In a genre that's incredibly crowded, Picaro Games' Attack of the Spooklings [$0.99 / Free] had to get a lot right just to earn some attention. True, a quickie action game requires good, simplistic gameplay and decent presentation, but supplemental aspects such as secondary goals are a must to stand out. Spooklings mostly hits the former, but it pretty much ignores the latter, making it a title that may be overlooked simply because it doesn't offer enough.
While the thematics are obviously different, Spooklings plays very similar to quick-swipe arcade games like Fruit Ninja. Spooklings come charging down the screen towards your town, which is situated at the bottom of the screen. Taking them out is as simple as tapping on individual baddies or (preferably) drawing a line through the packs. If one spookling makes it to the bottom and breaks through your town's wall, the game is over.
Score bonuses are awarded for taking out packs in one fell swoop (or swipe), killing spooklings close to your home base (standard risk/reward structure) and for simply surviving as long as you can.
The game tries to mix up the gameplay with a variety of randomized packs and spooklings that attack at various speeds. However, other than the above, there's really not much that Attack of the Spooklings offers. While the gameplay is incredibly approachable for all skill-sets but there's only so much that can carry a game.
The retro-inspired music and visuals are nice to experience, but not particularly noteworthy. Of course, considering the pick-up-and-play vibe that Spooklings is going for, one could expect some amount of simplicity. Even with this consideration, there are a few areas that just aren't implemented well.
For starters, other than the scoreboards the game lacks any sort of long-term replayability. There are no currency systems, coins, power-ups to ascribe to, or even achievements. Players aren't even afforded the opportunity to change up the scenery or give the spooklings a visual makeover.
When you're dealing with a simplistic endless action title, having something to work towards goes a long way towards encouraging continued play. Unfortunately, Attack of the Spooklings misses its mark in this regard.
Then there are the missing features and bugs that just ruin the experience for me. The lack of a pause button is a real deal-breaker. While most games by newbies will run for only a minute or two, experienced players can get on hectic runs that can last 4 or more minutes. However, if you get distracted, or have to put your iOS device down, there's no way to pause.
As somewhat of a solution, you can exit out to the springboard as a form of pausing, but as soon as you relaunch your run instantly continues with no pausing or countdowns. Again, considering the fact that most players would probably play games of this genre when they have a minute or two to spare, you'd think Spooklings would take into consideration the fact that players can easily get distract and need to pause to do something else.
It's a shame too, because with some added features and some consideration for its player base, Attack of the Spooklings could have been a pretty fun game to have on your phone for those quick gaming sessions. Gratuitous monster violence in a decent retro package usually can't go wrong. It does one thing and it does it pretty well, it's just that that one thing gets tiresome all too quickly.
As it stands, there's no attention paid to its replayability aspects and too little to the types of environment its players might actually be trying to enjoy the game in. Based on that, I'd recommend giving it a pass or, at the most, checking out the ad-supported free version and see if it's your cup of tea.