How refreshing it is to play a game with a down-to-earth plot? Even the most grounded of games usually bear their fair share of swords and sorcery or bombastic battles. Super Lemonade Factory [$1.99] goes a different route, telling a simple story from one particular moment in time. Lisolet and Andre are newly married in the days after World War II. Andre is set to take up his father's lemonade factory, but first he and Lisolet must tour the premises, meeting the workers and learning about the challenges they face.
It might sound a little dry, but the tale accompanies a clever platformer designed to play on the strengths and weaknesses of its stars. Andre is blessed with physical strength and can break through boxes that bar the couple's path. Lisolet is agile; she can double jump and reach places Andre can't, often giving him a foot up with a crate from a higher perch. Isn't it lovely to see a marriage with partners that complement each other so well?
The journey through the factory is surprisingly perilous—you'd think it had been designed as a deathtrap. Often, either Andre or Lisolet will need rescuing right from the start. You'll have to direct the other across a pit of spikes, perhaps, over floating platforms and around the surprisingly deadly people of the factory. Once one has saved the other, they can travel together—Andre is happy to give Lisolet a piggyback so you needn't cover the same ground twice. From there it's usually a hop, skip and a jump to the level's exit.
A detour may be necessary on the way. Though it seems like the sort of thing aimed at completionists, you'll want to collect each level's bottle cap. These are occasionally well hidden and usually hard to reach, but behind them sits half the game's content. Collect all the caps in a given area and you'll unlock the hardcore version of that area, where platforms are smaller and faster and spikes are everywhere. Brushing against a spike is deadly, and Andre and Lisolet only have two lives to work with if you can't find any bags of sugar to replenish them.
Controlling the couple is simple, with on-screen controls for walking, jumping and dashing. These are responsive and rarely get in the way, but they suffer the usual flaw of being a little too easily mis-tapped. You can swap between Andre and Lisolet with a horizontal swipe; a vertical swipe puts Lisolet on Andre's back.
Lisolet is blessed with one more ability: a way with words. She can speak with any of the factory's denizens. The foreman, the chef - these workers open up about their hopes and dreams, both for the company and for themselves. A food inspector waxes poetic on the need for cleanliness, and a General blusters about the misfortune that could befall a company that chose not to meet military requests for supplies.
These bits of flavor are woven into the metagame: Game Center achievements are awarded for speaking with all employees, and your progress is marked on the level select screen. But more than that, the dialogue is rather charming. The foreman is a burgeoning Bolshevik who loves to muse on the meaning of labor; Andre will share stories from his past. Much of it hits a bit heavy-handed, but it's always a pleasant diversion—you'll also find the occasional pop-culture reference if you're paying attention.
In the end, the gameplay suffers for its simplicity. The most puzzling levels aren't more complicated than pushing a couple boxes in the right order before jumping, and there are only so many spikes one can add to a level before it gets silly. If there's more to be done with the formula, though, we may yet see it done. The developers offer a system for level creation and plan to add the best of the user-created content to the game. On top of 72 already entertaining levels, that sounds pretty good.
And hey, if you haven't noticed, Super Lemonade Factory is a looker. If you're into pixel art, you won't be disappointed—both the style and the animation are fantastic. On top of that the chiptune soundtrack is pretty great, if a tad overly-aggressive for the content.
So while the game isn't flawless, it's still an easy recommendation. There are kinks to be worked out, but they don't detract much from the good stuff: a solid, fun puzzle platformer with great ideas and outstanding presentation. And, frankly, how often do we get to play a game with such a delightfully low-key premise? For that, Super Lemonade Factory most certainly deserves a look. Still, it's unlikely to push platformer fans, so know that going in. You might not find a challenge, but you'll find a lot of charm.
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