As readers of this site know well, there are a lot of games that get lost in the shuffle on the App Store. With tens of thousands of new apps every year, it's like sifting through a haystack the size of a barn in search of a handful of needles trying to find all the good games. There are lots of ways to get a heads-up on many of these titles, and one resource that has always served me well is our very own forum. Super Splatform [$0.99], from P1XL, the developers of RPG Quest Minimae [$1.99] and 4NR [$0.99], is one of those games that bounced right by me initially. It has a very unassuming look to it, as I suppose is the norm for this developer. The game's central gimmick carries it far, however, and the increasingly devilish level designs bring it all the way home. You will curse this game out, you will wail in despair at every last minute fumble, and you will go back for more every time.
If you've played Bean's Quest [$2.99], Super Splatform follows a similar stage-based auto-jumping idea. You control a ball with a smiley face who is constantly hopping, and you need to bring the little guy to a specially marked goal platform to clear each stage. Depending on how many jumps it takes you to reach it, you'll earn a gold, silver, or bronze clear status. There's also a single gold coin found in each stage that you'll usually have to go out of the way to collect. If you manage to gold clear the stage and collect that coin, a rainbow coin will appear in that level. Collecting the rainbow coin completely clears the stage once and for all. Finishing all of the levels with silver or gold status will unlock a couple of bonus levels, while collecting all the coins will unlock two new difficulty settings for the game's endless mode.
There are three different control methods available for moving your character around. The default setting uses tilt controls, but you can also choose from two sets of touch controls, one gesture-based, the other dividing the screen into two halves that control left-right movement. I opted for the latter, but the other methods seem to work well enough. I've never been all that great with tilt controls at the best of times, and this game gets really hard, so I'm happy there are enough options to cover my questionable motion control skills.
In total, there are 50 regular stages, spanning five different worlds. Each world has its own visual theme and introduces new gameplay mechanics that will challenge your skills. The levels scroll both horizontally and vertically at times, with increasingly precarious platforms being the only thing standing between you and a painful splat. You simply have to reach the goal to unlock the next stage, a feat that doesn't prove terribly difficult until you reach world three. I won't spoil the gimmick of that set, as part of the fun of the game is stumbling into these situations blind, but suffice it to say, simply surviving those stages will push many players to their limits. Luckily, Super Splatform seems fully aware of what kind of game it is, so restarts are lightning fast, making it all too easy to try the blasted thing just one more time.
The high level of difficulty, quick restarts, and single collectible per level call to mind games like Super Meat Boy, and indeed, the game does very much feel like that game and Bean's Quest mashed together. If only we had a tortilla game I could refer to, we'd have a burrito on our hands. Merely getting through the game will take you a while, even supposing you are a crazy superhuman that clears stages on one go. Getting rainbow clears on everything will take you hours of practicing and perservering. If that's still not enough content for you, however, Super Splatform also offers up an infinite mode reminiscent of Doodle Jump [$0.99] where you have to climb as high as you can, and a classic mode which is apparently a port of the original 2002 Splatform developed as a Commodore 64 game. Both of these modes are quite fleshed out and extend the game nicely.
There's full Game Center support, both for leaderboards and achievements. There are leaderboards for each level, along with a couple for the infinite and classic modes. With this type of game, it's always fun to hop on and see how you compare with others, so I'm glad these were included. The achievements are all mostly connected with clearing the game itself, though there are again some achievements connected with the extra modes.
The game's graphics go for a pixel-art retro vibe, looking like something out of the SNES or Amiga library. The colors really pop nicely, and the game makes the solid ground pretty clear against the backgrounds, which is one thing I had an issue with in Bean's Quest at times. As I mentioned before, each world gets a complete makeover that goes all the way down to your character, which contributes to keeping the game fresh. In the infinite mode, the game actually cycles between these sets, creating a really interesting mix of styles. The classic game looks, well, like a Commodore 64 game, even showing the good old boot up screen. The music is of the 8-bit chiptune variety, and each world has its own theme. It's all pretty catchy, upbeat stuff, and fits the colorful visuals well.
There's not much more to say about Super Splatform. While it has similarities to Bean's Quest, it carves its own path with a very different level design philosophy and gameplay pace. It's packed to the gills with content, and clearing it all will test even seasoned gamers. I think that the difficulty spike in world three might be a little too high for the game's own good, but even when I was stuck on a level dying again and again, I was still having a lot of fun. That's a hard thing for a game to get right, and really speaks to its design. You always feel like you're just one play away from getting through. If you like platformers and don't mind a stiff challenge, you should definitely check this one out. Make sure to swing by the thread in our forum while you're at it to check out more impressions.
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