At one time, before bands were manufactured on a production line, getting stoned was the key to developing creativity. Rock bands got wasted, trashed a hotel room with their instruments, then woke up with a hit record underway.
Having just played The Splatting, developed by the deliciously named Evil Mushroom Empire, I’m forced to wonder whether game design has taken a similar approach to coming up with new concepts.
And it’s not just the strong ‘shroom motif, although that is obviously a factor. This whole Android game smacks of the kind of irresistible irreverence that adds volumes of depth to an entertainment medium even when it’s a tad lacking in real substance, and very rough around the level design edges.
Essentially this is a Missile Command clone, though that’s a shaky foundation upon which to build an opinion of The Splatting. You take command of three fixed, ground-based laser cannons as a prolific fleet of malicious mushrooms invades from outer space.
A particularly nice touch is choosing which kind of laser cannon you want to install in each position. The lasers are mounted on the left, centre and right of the screen at different heights, so it really depends on your preferences as to how they’re equipped.
You can choose from light, medium and heavy cannons, with the stronger blasts taking much longer to recharge. Not that you can only have one of each, mind you. If three fast-firing light guns is more your style, that’s exactly how you can prepare your defences.
Unfortunately, The Splattering feels rather inaccurate when it comes to shooting (done by simply touching where you want the cannons to fire) and far too many lasers go wide of the mark.
At the bottom of the screen is a thin pool of bubbling, murky water, which the descending mushrooms are heading for. The more ‘shrooms make it to the water, the higher it gets, until your cannons become submerged and stop working.
You can shoot power-ups out of the sky to help you a bit - such as smart bombs and freezing the ‘shrooms in position for a moment - but it’s a tough job keeping the water level down.
Thanks to the silly faces on the mushrooms and the wry banter that pops up on the screen as the next waves attack, The Splatting is a sincerely amusing game. Which is just as well, as the actual gameplay is anything but slick.
Really, there hasn’t been much consideration put into level design at all. Instead, horde upon horde of mushrooms are thrown at you, apparently without much testing to see whether a level is actually possible to finish successfully.
Fiddling with the types of cannon can help a little, but the Android platform often struggles to cope with the barrage of sprites suddenly - and randomly - jumping onto the screen.The Splattering boasts a nucleus of potentially entertaining gameplay quirks, but needs a lot of time spent on balancing, level design and refining the code to run more smoothly and really bring the game out of its shell.