There’s plenty of chatter these days about the sanity of releasing games onto the App Store at the 99c/59p minimum set by Apple.
The problem, however, is the direction encouraged by that old demand curve. All other things considered, the lower the price of your widgets, the more widgets you’ll sell.
But the other consideration is the quality of your widgets. The less widgety, the lower the price has to be, while concentrated widgety goodness will command higher prices and, up to some level, higher volumes of sale.
You don’t really care, though. You’re thinking, what relevance is this to iDork, you dork?
Well, for one thing, it’s out at an ‘introductory’ price of 99c/59p, but much more important is it’s the clearest example I’ve recently played of a lovely concept completely ruined by poor implementation. Perhaps if the price was higher, the developer would have spent more time polishing the game.
Of course, we’ve seen the basic idea before with Line Rider, but drawing routes on a screen to guide a character through various tasks and obstacles remains a very satisfying experience. And dropping the little stick figure of iDork into his homework world - where he has to avoid sharp pencils, rubber stamps, rulers, protractors, and for some reason guns and UFOs - gives the whole game a solid background.
Tuning such a freeform experience in terms of the dynamics of level design and user interface is no trivial task, however. Perhaps one of the reasons for Line Rider’s success was that it neatly sidestepped this, purely providing you with the sledge and gravity.
In the case of iDork, the 25 levels are tightly constrained, each with a fairly linear resolution path that must be followed to successfully guide iDork to the rip in the paper that functions as his level exit.
To do this, you have to draw various paths for him to walk on that avoid him making contact with anything in the level. Gravity is in operation, so if you don’t stop him he'll fall off the end of a path. And, for some strange reason, if iDork falls too far he’ll fall through the lines.
You can control his motion by placing a thumbtack anywhere in the level, and iDork will do his best to walk in that direction. There’s also a manual 'jump' button in the top left of the screen, which, as well as proper jumping, is required if the gradient of your path is too steep for his little stick legs.
The only other control option is a button to remove all the paths you’ve drawn, but as there are no safe areas once iDork has stepped off his starting platform, using this button any time afterwards results in his red ink spot of death. Nasty.
Now, there may have been good technical reasons why an undo eraser wasn’t included, but its lack is the game’s main problem.
Obviously this is because you’ll make mistakes, and as the levels span multiple screens it gets very frustrating when you’ve once again messed up your route thanks to fat finger syndrome. And you have to start over. And over. Maybe my fingers are overly porcine, but I ended up doing one level about 50 times. It was not fun.
On a more minor point, you can’t preview a level before you begin either, so you’re always on a voyage of discovery until you’ve actually spied the exit.
So, like homework itself iDork is a less than satisfactory way to spend your evening. Even completing a level seldom feels like progress because it will have been shot through with so much failure.
Perhaps spending more time making games, as well as charging more for them, isn’t such a bad idea after all.