Dinosaurs still breathe. In our neck of the woods, dinosaurs are the fixture studios that once built great games and franchises. Some like Midway Games have died hard in the recent past, while others like Trilobyte Games and Cyan Worlds staunchly continue to produce. These latter two studios are rolling differently though. Instead of gripping onto the markets they've lost, they're investing in the App Store.

But, in the current climate, is it even possible for these older guys to fit in, no less survive?

For Cyan Worlds specifically, it’s hard to say -- at least, if Bug Chucker [$.99], it's latest game, is considered as a valid stargazing device. And, really, why couldn’t it be used as a makeshift crystal ball? It's certainly not a good game, so there’s little point in using it as an entertainment product.

Bug Chucker seeks to capitalize on the millions of fans of “fling” games like Angry Birds [.99 / Free] and the legions of imitators. In Bug Chucker, you control a pipe that spits bugs into space. In each level, the goal is to spit a bug directly into the mechanical maw of a metal sphere.

Boxes and other out-of-place blockades are deterrents, so you’ll spend most of your time clearing these obstructions with your supply of extra bugs. In addition to this, you’ll also be fiddling with a physics engine that focuses on gravity. Masses have their own fields of effect, so often the game is about shooting around objects as opposed to towards them.

It’s an alright idea as far as App Store games go, but the execution is poor and the direction overall even poorer. I think a solid touchstone for the overall woes that plague Bug Chucker is the mishmash art direction. This is a game about Earth bugs in space being fired out of a copper catapult attached to a ship with a tree the size of stars in the hull. Nothing matches, nothing feels right, and nothing jives with the other.

In a way, Bug Chucker also suffers from the same direction problems most were able to overcome with the original Myst. Experimentation was as vital in that as it is in Bug Chucker and the senselessness of testing is every bit as grating. You’re never sure if what you’re doing is right.

End of the day, I look at Bug Chucker as an interactive checklist. It’s an attempt by Cyan Worlds to do a low cost game that has all the elements of a modern Angry Birds clone. It has mascots, a bad bit of senseless narrative, a catapult, physics-based puzzles, clear goals, a lot of levels that don’t fit together, and costs next to nothing.

But the thing that bothers me other than the overall quality, is that Cyan Worlds is capable of better. I’m not entrenched in the camp that believes Myst and its sequels were the greatest bits of interactive fiction to ever touch a store shelf, but Bug Chucker is easily one of its worst products to date. It makes you wonder if Bug Chucker is just the end result of Cyan Worlds trying to fit in -- its attempt to try and stay relevant with the new crowd of platform owners.

I’d imagine the rock bottom prices are App Store games isn’t aiding in development matters. Cyan Worlds hasn’t been in business for this long because it’s stupid with its money. It takes lost of sells of low-cost games to merely break even on development costs, so why spend significant coin on a game in the first place if it's probably going to fail in a store packed full of other, more promising one-dollar games? That's the tack, I think, that it's taking with Bug Chucker -- and it shows.

On another note, I'm not sure if Cyan Worlds can go backwards and  continue to leverage Myst in its traditional context. In addition to expecting games to be cheap and light, App Store consumers also want games to be fast and simple. Myst was a slow-walking, complex beast. Cyan Worlds was built to create these kinds of complex games and not the throwaway titles it's doing now. It’ll be... interesting to see if this studio will be able to continue to compete without a total change of guard.

I don’t think many people are privy to what exactly Midway’s long term plans were, but it was also once an aging house like Cyan Worlds that was attempting to fit in to a market that evolved beyond its stable of IP and abilities to innovate in a flooded market. Midway's third-person gambling game This Is Vegas was certainly no good, and  Midway's closure proved that it couldn’t leverage its old properties in a meaningful way on consoles. Other studios, unfortunately, have leveraged its properties correctly post-bankruptcy and mass IP sell-off.

That’s not to say Cyan Worlds is digging a hole for itself, but this is an old studio with a great past to be proud of. It might be a dinosaur, but if it can somehow capture the indie game spirit that dominates the App Store, there's a chance it'll thrive in this new environment. I'm not sure that it will, though, if Bug Chucker is a good indication of such matters.

  • Andy Raczynski

    don't hold back now :)

  • http://twitter.com/Niasyn Allan Lee

    I've been very sad with their appstore offerings also and after playing this for an hour or so I am done buying from Cyan sight unseen.

