There’s no escaping the fact that a fair few games in the App Store can be summed up with statements such as “It’s like Mario Kart for iPhone!” or “Yeah it’s HALO but they called it N.O.V.A. to avoid a lawsuit” or – and I’m sure every reviewer has used this one once or twice – “Okay, okay, it might be the seventieth Doodle Jump-esque title this month but it’s actually still quite fun.” All well and good, but it wasn’t watered down clones of console hits or endless variations on popular genres that piqued my interest in iDevice as a gaming platform. It was those innovative little games that are unafraid to try something different. Games that manage to push boundaries while still playing to the hardware’s unique strengths. Games like Roll Out.
Thinking so far outside the box that the box is merely a speck on the horizon, Roll Out eschews most touchscreen platformers’ fall-back of a virtual d-pad and jump buttons in favour of a strikingly original scrolling system used to guide charismatic fur ball Wabba through the game’s fifty increasingly fiendish platform-cum-puzzle levels.
Put simply, what this means is you’re never in direct control of Wabba; instead what you’ve got to do is move the signs/buttons around the screen in order to influence his movements and make good your escape from a series of labyrinths. Touching the screen allows you to scroll these signs from right to left. When pressed they become transparent and Wabba will pass through them, remove your finger and voila! when Wabba comes into contact with a button he will carry out the corresponding action e.g. speed up, slow down, jump, or stop.
Dyslexia inducing stuff, believe me. But once you’ve got to grips with the system and made your way through the initial few levels (that act in lieu of a tutorial), Roll Out reveals itself to be a thoroughly compelling little puzzler thanks to some expertly crafted levels.
With a simplicity to it that feels almost retro, the sole aim of each stage is to reach the exit in the shortest amount of time possible by making your way along a series of platforms before hopping into a portal. Hardly groundbreaking stuff, but honestly the unconventional style of play lends the game a distinct charm, while ever more difficult puzzles and stricter time limits pose enough of a challenge to hold your interest long after the novelty factor has worn off.
Okay, so it’s not all good. Graphics are clean and crisp almost to the point of being bland. While the endlessly looping music does eventually get more than a little irritating. That said, Roll Out (and its developers) deserve to be commended for being brave enough to try (and succeed) to deliver a game that isn’t quite like anything you’ve played before. Is it as good as N.O.V.A. or Crash Bandicoot Nitro Kart? No, probably not; but Wabba does have more originality in his little finger than either of those games. And he doesn’t even have fingers…
iFanzine Verdict: A brilliantly frustrating and frustratingly brilliant platformer. The unusual controls may take a while to wrap your head around, but once you do Wabba’s adventure is a good ‘un.