Cling Thing [Free] is Chillingo’s latest physics-based puzzler, and it's a simple idea executed masterfully. You control a sticky, colorful, gooey blob that must navigate through each level to collect several stars and get to the exit. Your smiley-faced avatar works its way through each level by shooting out sticky tentacles that stick to certain surfaces and objects.
Tentacles shoot to any point you touch on the screen. There doesn’t seem to be any limit on the quantity of tentacles you can shoot out, other than the number of fingers you can get onto your device’s touch screen. And there will be times when you will need many fingers. Many, many fingers. As a point of reference, Cling Thing plays very similarly to Microsoft Studios' Tentacles: Enter the Dolphin [$2.99].
The game does a fantastic job of starting out simply and then ratcheting up the difficulty gradually yet consistently. Your task is to collect a set number of stars and reach the exit. Early levels start out easily enough. Shoot out a couple of tentacles, grab a few stars and bounce into the vacuum tube exit. Later levels reduce the amount of surface you're able to grab and introduce death-dealing obstacles.
During the course of Cling Thing, you’ll have to think carefully and experiment regularly. Solutions change with each level. Some levels require you to execute unorthodox moves like falling to grab a difficult to reach star and then shooting out a tentacle at the last possible second to avoid death. Other levels require you to use two or more tentacles to do things like turn your avatar into a sling shot or grab spinning wheels to become a catapult. If you shoot off screen, you die, so caution is critical.
As you progress through levels, the game introduces clever devices and modifications that add new strategies and enhance gameplay. Later levels have cannons, obstacles blocking exits and power-up points that change the nature of your tentacles from rubbery to rigid. Each level contains only the devices and power-ups you need to collect stars and reach the exit. Devices and power-ups don't carry over from one level to another.
Level design is excellent. Cling Thing has four worlds with 96 main levels, and possibly some hidden ones. A recent update teased a new world in a future release. Each level is different enough from the previous ones to present an evolving and unique set of scenarios to experience. The best part about Cling Thing’s level design is the way you can see what needs to be done but can’t always figure out how to do it until you experiment a little. The game does a great job of rewarding trial-and-error experimentation. As you fail two, three or more times, you begin to get a sense of what you need to do until you hit that “Aha!” moment and complete the level.
Graphics in Cling Thing are colorful and vibrant. Your avatar jiggles gleefully as you hurl it around. The levels are a combination of cheerfully colored clingy objects overlaid on top of nature-based backgrounds painted with muted colors. The mix of muted and bright colors adds to the visual fun and creates an appealing contrast that makes everything jump out vividly.
Music in the game is fantastic in a Katamari Damacy kind of way. I don’t mean the music sounds like the weird yet appealing tunes in Katamari Damacy. Rather, it’s music you wouldn’t necessarily listen to or enjoy if you weren’t playing this game at the same time. The music in Cling Thing is a series of piano and string-based tunes that create a placid background soundtrack as you try to figure out how to complete each level.
Controls are as responsive as you could ask for in a game that can sometimes require quick reflexes. Tentacles shoot out to the exact spot you touch on the screen without fail. The developers smartly designed the game so that a tentacle will shoot in the direction of the point you're trying to reach even though your finger isn't precisely over that exact point. This is an important consideration when playing on an iPhone or iPod touch because you sometimes have to put your finger on the edge of the screen in the direction you're trying to reach to actually see what is going on in the game. Cling Thing was clearly designed with touch controls in mind.
Cling Thing is a Universal app. I played it on an iPod touch 5 and an iPad 3. Although Cling Thing is playable on an iPhone or iPod touch, it plays much better on an an iPad. It’s a little hard to see what you’re doing on an iPod touch or iPhone because your fingers end up obscuring too much of the smaller screens when you’re trying to use multiple tentacles. Cling Thing is still eminently playable on iPhones and iPod touches, but the iPad is definitely the preferred experience. If you are playing on an iPhone or iPod touch, I would suggest removing a case if you have one to maximize your ability to utilize the smaller touch screens.
Game Center achievements, medals and optional IAPs round out the package. There is only one IAP in the game which lets you unlock all levels at anytime for $1.99. You can play through the entire game and unlock every level without paying for the optional IAP. It’s nice that Chillingo resisted the urge to fill the game with bloated IAPs. You can connect to Facebook through the game app if you're interested in that kind of thing. Unfortunately, Cling Thing doesn't support cloud saves, which is a shame because if you're like me and you play on multiple devices, it's nice to be able to carry a saved game across your iPad, iPhone and iPod touch. Maybe Chillingo will add cloud saves in a future update.
Cling Thing is a great experience for a buck. From its vibrant graphics to its pleasant music to its perfect controls to its increasingly challenging puzzles, Cling Thing offers the kind of experience that makes gaming on iOS a joy.
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