Fragger was one of those games I had heard much about, but never actually tried until recently, so when a special offer made it free for a limited period, I decided to see what all the fuss was about. It started off life as a free-flash-based game from the Miniclip.com website - a site which provides simple, short games games which occupy a few minutes when you're meant to be working, but need a short distraction activity. As one of the more popular titles on the site, a paid-for iPhone version was developed for a download cost of 69p.
As you would expect from a Miniclip game, the gameplay in Fragger is quite simple. Each level takes place on a single, static screen. Your character (a soldier) stands on the left whilst at enemies are strategically placed at various points across the screen. You have a finite supply of grenades on each level and must lob these at your enemies to send them to Pixel Hell. Points are medals are awarded for killing all the enemies using the minimum number of grenades.
Graphics in Fragger are very are cartoon-like and ignore the underlying violent undertones of the game. They are bold, bright and colourful. When enemies explode, they do so in a shower of non-descript fragments, rather than in pools of blood and it's pretty obvious that it's trying hard not to offend anyone. Whilst the graphics are fine (and I'm a firm believer in the idea that looks aren't everything, particularly where games are concerned) they do betray the game's rather basic origins as a Flash-based game. Their simplicity gives them a certain visual appeal, but it also prevents them from having much character, which doesn't do much for the game's atmosphere. You always feel that you are operating a bunch of pixels on screen, and never really identify with your on-screen alter ego.
Sound is variable, ranging from bad to mediocre. An annoying, funky little tune plays over the main title screen and the music doesn't get any better once you start the game proper. Sound effects are slightly better. In keeping with the cartoon-like approach of the game, they are not realistic, but they are OK. Throwing a grenade produces a kind of "swiping" sound, grenades exploding sound like a piece of pottery being dropped, and enemies pop, rather than squelch when they die. Again, the sound effects to add to the cartoon-like atmosphere but in truth, this is a game I usually play with the sound off because the tunes are so annoying and losing the sound effects doesn't make much overall difference.
Controls rely entirely on the touch screen and are very simple to pick up, thanks to a good Level 1 tutorial which takes you through the basics (although they're not exactly tricky to work out!) Holding a finger to the screen produces an arrow which is used to control both the angle and strength of the throw. However, although the controls are easy to pick up, I didn't find them particularly easy to master and had a few issues with judging the strength of the throw - something which is essential to progressing, particularly on later levels. Although there is a power bar to help you, there seems to be a millimetre's difference between getting the perfect strength and seeing your grenade fly off the screen lost. This makes for a very frustrating game and results in you having to replay the same level over and over again until you judge the strength just right.
Level design this was another area I felt let Fragger down. Although later levels introduce various features to help or hinder you, and the placement of soldiers becomes trickier, I never really got excited about Fragger or experienced that buzz of excitement you usually get when you finally beat a level you've struggled on. I gradually started to realise that working through the various levels had become a very mechanical process; something I was doing because I had to in order to reach the next level, rather than because it was fun. On a game like Angry Birds, the game has you thinking all the time, trying to work out what you need to do to complete the level or get that elusive third star. With Fragger, I scarcely got excited when I completed a level, and there was certainly not enough pull to make me want to go back and collect the perfect three medals for every level.
I just couldn't get excited about Fragger and quickly found myself getting bored after a few levels. Sure, it's fun to play for a couple of minutes every so often, and I can see why it might be appealing as a quick game on the Miniclip website. However, there's just not enough depth or good level design to make for a good iPhone game. After a few levels the "throw and kill" gameplay quickly becomes repetitive and tiresome and Fragger struggles to hold the attention.
There are far better games out there that are more deserving of your 69p. Give this one a miss and stick to playing the odd game on the Miniclip.com website - that's where it started life and it is its natural home.
(c) Copyright SWSt 2012
Fragger is a relatively simple (to start with) puzzle game by miniclip.com available on the Apple App Store for 59p.
You play an 'army' guy who throws grenades at enemies. You change the angle of trajectory, and power by simply placing your finger on the screen, and dragging up for more height, down for less power, right for more power, and left for less power. The very first level show's this very nicely.
Once you get the hang of the controls, which will probably take around 30 seconds, you take on the first world 'Dessert Strike', where you will face 40 ever increasingly hard levels. At the time of writing there have been a number of free title updates adding 6 additional worlds to play through, all with their own theme.
Arctic Storm [A Christmas themed world]
Heart Attack [A Valentines themed world]
As well as progressing through the worlds to make it to the end, there are a number of ways to complete levels to earn more points, one easy way is to hit your enemies HARD with grenades 3 times before destroying them to earn 2.5x the points, allowing you to really rack them up to compete with a massive player base of around 700k players in the leader boards. There are also perks to unlock as you go through the worlds to help you go back and scrape even more points out of the levels, and claw your way up to the top of the leader boards.
If that wasn't enough to keep you playing, there is also full Gamer Center integration with 21 achievements up for grabs.
Overall 59p very well spent for any puzzle game fan.