Since its release, elpixo's CurveBot [$1.99] has drawn comparisons to QiX, an arcade hit from Taito that's been around since 1981. It's a fair comparison -- QiX is obviously one of CurveBot's major inspirations -- but let's not extend the analogy too far. CurveBot is more than a modernization of an arcade classic. It's its own game, with its very own set of perks and problems.
Both games are about carving away pieces of the field of play until you reach a predetermined percentage, but CurveBot pulls way back from the top-down camera of its predecessor, giving you a third-person view to trail the drill-bot you control as you slice away sections of the world. And dismantling the game's ultra-destructible environments isn't about timidly boxing off square chunks of territory - as the title implies, you'll be sweeping up great curvy swathes of land instead.
In each of the game's 60 levels, you need to cut away at least 80% of the field of play. Complicating these tasks are a few friends and foes. Firey Friends need to be freed from the confines of the level, but they can't be split up. If a level has more than one you aren't permitted to cut between them. Drones aren't friendly - they'll dive across your line and interrupt it before you can complete a slice. Coins can help with the drone problem. Cut out a section of ground containing a coin and you'll get a power-up that might freeze the drones or let you corral them.
But it's the cutting mechanic that sets CurveBot apart. It feels fantastic. There are a few reasons for this -- the game's shiny graphics and high framerate play a part, but the main thing is the precision. You're in full control of the bot's movements while you're cutting, so you can feel free to chop out any curvy designs you want. The controls are perfect, too. Hold either side of the screen to travel in that direction, and tap both sides of the screen to leave the edges of the level and start slicing. Once you're off, you can tap both again to boost if you've managed to earn a Boost Ball or two.
You can get through all the levels by slicing away at the bare minimum, but that's not going to win you any high scores or achievements. To impress, you'll need to increase your percentage, take out the drones, and do it all without losing your tail. Your tail grows when you complete a cut, and it functions as a score modifier, but you can lose it all by crashing into drones or Fireys. Once you master your high score, each of the game's 10 worlds also has a meta-goal to earn, like averaging higher than 90% cutout, or completing the whole world in under 5 minutes. These translate to Game Center achievements.
While I've had a lot of fun with CurveBot, my experience hasn't been problem-free. The biggest offense is the difficulty curve. The game is frightfully easy for far too long. When it finally does get difficult, it does so in a frustrating way. The drones get more and more vicious, until they're throwing themselves at your bot as soon as it leaves the edges. The camera multiplies this problem, because you can't see the drones crossing the path behind you. If you plan badly, you can get into a situation where you're carving the level down half a percentage at a time. This wouldn't be so bad if you could restart a given level. Instead you're limited to replaying a whole world -- an issue that also pops up if you have to restart the game at any point.
On the whole, though, CurveBot is a lot of fun. It's rare to find a game that embraces such an enjoyable mechanic. Check it out - and stop by our discussion thread when you do.
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