The two easiest ways for folks on the iOS store to make money as quickly as possible: 1) Exploit people's profound love of nudity. 2) Exploit people's profound love of retro-style games. Polyroll [$1.99 / Free] only excels at one of these, which is terrible news for people who love nudity. (Sorry. Fortunately, I hear there are plenty of places online to see it for free, unless you count the sizable toll it takes on your soul and budding sexuality.)

"Exploit" isn't quite the right word, but we've become conditioned to feel that retro-style graphics are basically a marketing gimmick in 2012. I mean, really, there is no real reason to make games look like old NES or SNES games today unless it's an aesthetic choice of some sort: You either are trying to evoke the feel those old games had or are simply trying to wrest a fistful of nickles and dimes from players because you know that they'll think, "Hey this looks like an old game ZOMG!"

All of this is to say: Until you play it, Polyroll might seem like another gold-rushing game trying to horn in on the 8-bit "revolution," but it isn't. It's doing something more deft: Actually filling in some gaps and introducing some new ideas to the classic platformers it's drawing inspiration from.

There are 28 short levels, but, as in Mario or Sonic (or Bubsy, because sure, why not?), there's replay value in trekking back to find all the extra items. Since this is an iOS title, there isn't a gaggle of these collectibles, there's just one: gems. They're very tough to find, but worth groping around for as they unlock levels on the over-world map, which is essentially a straight line with a few branches here or there locked until you find all the shinies.

None of this is where the ingenuity comes in. I mentioned Mario and Sonic (and yeah, Bubsy), but Polyroll clearly is a mash note to Sonic: you defeat enemies by jumping on them, curl into a ball and dash off ramps, and the levels all look very Sonic-like, for lack of a better word. There are bosses (my favorite being the errant plug zapping sparks at you) and it otherwise has a very similar and familiar feel to it. But the most mileage comes from the power-ups Polyroll -- a cockroach-looking guy thing -- can snatch up: They imbue you with powers, but powers you can only use, really, while jumping.

It's a risky move to make for an iOS title, because controls for platformers on the platform are notoriously floaty. They're very precise here, and, really, the biggest drawback is that human fingers aren't (yet) translucent, which can lead to some dumb, very basic accidental blunders -- like you meant to not jump but you jumped anyway.

There are bombs, magnets, feathers, and many other items you can grab to help shift the dynamic against the game's enemies. Bombs are useful because, obviously, you can bomb your enemies, but they also can blast openings to other areas of the levels. Magnets are great because they can attract gems, which let you amass more hearts, which lets you survive another hit.

It all sounds incredibly straightforward, but there really is something special here in Polyroll. And, well, it is no faint praise to say this about an iOS platformer: Polyroll is damn near effortless and a joy because of it.

TouchArcade Rating

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  • metalcasket

    Awesome, awesome review. Spicy Gyro Games has a knack of making fantastic retro games (check out Clash Force for some sweet Mega Man-insipired gameplay) and it's great to finally see 'em getting some front-page love! :)

  • MVMNT

    Well the Giana Sisters got released I guess...

  • Kotovsky

    The main reason to make games look like NES games is a production value. If every object in the game consists of ten pixels everyone can draw it, like 10000000 dev did.

  • xepiczx

    More like if mario were a cockroach

  • Dailion Ando

    85% mario 15% sonic . Funny game, but no retro, no spin off, is a clonic game....

    • Noah

      This cloned game gets 4 out of 5 stars, but he gives the original concept app "Curiosity" 1 out of 5. Heh.

      • 1Fcm

        Polyroll is a game. Curiosity is a social experiment. You can't compare review scores for apps from completely different genres. You could, however, compare Polyroll to Sonic, Mario, or Rayman games, etc.

        Also, I don't see how this qualifies as a cloned game. I don't see anything here that is recognizable as directly lifted out of another game. These are basic game play mechanics that have been around for decades in many countless titles. 

      • Dailion Ando

        come on, look the backgrounds of the game and tell me if not the same, the SAME  of mario bross with another colors. 

      • toxiccheese

        Well I'm convinced.

  • Matt S

    The only thing I dislike about this game is the icon, lol.

    But really, the game is good, it's a lot of fun. And a great retro throwback for anyone that has fond memories of the SNES era

    • lezrock

      Snes was 16bit, nes was 8bit, i guess

  • vic_viper_001

    Glad to see this game getting some attention. The iPhone needs more retro stylized  games like this one, that actually capture the feeling of an old-school game. Most of the other "retro games" I've tried, feel like cheap half-arsed cash-ins on gamer nostalgia. Clash Force, made by the same dudes as this game, is also pretty awesome!

  • JPhilipp

    Pixel art can be faster to make in a consistent way. It can help if all you really want to focus on is great gameplay.

  • http://twitter.com/try2bcool69 Jay G

    Bubsy was a 3D game, (hence the name "Bubsy 3D") so i assume you were just mentioning it for the shock value and not seriously comparing it to a game that Bubsy has always had 1 more D than.

    • vic_viper_001

      There was more than just Bubsy 3D, there were several 2d Bubsy games. I'm not sure why anyone would want to compare Polyroll to Bubsy though. Bubsy sucked horribly! 

  • Gamer_Kev

    Looks like fun. I'll grab it if they add iCade support. While I think a lot of genres work great with touch screen control, IMHO, action platformers are still the funniest with a real stick and buttons.

  • Vertexpusher

    Is there a pre-order for them translucent fingers? I'm all for getting on some of that action.

Polyroll Reviewed by David Wolinsky on . Rating: 4