One of my favorite aspects of the Donkey Kong Country series had to be the barrel blasting puzzles. There was something so simple about the concept — just pressing a button in time with rotating and swaying barrels — that really resonated with me. It was intense, and fairly clever, as there were a host of secrets to be found if you took leaps (blasts?) of faith and ventured into unknown and unseen territory. When I heard there was a mobile game based entirely around this concept, I had to jump on it. Thankfully, Tap & Blast ($0.99) manages to recapture the thrill of blasting all over again.
Instead of just throwing you into the action, Blast has a cute little mascot and miniature story to go along with it, which adds to the game’s charm. By way of a tiny imp named Red, you’ll light up the sky and drop fireworks in celebration, while grabbing chili peppers to further the festivities. But not everyone is sufficiently cheery, as spirits loom about the stages content on putting the kibosh on the event.
Given the great presentation, naturally, one of the best parts of Blast is the art style. It’s a unique blend of monochrome shapes and colors, with a great combination of pastels and bright, vibrant neon objects. Red looks like a bona fide mascot, and it almost looks good enough to air as a Saturday morning cartoon.
As you can imagine, Tap & Blast is really easy to pick up (at first) due to its one button control style. All you have to do is tap the screen while you’re in a barrel, and Red will blast out of it into the next one. The controls work perfectly even on a smaller screen, and if you want to change up where the prompts lie for special abilities you can do so from the game’s main menu. It’s simple enough at first glance, but then you start running into barrels that move from side to side, and things get a little trickier. From there, you’ll need to blast at certain intervals to avoid flying off the screen and ending the run.
Slowly but steadily, Blast starts to introduce newer concepts that will throw you for a loop. One barrel forces you to slide your fingers on the screen to guide it, giving you a full directional control of where you go. This opens up opportunities to find secret areas and hidden barrels, as well as alternate routes to the goal (which is a bullseye, capable of dishing out multiple tiers of bonus points).
Then you mix in concepts like walls that change your direction mid-flight, as well as hazards like spikes, and you’ll basically start paying attention to every single blast, methodically. Spirits will also roam about, effectively serving as enemies, which you’ll also have to avoid while worrying about hazards and moving barrels. It gets pretty hectic, but that’s all part of the fun.
Part of the aforementioned secret areas will host gold chilis, which serve to unlock more levels (of which there are 60), and aid progression. To unlock new worlds you’ll have to earn more “chili points," which can be earned through normal gameplay or purchased by way of IAP. The IAP is pretty fair considering that most of it consists of costumes, and level packs run $1.99 each (which more updates and Game Center support on the way) There are a few areas however that feel sluggishly slow in terms of progression, and you’ll have to go back and “grind out" some stages to move on.
While it probably won’t blow you away, Tap & Blast is a great free game that will easily last you an afternoon. It has a sense of style, great controls, and a good amount of variety to keep you interested. My chief complaint is that it would have been a much better offering as a premium app rather than the heavy IAP scheme it employs now, but considering how fun the game is, it’s worth wading through.