    Is it wrong of me to wish they'd just make a modern day Myst-like for the IOS and be done with it?

    • Funambulist

      No Allan it is not just you. I'd love to enter the world of a modern day Myst-like.

      • http://twitter.com/Niasyn Allan Lee

        Just think of the possibilities, adding in multi-user functions like scrawled tips ala Demon's Souls or complex multi-touch puzzles, gyroscope functions...

      • Justin

        They tried that.
        It was called Uru. nobody bought it.
        Company almost completely tanked from the loss.

  • BazookaTime

    100% agree with the review as I had many of the same thoughts when I played this game.

  • Funambulist

     A good critique Brad. I really hope that Cyan hears it. Plus one for Touch Arcade and the value of good criticism.

  • Richard_bos

     Call me a dinosaur, but I would like to think that "good criticism" could still be well written. When will the writers at TouchArcade learn the difference between "it's" and "its". The rule is quite simple, and it's easy to master its use.

    WRONG: For Cyan Worlds specifically, it’s hard to say — at least, if Bug Chucker [$.99], it's latest game, is considered as a valid stargazing device 

    ALSO WRONG: That's the tact, I think, that its taking with Bug Chucker — and it shows.

    Furthermore, the word should be "tack," not "tact." 

    I'll get off my soapbox now.

    • Richard_bos

      I can't believe that I forgot the question mark at the end of the second sentence! lol.

    • Anonymous

      I completely agree. Usually when I think that after reading a review, I look at the author and it's always Brad. Brad, oh Brad. Always so negative.

      There is an art form to writing a good negative review, even a purely negative review such as this. It takes wit - something this review entirely lacks. Without it, it just sounds like a giant rant - not a review.

      But don't worry Brad it's not just you. This is a common problem in today's blog-fueled internets. The folks at Kotaku are much, much worse.

      • andrzej raczynski

         can't say i'm looking for 'art' when i read a review, i want to know about the game, knowing how it made the reviewer feel is key to me.  keep the siskel(sp?) and ebert highbrow crap out of gaming please.

      • Anonymous

        While I'm loathe to continue the parallels to cinema, one of the major leaps forward for film as a media came from its critics being able to create clear and interesting discourse. Reviewing/Critiquing a game as though it were nothing more than a simple object worthy of only basic praise or scorn does nothing to highlight the true capacity gaming has as a form of entertainment. If all you want is a basic overview, there are those who are willing to provide it, but we as gamers shouldn't be upset that someone is trying to do more than the absolute minimum.

  • donotspit

    Okay, but was that a review of the game or the company? (I don't really give a rats @$$ about the old dinosaur game companies, frankly.) Didn't really say much about the game specifically other than it wasn't big and slow like Myst, and you weren't fond of the earth bugs in space in a spaceship with a tree. Difficult gameplay? Bad level design? Brainless puzzles? Unusable interface? Too hard? Too easy? You know, a game review. 

    I suppose you could just lazily answer "all of the above" and move on to the next review, but I was hoping for a bit more info.

    Then again, for a freakin' buck I suppose I could just get the game and review it for myself. 

    Sorry to bother you.

  • Anonymous

     Was this an editorial or a review? I couldn't tell.

  • guest

     Rather than give a thoughtful review of Bug Chucker it seems Brad and some commenters have become business model experts.  Last time I looked many companies are going out of business because of the COST of making games (without owing their souls to publishers...or not being paid).  And then of course, when was the last time you jail broke your phone so that honest developers can't even earn a simple buck on a game.  The industry is filled with "experts" who haven't a clue. My hope is that the "dinosaurs" like Cyan can and will continue to produce games, whether Bug Chucker or Myst type games.

  • Mystdee

    Well, I for one disagree completely!!! The game is fun and the physics are well planned out and if you take the time to think it through you can see that and have fun trying to get higher scores each time. . . .Yes, it is very different from the Myst Type games and I'd also LOVE to see them do more of that, but the time and work and number of people it takes to build a Myst world,  is not in the cards for them at this time. I applaud Cyan Worlds for doing what they can, with the small staff and resources they have available, and IMO doing it WELL.  I LOVE the game and  suggest that anyone reading this review play it for yourself and make your own determination. . .this review is all wrong!