Charlie in Trouble: The Adventure Continues Review

Scruffy little Charlie’s gotten himself into one heck of a dilemma — apparently he forgot that Stone Age folks and warp portals don’t mix all too well, and now it’s going to take three games’ worth of additional portals to get him back home. Swift on the heels of the first Charlie in Trouble, Rapid Turtle has rolled out the first of two sequels, aptly titled The Adventure Continues (Out Now, $1.99). After a single-screen intro the player gets down to the business of guiding Charlie through one maze after another, avoiding traps and enemies while foraging for items that allow him to surmount environmental obstacles.

The Charlie in Trouble series makes me think back to some of the kid-friendly DOS games floating around during the late 1980s and early 1990s — that means the gameplay feels decisively dated if competently executed. Since Charlie is hardly one to pick a fight, the player’s task revolves mostly around making him leap over traps, shimmy up ropes, flip switches, and locate the tools he needs to activate contraptions or eliminate obstacles that stand between him and the portal that will warp him out of the current level. The player spends an uncomfortable portion of the game’s seven hour length simply waiting for ultra-predictable creatures and objects to complete their slow-moving courses so Charlie can move on; impatience results in a walloping series of blows to his health percentage rating, as he’s given no grace period or physical knockback between injuries.

Those who have a keen interest in puzzle platformers should at least be satisfied with a suitable ramping up of level complexity and challenge as Charlie progresses. Multiple save points are usually scattered in a way that makes convenient use of the tendency for Charlie’s path to fold in on itself as he works his way through. The game rises to its best during a few full-on puzzle segments that top off certain levels, and these constitute Game Center or OpenFeint achievements at the player’s discretion. However, these are too few and far between to have an appreciable impact on how the game will appeal to anyone outside the body of puzzle platformer genre fans.

Charlie in Trouble‘s user interface is solid enough: the expected four virtual buttons for movement and one for jumping, with myriad ad hoc popups handling obstacle descriptions and key item usage. Those who have played the first episode or its Lite version already should know exactly what to expect here. While the player’s ability to mirror the interface for right and left-handedness is certainly welcome, the virtual buttons for sidescrolling movement could stand some expansion in touch sensitivity radius.

Only rarely does aesthetic presentation weigh much on my enjoyment of a videogame, but Charlie and environmental objects are so tragically tiny onscreen that iPhone and iPod Touch owners will be left squinting until their poor eyes can adjust enough to properly judge the distance between him and everything that threatens to munch away at his health. Rapid Turtle Games introduced some neat innovation in allowing the player to tap and drag the screen to see more of the expansive levels Charlie finds himself in, but what the game really screams for is some good pinch zooming. This makes the attractively designed puzzle segments even more a breath of fresh air when they arise to give the player a break from the game’s more run-of-the-mill content.  Those adventurous enough to help Charlie navigate his way back home will want to arm their iTunes playlists, because the levels are otherwise filled only with the chirping, wheezing, and percussive explosions that emanate from all the threats that lie within.

iFanzine Verdict: A competently built but thoroughly average puzzle platformer, Charlie in Trouble: The Adventure Continues suffers not for its family friendliness, but for its lack of dynamic action and the bizarre aesthetic decision to make everything onscreen as tiny as possible. Puzzle platformer enthusiasts would still do well to give the Lite version of the previous episode a good spin to see if they’ll like this one, as the sequel’s complex level designs and intermittent puzzle segments should appeal to genre veterans.