There’s something innately appealing about the ability to swing in a game. It’s a mixture of the joy of fluid motion and that knife-edge death-or-glory thrill – the knowledge that a fatal fall awaits if you don’t time your movements perfectly.
Spider-Man 2 nailed it. Bionic Commando likewise. Treemaker comes close to doing the same, but unfortunately finds itself plummeting earthward at the last minute.
It’s a great shame, as the central idea is an appealing one. You play as the titular Treemaker, who can magically conjure vines from his hands that can stick to the underside of platforms, allowing him to swing between them.
His other ability is to instantly cause seeds to sprout. So it’s no surprise that your objective is to land on all the seeds within each level, using the least number of vines possible to get there.
This is far easier said than done, as you’ll instantly discover on the first stage. For Treemaker can only land on certain surfaces, and if he comes into contact with any other he immediately disintegrates.
Similarly, collide with a platform at too high a speed and he’ll also be destroyed. You’ll need to time your swings (and dismounts) perfectly to ensure safe passage through each level.
Swing when you're winning
Gauging Treemaker’s momentum takes some getting used to, particularly as even the early levels provide quite an exacting challenge. There’s often a fine margin between making a perfect landing and watching your green-fingered hero plunging to his doom.
Each stage is a trial-and-error process, as you attempt to find the ideal attach point for your vines to reach the next seed. To earn the maximum three stars you’ll sometimes need to swing through one seed on your route to another.
A perfect run can be satisfying, though it’s a moment tinged with the frustration that the journey to achieve it has often caused. Solutions can be difficult to repeat, reliant as they are on both the precision and timing of your taps.
Over the hedge
Treemaker’s old-fashioned approach to progress is a further barrier to enjoyment. You’ll only be able to unlock the next chapter if you’ve finished each stage with a minimum of two stars.
Doing so might be simpler if the game allowed you to scroll around the levels to plan your route. Alas, you can only pinch to zoom out a little way – and often you’ll find vital platforms can’t even be seen if you don’t do this before setting off.
Leaf it out
All too often you’ll be required to make a leap of faith to find your way forward. And all too often that leap is rewarded with death and a restart. Even the thoroughly charming presentation struggles to overcome these annoyances.
This is developer Mikrotie’s iOS debut, which makes some of the design foibles understandable, if not entirely forgivable.
Here’s hoping a post-release patch can smooth over a few of the rough edges, because there’s the seed of a great idea here – though a few design flaws need weeding out before it can truly blossom.