As an old fart who has been gaming since the birth of the home console, I have to admit that my eyes light up when I see a game as gorgeously retro as Kid Tripp [$0.99]. Once upon a time, 120x80 resolution was considered laughable in the high definition world of systems such as the NES and Commodore 64, an age where more pixels, more colors, more sound channels and more, well more of everything was better.
In this modern age of gaming, however, when consoles have pretty much reached the limits of what is possible with sound, and are following suit with the visuals, many folk are looking back at the chunky games of old with newly found fondness. There may be a heap of retro-styled games in the App Store, but Kid Tripp doesn't only look retro, it plays retro, despite making use of modern play mechanics that revolve around the touch screen.
At first glance, Kid Tripp appears to be your standard fare, Mario-styled platformer. Jump into the game, however and you'll soon find that it is a crossbreed of traditional platformer and modern endless runner. Remember Sega's Wonder Boy aka Adventure Island? Kid Tripp pretty much plays just like that game when Wonder Boy has collected the skateboard power-up - you run from left to right, jumping and shooting as the screen scrolls automatically. Unlike Wonder Boy, in Kid Tripp you have no left and right movement control, other than running (more on that soon).
There are other nods to Sega's classic platformer, such as the spiders that crawl up and down their silken ropes to the garden snails dotted about the stages, as well as nods to other famous Sega platform games. Sonic The Hedgehog is instantly recognizable as being a heavy inspiration for the level art, and even Kid Tripp himself bears a slight resemblance to Alex Kidd... well... they both have rather large heads, anyway.
On top of the beautiful, multi-levelled parallax backgrounds and silky smooth frame rate is a chirpy, authentic chiptune soundtrack, well and truly setting the mood for some 1980s fun times. There are downsides to the presentation, such as no native 4-inch widescreen support and even the iPad version suffers from small borders, though this is because of the game's original resolution of 120 by 80 pixels being uniformly scaled up. True widescreen support is in the works but still a ways off, but at the very least the black borders do accept touch input, so it stands as a strictly cosmetic problem and doesn't hinder play in any way.
Movement to the right is automatic, and to control Kid you tap the left side of the screen to jump and tap the right to fire off a projectile. On top of shooting, the right side of the screen is used to speed Kid up by holding down your finger. It's not particularly obvious at first that running is even possible, in fact the developer let me in on that little bit of information as he felt he hadn't made it clear enough in the current build of the game. It's a crucial mechanic though, and is required for leaping the larger gaps found in later levels. The way running works also means you can't run and shoot at the same time, which can add to the difficulty.
Play-wise, it's the usual story - jump gaps, navigate moving platforms and whack enemies in the head with a stone, or leap onto them, Mario-style. This sounds easy, but remember: you have very little control over Kid's speed, so you have to attempt every leap and attack at the whim of the CPU, leaving no room for a breather. I found my heart rate jumping sky-high on multiple occasions playing through Kid Tripp... and be warned, if you're not into the classic gaming style of 'starting from the beginning, failing, remembering, getting a bit further, failing again and repeating until finished', Kid Tripp isn't for you. It can be an extremely frustrating experience, especially when you almost reach the end of a stage, get wiped out and then find yourself struggling with the earlier obstacles that had already given you so much grief on previous runs.
If you're the competitive type, Kid Tripp offers several leaderboards to compete on. Coins collected during play aren't used for anything in particular, but they reset each time you continue. So if you can manage to beat the entire game straight through without dying, you can compete on the Coin leaderboard. The same goes for a leaderboard for total completion time and one for the number of deaths you incur during the game. Finally, there's a leaderboard that tracks the number of times you've completed the game, and there's a set of 12 Game Center achievements to earn too.
One devastating oversight in the game design is how it saves progress. I'd reached near the end of the game, after many a life being lost, and I decided I'd try playing the game from the beginning so I could better my score, as I'd noticed there was the option to play from any completed level, as well as to "continue" my current run. I knew if I started from the beginning that I wouldn't be able to continue the game I'd been playing but that was fine, as I'd be able to jump in and play the later levels anyhow.
I was wrong. Starting over wiped all my progress, even in the level select screen. I understand deleting your current game but why wipe the levels I've already completed? I cried for so many days I went back in time. Luckily, the levels are short and aren't randomly generated (unlike most modern runner games), so I was able to catch up to myself relatively quickly.
To be good at Kid Tripp, it's simply a matter of having a strong memory, quick reflexes and a dump-truck load of determination. If you're up to the challenge, Kid Tripp is a sometimes brutally hard, yet incredibly rewarding little platform runner.
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