Crazy Escape Review

When wolves make off with a herd of hapless sheep, it’s up to a pair of penguins in a jeep convertible to free them and make a Crazy Escape (Out Now, $0.99)! The penguins may be zooming around in an off-road vehicle, but they’ll still have the benefit of roads magically laid down by the player’s finger in this line drawing action puzzler.

Crazy Escape is a perfect game for the casual player who wants something lightning-fast and yet perplexing to the brain. Each of its 95 now 105 levels boils down to the following goals: collect all the sheep being guarded by wolves without hitting said wolves, or other stubborn obstacles for that matter; run over stars for a performance rating; and complete the level on the shortest road your finger and brain can muster on the fly. The penguins make their entrance on whichever road stub the player begins drawing out from, and they’ll exit once the player has connected his or her ongoing roadway to a second stub.

I’ve always felt the best puzzle games start with a simple premise and gradually stir in extra nuances to keep the player going. Crazy Escape achieves this effect beautifully! No sooner does the player get a feel for the basics than a wolf pack chieftain starts chasing the jeep, adding a dose of deliciously high tension to the player’s real-time decisions. Then we discover the wolf has extra sheep in tow that the player must rescue, requiring some creative loop-de-loops to circle behind the pursuer. Oh, yeah — and some sheep are locked in pens, which the penguins can open only if their path has led them over a key beforehand. Add in terrain effects that force cautious turning or even prevent the player from crossing back over his or her road, and you’ve got a game with surprising complexity! If the solution to any level proves difficult, the player can tap a hint button to reveal where the road should go. These hints are replenished as the player collects the stars used for performance ratings.

While Crazy Escape provides a brilliant mashup of path drawing, high speed mayhem, and logic puzzles, the player has to be forgiving of it in one respect. Since the jeep and the forefront of the roadway lie directly beneath the player’s finger, it’s difficult to judge the vehicle’s relation to nearby obstacles — moving wolves are especially a challenge. Level design takes this into account for the most part, and the developer has even gambled on increasing the jeep’s visual size in the latest update, but there’s still no question that it’s a drawback inherent in this particular gameplay formula. Also, it’s too bad that third goal on the player’s mind – finishing the level on as short a path as possible – feels under-utilized. The player’s distance minimization trophies don’t appear to feed back into gameplay in any way, and nor do they serve any role in Crazy Escape’s Game Center or OpenFeint leaderboards.

There’s no question Crazy Escape feels excellently polished and responsive — could it be just a coincidence that it was built in cocos2d? For better or worse its cutesy hand-drawn aesthetics are exactly what you’d expect to find in a casual puzzle game, though the jeep parts flying around onscreen when the player fails are a nice touch. Nor does Crazy Escape contain any music aside from the main menu screen, though its levels tend to be so short that this is understandable enough. Given the lightning-quick pace at which levels are completed, this is one that’s definitely meant for short spurts on-the-go, but it’s got at least four hours of content packed in altogether.

iFanzine Verdict: An excellent option for casual gamers and puzzle fans looking for something that’s pick-up-and-play accessible, yet fast paced, evolving, and satisfyingly challenging. Just be warned that your finger has to block your view of what’s happening immediately around your onscreen avatar, in case this happens to be a pet peeve.