The App Store contains some excellent platform games, and for a new platform game to do well amongst such popular platform titles it needs to bring something interesting to the table. Meganoid [99¢] by OrangePixel is a new pixel-art platform game with a catchy chip-tune soundtrack. It was initially released on Android (230,000+ downloads), but has now been ported to the iPhone. It provides 70 levels of platforming goodness, which is less than the 90 levels provided on the Android platform, but still a decent amount of gameplay. This game is available free in the Android Marketplace where it's supported by ads, however for the iPhone it costs a buck.
Each level is fast paced, with most taking under a minute to complete...or a few seconds to die. The aim is to reach the exit portal, collecting diamonds along the way. You receive a star for reaching the exit portal before the timer hits zero. And a second star for collecting all the diamonds. These two goals don't need to occur in the same run, so you can have an initial play to slowly and carefully locate all the diamonds and scope out the level, then replay for the speed star. Obtaining both of these stars unlocks the more challenging 'Sarge mode' for that level, wherein you play the white-haired Sarge. Acquiring all the diamonds as Sarge earns the third and final 'Sarge Star'. Achievements are managed via OpenFeint.
There's plenty of hidden areas, right from the outset. Some of the walls are actually "false walls" that you can walk through, into hidden walkways which typically contain diamonds or lead to an otherwise unreachable room. This often involves walking blind within the hidden area, as your character is not visible behind the walls. There are moving platforms and flying enemies. Another challenge is that some diamonds drop as you approach and must be grabbed before landing somewhere irretrievable, such as down a spike-pit. If you collect 100 diamonds you gain new life energy. The initial levels are fairly straightforward, but the difficulty level ramps up. The developer warns in iTunes: "This game is not easy!"
Before you ask -- yes, the touch controls are excellent, responsive and allow tight control. Two control options are provided, the first has left, right and jump buttons, while the alternative is tilt-to-move with a jump button. In each case you can "double-jump", meaning you execute one jump then complete a second jump while mid-air. Blocks and weapons can be collected, which are then carried and automatically thrown / discharged at enemies within range. If you're an iPad owner, I actually played the game in 2x mode without any complaints, in fact I preferred that to the smaller screen this release was designed for. The video shows the game on an iPad 2, so presumably an iPad release will be forthcoming.
There are two frustrating design decisions in this game. Once you lose three lives, which can occur within a minute, the game exits to the main menu. This constant restarting becomes repetitive and seems unnecessary since you resume from where you died. It would be more logical to simply restart the level, thereby avoiding regular restarts. Secondly, the menu system doesn't cater for changing level easily. When you die, "Next" and "Replay" buttons appear, but there's no "Main menu" or "Level Selection" buttons. Neither of these issues affects the gameplay, yet both are inconvenient.
Meganoid doesn't deliver anything new or revolutionary – even the title is a rehash of existing games 'Megaman' and 'Metroid' – but it's an entertaining and challenging retro platform game, with responsive touch controls, decent chip-tune music and heaps of gameplay which platform-lovers shouldn't hesitate to scoop up to add to their platforming collection. This game is particularly well-suited for achievement-driven players, who enjoy dying over and over again, until they're eventually victorious. If that sounds like your style of game and you could use another quality platformer on your iOS device, then give Meganoid a look.
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