sobota, 11 lutego 2017

[Review] The SquaresBugs: Kyle's Berries - the story of wasted potential.

In my last review i mentioned that I rarely enjoy mobile games. There are so many reasons behind this, it would take hours to explain. This time I was asked to review The SquaresBugs: Kyle's Berries. Once again, i wasn't keen of the gamble, as I don't want to sound like a hater of some sort. Well, here we are.

The SquaresBugs: Kyle's Berries is a mobile platformer in which the player's duty is to fulfill main character's need for berries, by going through dangerous obstacle courses. It starts out simple, but increases in difficulty over time. It has some creative designs scattered around, the difficulty curve is done right, the music is genius.The game has much to offer, so what's the problem?
It's flaws negate all of that.

What flaws? The velocity based movement feels really clunky in this game, being hit is unworldly annoying, dangers aren't represented properly, which leads to confusion or simply overlooking them. But there's one, that overshadows it all...
The controls. Designing mobile games means making them suitable for the platform, designing with it in mind, extending it's possibilities. Or at least not porting the other platform's solutions. It's pointless, the designer should choose the specific platform in the first place if it's specific properties have to be emulated. What do I mean?
Onscreen gamepad. Emulated buttons. They nearly disgust me, it's just counterintuitive. Many games sin this way, including Kyle's Berries.
Besides that, game's basic set of rules is irritating. They are mashed with each other, like jigsaw pieces which don't fit, but forced anyway. It seems that the velocity based movement was inplemented just for the sake of windy levels later on, which was irritating on it's own, but it also added new layers of clunkiness. Those are small things, but they add up, even multiply to horrendous ammounts. For example, the velocity resets when hanging on the ring, making the player jump straightly upwards and gain momentum painfully slow, which was even more terrible in windy levels. The loss of movement's fluidity is really unsatisfying, and this is just a small chunk of the game.
The flower enemies are worth noting, as their projectiles are so small, they may be 3x3 pixels on my 4" phone's screen, which is unacceptably little in the colorful enviroment the game provides. This took away much of my confidence, as the enemies sent no signals whatsoever, leaving me waiting until they fire, and then focusing my sight to scan the screen if there's a projectile somewhere. Some of you may ask "what's the deal? Is being hit in this game this bad?"
It is.
The game is divided into stages, 4-6 levels each, which you have to complete in one run to unlock a new stage. Within a stage, the player has a limited number of tries, one try containing three hits of damage before ending. If you run out of tries, you have to do the stage all over again. This system reminds me a little of Super Meat Boy's warp zones, the difference is, this is the main gamemode here. As for now, it doesn't sound this much of a problem, but it will soon enough. That's exactly because of damage handling in this game. When hit, the character becomes trapped falling in hitstun until it hits the ground and waits there for a while. When I first discovered that, it was odd, but reasonable, so I've let it be as a design choice. Then, somewhere near the stage four bottomless pits appeared. I've lost my shit and gone nuts (not the other way). I would tolerate those instakill gaps of torment if the game wasn't this flawed, I'd even enjoy them. But there was too much bad happening for this to happen.
All of this made me quit halfway through the game, at the stage five. And know that, I mostly play challenging games. The difference is, those deliver it's challenge by clever mechanical and level design, not by unresponsive controls and plenty of counterintuitive design choices. I've got through stage four only because of an exploitable pickup, which gave me a new try in the case of failure. This exploit isn't a good thing to happen either.

Enough, now artistic side of the game. As I mentioned earlier, the music was splendid, just incredible. But it didn't quite fit in to the game. Or, better put, the game didn't match with the music, which stole the show for me. The art reminded me of the pre-MS Office 2003 era of cheesy fonts, corny gradients and intense JPG-ification. The buttons are outright ugly, the simplistic art style is far from it's true potential. I don't judge it too hard, as some may enjoy this aesthetic. The thing that may be easily improved is the menu layout, as the Exit button, being smaller than others, may give people the uncomfortable feeling of heaviness and stress.

Still, I liked the fact, that the background elements were varied. Also, I liked some pieces of level design, the introduction by isolation principle was great to see, whenever it occured. This game could be great, if only some bad solutions were avoided.


This is not what I call a good mobile game. I would give it up to 5/10 if it was a PC game, unfortunately it isn't.
You may try it here.


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