Mobile gaming certainly isn’t hurting for clever puzzle games. Perhaps due to their natural fit with touch controls, puzzle games were one of the earliest genres to flourish on iOS. If you ask the average person to name off the mobile games they know of, chances are many of the entries will be from the puzzle genre. Candy Crush Saga (Free), Angry Birds (Free), Cut The Rope ($0.99), and similar fare are to many people the face of mobile gaming. Puzzle platformers, on the other hand, seem to have a rougher go of it. The puzzle part is usually fine, of course, but touchscreen platforming is a hard thing to nail down properly. Volt ($0.99) tackles the problem by having you play as a little battery, who can’t do much more than flop around on its own. Instead, it can generate beams of electricity to grapple onto various surfaces. It’s like Cut The Rope meets Bionic Commando.
Volt’s a battery trying to escape from a recycling center. While it’s personified in as much as it has a pair of eyes and two limb-like cords, it’s not much more functional than a real battery. By tapping it, Volt will do a little half-hearted flop into the air. Unless you already have some forward momentum or an uneven surface below you, this will get you just about nowhere. Volt’s main means of motion is through its ability to fire out strands of electricity that attach to certain surfaces. You can have two of these beams out at any one time, one for each cord, and they work just as easily as touching a surface within Volt’s reach. You can also cut these beams with a quick swipe. Of course, being a battery, Volt can only use a limited number of these beams before it needs a recharge, so if you don’t plan your moves well, you’ll have to restart the stage.
Each of the game’s 60-plus stages has you using Volt’s limited means of travel to work your way to the exit. There are plenty of traps and hazards along the way, and you’ll often need split-second timing to survive. Volt can take a few hits before being sent back to the start, but the game relies so heavily on momentum, whatever gave you the first point of damage is highly likely to give you a couple more while you’re there. Combined with the limited uses of the beams you need to go anywhere, the levels can get very challenging quite early on. There are also four boss stages that require slightly different thinking to beat. Veterans of Cut The Rope will be right at home here. Swap Volt for a piece of candy and the exit for Om-Nom, and you’d basically have a scrolling version of that game.
Volt has a very different style to its presentation, of course. Volt is cute enough in that Johnny Number Five sort of way, but the overall dark tones of the visuals combined with the sounds of working machinery and the cold, mechanical soundtrack make for an altogether more grim atmosphere than Cut The Rope‘s candy-colored style. It’s certainly nothing we haven’t seen before, especially recently, but it does help to create some separation in your mind. The game also has a bevy of unlockables, including other playable batteries and retro-style 16-bit versions of the stages.
I think what makes Volt worthy of your attention are the excellent level designs. Volt’s toolset never opens up in any meaningful way, but through the additions of new level elements, you’re constantly using those same moves to do new things. It’s a very organic way to increase the complexity and challenge of a game, and it’s probably Volt‘s biggest strength. The difficulty probably ratchets up a little too quickly, but restarts come quickly and there’s no penalty for death outside of being set back at the start. I wish there was a single button I could hit to restart a level, since there are times where you won’t be able to do anything, even die. Opening the menu adds an extra step to a procedure you’ll be performing frequently. I suppose with the chance that you might need to put your finger anywhere to secure a new beam, there may have been a risk of people accidentally hitting such a button, though. That’s probably a worse outcome.
If you like games that involving swinging around on a grappling hook of some sort, you’ll definitely enjoy Volt. It’s tough, but in that good way where you can see what you need to do differently to succeed next time. The amount of content is just about right, and it builds its mechanics out in sensible ways. It’s a little bit fussy at times in the way most games based around physics are, but that can also lead to some entertaining situations. Volt probably won’t shock you all that much, but you can definitely get a good buzz going while you play through it.