Chrono&Cash [$1.99] is a game in the tradition of Super Crate Box [$1.99], a member of the growing genre of arena platformers. But don't rush to call it a clone: Chrono&Cash has some very cool new ideas that make the game feel fresh. Orange Pixel has tinkered with the formula that made Super Crate Box great, often successfully, sometimes not.
There are familiar parts: a level laid out in platforms, and enemies that walk along them from top to bottom, repeating ad naseum. A little squarish fellow to control, one who isn't particularly adept at jumping. And plenty of things that need collecting.
But Chrono&Cash goes off-formula almost immediately. For one thing, you're completely unarmed. The enemies are more like guards to be avoided than foes to defeat. They don't get angry on repeat trips, they just wander down at a steady pace. All you have to do is jump. And jump you will, in singles and doubles. The platforms grow ever-more cramped in vertical space, leaving you at risk of dodging one enemy and jumping into the feet of another.
In Super Crate Box, you spend your time running from one crate to the next as they spawn before you. Not so, here. Every surface of every level is covered in stealable, robbable things, and you collect them for points. One is always highlighted, though, and that's the one you want to go for first. Get it, and the next one is highlighted and so on from there.
Here's why you should care: each item you pick up is worth a small number of points, but the highlighted one is worth ten times that much. Even better, if you can pick up every single item in order you get a huge bonus at the end of the round, one that increases each time you earn it in each three-round arena.
That's what makes the game, right there. The point values don't compare—if you don't get a perfect score in a round, you may as well have skipped it entirely. So you have to be careful, so very, very careful. One clumsy jump that grazes an item out of order and poof, your bonus is gone. As if dodging enemies wasn't challenging enough.
Your score also depends on your multiplier. Think way back to Tiny Wings [$0.99] and its leveling system, because it's used the same way here. For each tier you have three goals to complete, goals which usually take about the same skill level. Your multiplier bumps up by a point when you finish them all, and then you can start on the next tier.
Unfortunately, the same problem that has plagued every similar game crops up here. The controls just aren't very good unless you hook the game up to an iCade or Joypad. The virtual buttons feel small and cramped; you can adjust them, but not enough. And your fingers will inevitably cover the action. So will parts of the UI. If you choose to play vertically it's even worse.
Chrono&Cash is still a good time on its own, don't get me wrong. If you've played Super Crate Box and Spellsword [$0.99] and you still want more, this game makes for a refreshing (if minor) change of pace. It's just a few tweaks away from approaching their level, really—all it really needs are better controls, a UI that stays out of the way, a little less time spent on loading and old school high-score boards. For players looking for a new arena to test out their platforming mettle, well, Chrono&Cash has just what you need.
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