Platform games are ten a penny across every gaming platform and so many different gimmicks have been developed over the years that you really need to be something special to stand out from the crowd. Thanks to an ingenious game play mechanic, cute visuals and great sound, Soosiz has and does.
The game's story sees the little hero having to cross a side-scrolling landscape to rescue a number of his little friends who have become trapped and are being guard by nasty spiky bad guys. Once he's rounded them up, he must find the exit door to get them to safety before he moves onto the next level.
Despite having (relatively) basic graphics, Soosiz has to be one of cutest games on the iPhone, without being twee. The game makes liberal use of bright, primary colours which look great on the iPhone's small, but high resolution screen. Sure, there might not be much detail (the majority consist of swathe of bright blue sky and impossibly green grass), but this simply adds to their appeal, making them cartoon-like in appearance. The character graphics are well animated and even the way they move is cute. Your character looks like a blob with two jacket potatoes for legs, which sounds strange, but makes him curiously endearing! Even the bad guys are so cute that you almost don't want to kill them (done Mario style by bouncing on their heads)
There are a few issues with some of the graphics. Many of the in-game characters are quite small. Often this isn't a problem; sometimes it is. Since enemies are very small, they can sometimes blend into the background and be easy to miss, so you are merrily bumbling along and suddenly realise you are right on top of an enemy with no time to react. Losing a life in this way is very frustrating. This is particularly true of the small green, bush-like monsters which can be very difficult to distinguish from ordinary bushes and grass (particularly since they stand still until you approach them) and I've lost count of the number of lives I've lost to these little critters.
Sound is minimal but used to great effect to add to the overall cutesy atmosphere. There's a range of suitably bouncy, jolly tunes, and these really get you in the mood for playing this platformer. Sound effects are relatively limited, but again well-used to complement the game play. Hearing your little buddy shout "yippee" when you rescue him will bring a smile to your face whilst simultaneously giving you a genuine sense of achievement.
Level design is excellent. Various bits of land (or even whole planets) float around and you have to jump on them to reach your goal. So far, so traditional, but Soosiz has a rather neat trick up its sleeve. Jump up to a platform above you, or wander to the underside of the platform you are and everything rotates so that up becomes down and down becomes up. Your little spuddy fellow has the ability to cling onto the underside of the landscape, meaning he can walk 360 degrees around any platform, enabling him to reach otherwise inaccessible parts of the screen. It's a fairly simple twist (literally!) on otherwise familiar game play, but it's surprising how much extra it adds. You really have to stop and think to work out how you reach certain parts of the screen, so it's not just mindless platforming action.
Levels are all relatively small (generally around 3-5 screens tall by 3-5 screens wide), which stops you getting lost (which would otherwise be all too easy with the "upside down" game play mechanic). The difficulty is really well-balanced so that initial levels introduce you to the basic controls and concepts, whilst later ones require you to rescue buddies with certain skills before you can reach some areas of the screen; or feature increasingly hostile and more numerous bad guys. It's one of those games that you sit down to play for just five minutes and then look up to realise you've wasted another hour of your life on it. That's surely the sign of an addictive title.
As is common with many platformers, Soosiz also has a number of hidden levels to unlock or extra powers to gain. These are unlocked in various ways, and it's great fun to discover the game's secrets, adding an extra element of longevity.
Controls too are very well-balanced and responsive. On the left of the screen are left and right arrows to move your character (dur!) left and right. On the right is a jump button, used to oh, go on, guess! These are large enough so that you won't accidentally miss them and plummet to your death whilst trying to make jump, but not so large that they take up too much of the game play area. They are simple, well-implemented and ideally suited to the game so that anyone can pick it up and start playing instantly.
Normally, Soosiz is the type of game I would avoid like the plague - the cutesy, primary coloured graphics and jolly soundtrack would put me off. I only downloaded it because it was on a special "free for a day" offer on the App Store (it normally costs £1.19). It just goes to show that you should never give in to preconceptions. Hiding behind Soosiz's simple, cartoon-like presentation is a well-designed, addictive little platformer that has to rank as the best of its type I've come across on the iPhone so far.
© Copyright SWSt 2011