I love sprawling multi-million dollar platformers as much as the next guy, but I’ll take a small indie-developed project over the Super Mario Galaxies of the world any day. It boils down to execution, really. The good indie devs distill their games and bring to the fore one single, sometimes miraculous mechanic. Then, our underfunded heroes iterate and eventually offer us good games that lack the big budget fluff or unrealized stuff that sometimes worms its way into huge projects.

Yeah, yeah, you heard this all before. Welcome to mobile, Brad, you say. We see this all the time, you say. And to that I reply: hey, have you played They Need To Be Fed [.99 / HD] yet? Because even though it has problems, it could be the poster child for what we’re talking about here. It’s a no frills platformer with near perfect execution on a simple and entertaining mechanic. Oh, and it’s made by a single guy -- that’s, like, eight billion less people than the core Ratchet & Clank teams!

Provided you don’t already know about TNTBF, let’s talk about what it has to offer. It’s a 2D, physics-based platformer with hardly any plot to speak of and an art style that would melt any HAL Laboratories employee’s heart. But despite it being filled with so much color and life, it’s got a grim undertone. In TNTBF, you play as a silhouetted avatar with an endearingly misshapen head across a variety of levels in which the point is to die. Specifically, the end goal is always a squiggly monster’s gullet.

No worries. The sacred gameplay loop -- progress, fail, and die -- is still in effect, though in a more tortured way than normal. In TNTBF, it’s more like progress, fail, die... and then die again.

Fun stuff, sure, but the core mechanic is easily the most compelling thing in TNTBF. To move around and meet your doom as demanded, you’ll need to get good at moving around platforms. Each level is littered with various geometric objects, all of which the daring silhouette clings to via 360- degree gravity. So, when he jumps to, say, another platform, the game negotiates that platform’s gravitational pull versus the platform he just left. If the silhouette is closer to the latter, it'll cling to that one. Progress!

Momentum factors in as well. The faster your avatar moves, the more he’ll be able to bounce out of a platform’s pull. This leads to some interesting platforming, made all the more interested -- and dangerous -- when the game starts throwing in rotating platforms laced with spikes, exploding balls, cannons that shoot bullets at last known positions, and more.

And, yeah, it’s a breeze to shake bullets and jump around with the on-screen controls, but the jumping itself is a hair too floaty for me. Overall, TNTBF is flat-out missing a layer of accuracy that’s seems warranted for some of the more nontraditional platforming sections. Also, some of the levels expect way too much in terms of object avoidance, which kinda complicates this admittedly minor, yet annoying problem.

The good news is that this isn’t a punitive joint. Levels have smart checkpoints and accidental deaths are infinite. You’ll just get slapped on the wrist with a restart for your buffoonery or complications with the level design.

They Need To Be Fed is indeed, a smart, simple, and endearing platformer. The core mechanic might sound a little abstract, but don’t let that get in your way. In fact, just play it for free on the PC first. You see, this game used to be just a web-based project before publisher YoYo Games decided to bring it to iOS. Both versions of the game are a ton of fun, and it really comes down to whether you value portability or the ability to play it with your keyboard.

TouchArcade Rating

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  • Cowboysfreetyme

    This post is just asking for trouble.

    • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

      Why?

      • Cowboysfreetyme

        Comparison of Super Mario Galaxy to big budget fluff and half-baked junk. I don't disagree totally but look at what happened over Crysis.

      • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

        I'm starting to think people are just looking for an excuse to get upset at this point.

      • Yomomma

        I'm thinking you're trying to upset people on purpose, Eli.

      • Fu

        Don´t you let them people talk you down, Eli.
        You´re a good boy.

      • FLETCH13

        True dat!!!!

      • Anonymous

        Crysis was stupid writing to get comments (a la trolling), but what he wrote made perfect sense here... I can't imagine anyone getting angry about saying that indie games can be as good as big budget games. I like my COD and my Doodle Jump equally. Go cool off :p

      • Mer432e

        I must say it's a ridiculous comment. Keep lapping up the Kool-Aid, TA.

  • Sl1pstream

    Let me be the first to say that SMG was quite good and that I kind of stopped reading there because of that line.
    I'm sure that I won't be the last one, but I'll probably one of the more polite ones.

  • http://twitter.com/nicholsonb Brad Nicholson

    Whoa, whoa, whoa, I'm a huge Mario fan. I edited that last line a bit to clarify. We're talking about pieces of big budget games, here, not the whole project.

    • YoureAMessy

      do you think you could add a gameplay video in the review? It'd be helpful.

