The Game: Amazing Alex
The Device: Droid X
The Price: $0.99 for Android, iOS, $2.99 for the HD version for Tablets/iPad
The Basics: At this point Rovio could have released anything and made an instant best-seller. Simply plopping “From the creators of Angry Birds” on the app store guarantees millions of copies sold, but is Amazing Alex as good as the title boasts?
This is not an original project from Rovio, as the game was actually titled Casey’s Contraptions when they bought the rights from Snappy Touch and Mystery Coconut. Clearly this author appreciates the new name for the character, almost as much as he appreciates that the irritating blonde haired moppet is nowhere to be found during actual gameplay.
The gameplay is all about two words- Rube Goldberg. Over the game you’re gradually given a set of 35 objects to play with to achieve various goals. They are usually simple enough — get a tennis ball in a basket or send a balloon hurtling to its loud demise via a pair of scissors — but getting it done with the objects at hand requires some creativity. You might have to swing a doll in a bucket over to a pit, or use a pinball bumper to bounce a eight-ball through a pipe into a stack of books onto a skateboard.
The game’s best when you’re given free reign over how to tackle the problems. There’s generally an easy way to complete the level but that won’t give you the gold stars scattered throughout. Collecting all three stars on each level is a genuine challenge, one that requires some truly outside-the-box thinking.
The Review: It takes a while to get to the good stuff here. Obviously Rovio is trying to make a game that anyone can play but the first sets of levels are so obvious and boring, leaving you wondering when the game will start up for real. When it finally does the genius of the game becomes clear. There’s a massive amount of possibilities for you to try, and you can usually tweak the objects to make them do what you want, whether the developer intended for it or not. Rovio hasn’t forgotten its simpler roots, as you’ll see later on in the game when levels straight out of Angry Birds appear, with little piggie coin banks that require destruction.
Once you’ve mastered the 100 levels included with the game you can wait for the free updates to come or choose to create your own. This will certainly appeal to many gamers but much like with Little Big Planet I soon grew tired of creating my own and decided to see the insane things that others had built. It’s really easy to download new levels and they seem to be featuring good ones, so there will always be more to try.
But will you want to? It’s easy to get tired playing this game, not because of its difficulty (and it does get quite tricky later on) but because of its constantly changing goals. As silly as it sounds, with Angry Birds at least you had a solid goal – those pigs have to die for their crimes. Here you’re told to let a balloon fly off the top of the screen or get a box to fall into a certain spot on the floor. Why should you care?
Perhaps it’s overthinking for a mobile app but it makes it easier to put the game down and forget about it, unlike Angry Birds where you can’t ever do that, not until you’ve achieved those three stars.
But in spurts, it’s genius. Ignore the cutesy style and the music (which calls to mind the kind of light, non-threatening acoustic fair that you’d hear in an elevator in a mall that threatens to lull you to sleep) and you’ll find a challenging and satisfying puzzle game. Eventually.
The Final Grade: B-