fact that the games are marketed to children who could easily spend several pounds without having a true concept of their actions. It's unnecessary, not least because the temptation is there for children but also because most of the levels (that I have completed) don't require these extra power ups to complete. Unfortunately these type of practices will always remain a bug bearer with me regardless of their relevance to the game.
Then there's survival mode. A seemingly infinitive breakaway level that diverts from the story "plot" and concentrates purely on targeting high scores but still with the same method of play. Continuing along the icy landscape, bouncing over and avoiding objects whilst you attempt to stay on land for as long as possible gaining bonus points for targets and time. To be honest it doesn't really offer anything substantially more than story mode but it is the best option to choose to practice your skills and the level I most prefer because there's less going on. Survival mode does offer a great longevity of play and challenge to beat high scores although the downside is because this is essentially a one player game multiple player scores can not be saved on the app.
**** Overall ****
Air Penguin is a fun packed app with great potential but it lacks variety of play. The landscape is just too horizontal with all games based solely on flat land. A little more variation in the levels would transform this game from good to great. Climbing up a glacier or skating down a berg would break the monotony and add a greater depth and interest. As it stands at the moment prolonged gaming does tend to feel a little repetitive and stagnant. I think the developers have really missed a trick, particularly with story mode failing to exploit it's full potential, the difference between Air Penguin being a really good game verses a great game and one that could rival the download leaders.
Graphics for Air Penguin however, can rival any other app game I've purchased recently with quirky cartoon animation and rich, vibrant visuals that keep the game colourful and interesting. Background music is just as entertaining and will almost certainly appeal to the younger generation although, for me at least the sound has the same fate as any other game. It gets muted because after a short period of time it becomes grating.
The concept of this game is simple to grasp and yet the reality is it's incredibly difficult to master and it's this that really provides a good longevity of play. It's popularity is growing by the day and it's consistent high ratings proves that it does have appeal in the highly critical mass market. It could be a direct threat to Angry Birds but not just yet, not without a little tweaking. With a bit more variety and removal of the cash purchase power ups and I would re-score this a definite five stars. For 59pence you can't really go wrong with Air Penguin and it comes with a very good recommendation from moi!
**** Gaming Options ****
Back ground music on or off, sound effects on or off, adjust sensitivity
**** Other Information ****
Collect items to unlock 39 game achievements, Facebook and Twitter accounts
**** Technical information ****
Current Version - 1.0.1
Size - 18.0MB
App Store rating - 4 1/2 stars (1335 ratings)
Download Time - Under 2 minutes
Compatible - iOS 3.0 or later
Summary: Easy to grasp, difficult to master but good all round fun
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