  • Backtothis

    This looks great. Thanks for the heads up. I'm downloading it right now. I have no trouble with how Brad writes in any case. He's trying to get his points and his opinions across. That's a review or an article ever is.

  • Karl-th

    I'm way too old for these 360 degree gravity games. Normal gravity is hard enough. :-(

  • mtzb

    This game reminds me of Limbo with the characters and mechanics (a much brighter, happier version that is). Looks good. Speaking of which, I sure wish they released Limbo on iOS devices so the world could see that absolute beauty of a game.

    • TheFrost

      there is a similar game to Limbo called Trundle, has a lite version if you would like to try

      • Xeno

        Thanks, this is a really good game!
        Worth the buy.

  • TheFrost

    Truly this game is a really good and unique in some sort of way platformer, with good replayability (collect diamonds to unlock levels, dont die even once to get a star) and good core platforming gameplay.

  • backtothis

    I've been playing for 30 minutes now, and this is truly one of the AppStore's 0.99 gems. Get it now!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JZIZ6NLYZDGC52DL4QEVBIALMU Hackmodford

    Soozis is very similar.
    Also the controls look exactly like Soozis.
    Which means that I will eventually buy this because I'm stuck in Soozis XD

    I wish nintendo would just make a 2d mario game with this idea and call it mario galaxy 2d or something...

    • DGH94

      It's Soosiz, not Soozis

    • MisterDrgn

      Yeah, this looks like a very similar mechanic to Soosiz, possibly with less depth. I would have liked to see a comparison somewhere in the review...

  • Tgoulart

    Dont you think this game is realy realy realy short? its like 1 hour tops for u to beat, i get all things done including archivements in 1h 45m, this game need more stuff to be compared with SMB

    • MisterDrgn

      Ok, so then definitely less depth than Soosiz...

  • Peos

    Who's kid wrote this article?

  • backtothis

    Who's the troll named called Peos? If you had any talent for writing, maybe you'd like to sure with us. Otherwise, respect the time people have put in to inform us about games. These writers don't even get paid and always do a great job on exposing a hidden gem to us.

    In any case, it's not a deep game, and it's a stretch to even call it a platformer. However, it's quite a fun game for the dollar, although yes, it only lasts between 1 to 2 hours.

  • Dynamite_Matsuri

    I like TA, and depend on them for opinions to guide me to solid purchases, but Super Mario Galaxy and its sequel are veritable opuses crafted with the utmost of care by some of the greatest talent in the industry, period, and succeeded in injecting new and refreshing mechanics into a largely stagnant genre. To suggest that an indie studio crafting a small scale game fueled by a few marvelous ideas could hope to rival Nintendo's towering achievement is a bit... excessive. We might as well be comparing the depth of Infinity Blade to Virtua Fighter 4; iOs games are great for what they are, but these comparisons err on the side of hyperbole and just aren't valid.

  • http://twitter.com/BrettArchibald Brett Archibald

    "They Need To Be Fed"? Hmmm, doesn't really roll off the tongue, does it? :-/
    Personally I think "Need To Feed" would've been a catchier title...

    • Fillup

      I think it's a cool name. Has real ominous undertones, sounds creepy :) Need to Feed doesn't give any imagination stimulation :)

  • sieger

    I really wish that if developers have an iPhone and an iPad version (HD version), that they would make the iPad version universal.

  • omg

    Actually, this game is really good. Ive been playing it for the last few days. It is simple fun challenging. the graphics are cartoonlike - simple, well done and gameplay is great. i prefer this over soosiz. im on world 3 at the moment ;)

  • delzo

    Thank you for this article! I download it and i like it :)

  • Decoy Octopus

    "I love sprawling multi-million dollar platformers as much as the next guy, but I’ll take a small indie-developed project over the Super Mario Galaxies of the world any day."

    If we had more multi million dollar budget companies developing, games would have more depth and longitivity. The Author of this article is crazy.

    • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

      I'm not so sure about that. Most multi-million dollar budget companies are investing those millions on projects that they know will recuperate that kind of investment. Activision makes no attempt to hide the fact that all they're really interested in doing is iterating on series they know people will buy... Which is why there are so many Call of Duty games. Hell, most "big budget" games now days barely come with more than 12 hours of gameplay and have no replay value outside of farming achievements.

  • KaPaNGaS

    How the hell do you play a game in YoYo Games? All I see is a Download Game button, and it downloads a fricking .exe file, and I have a Mac! -.-

They Need To Be Fed Reviewed by Brad Nicholson on . Rating: 4