Thoopid, the studio behind Snailboy, promises that its new physics-based platformer will change the way you think about snails.
If you've read Uzumaki, by horror manga god Junji Ito, then no doubt you already have a unique opinion about mollusks. Nevertheless, Snailboy's slimy protagonist may still charm you. It's just too bad the game in which he appears is a little slippery.
Snailboy stars Snailboy (surprise!). Snailboy has a bit of a vanity problem that leads him to collect and hoard snail shells. One day, the Sneaky Shadow Gang slithers out of the forests' shadows to steal Snailboy's entire collection.
Our soft hero must retrieve his property, though he's as naked as a newborn babe.Beautiful snail
The first thing you'll notice about Snailboy is that its visuals are absolutely gorgeous - among the richest of any physics game currently available on iOS.
The levels Snailboy slips and slaps through are positively alive. Though our hero is actually making his way through gardens, the foliage surrounding him appears jungle-thick.
Unfortunately, background/foreground confusion is the price to pay for these fairytale graphics. It's not uncommon to leap into thin air in the belief that you're aiming for a platform only to spear yourself on a cactus instead.Slippery controls
And that's the smallest of Snailboy's gameplay issues. As in most physics games, you adjust Snailboy's trajectory by pulling back on his person. When his projected path is where you want it, you let go, and he flies. The problem with Snailboy is that his trajectory arc is white, and often blends into the background as a result.
Snailboy's pretty pictures have another failing: the high-resolution graphics require you to scroll the screen in order to locate each level's exit. In other words, you often need to take blind leaps and pray you hit the exit portal instead of plunging onto the cacti below.
True, many physics games require you to scroll in order to take in the whole level, but with a title like Angry Birds you're on the offensive. It doesn't matter how you fling yourself, just as long as you kill some pigs.
By contrast, Snailboy is all about picking your way around hazards. If you can't see what's out to get you, you can't avoid it.Get a life
Another problem: Snailboy has lives. If you fall to an enemy or a cactus, you lose a life (and are thrown back to the start of the level for a maddening touch).
This hardly seems fair given that Snailboy is a paid title. Sure, you can buy a new store of lives by collecting the "slimies" hanging out in each level, and you can occasionally pick up free spare lives. But, as you can imagine, collecting slimies takes work, and new lives don't come cheap.
Unsurprisingly, you can buy slimies via an in-app purchase.
If you complete a set of levels, you can frolic in a bonus level that lets you collect as many slimies as you can in a set amount of time. However, you can only visit these bonanzas once a day.
Snailboy is a lovely game in some respects, but it succumbs to a brutal salting in others. It's not easy to control, the visuals are pretty but inscrutable, and though the lives system can be overlooked it's still obnoxious.
Snailboy is a promising invertebrate all the same. If Thoopid makes some adjustments to his game, he has a shot at becoming App Store royalty.