Colour-matching games are passe. As are line-drawing games and endless-runners. So how about a game that combines all three in one cartoon-crazed package? That’s what Seal Force is going for. This a genre mash-up to end all genre mash-ups.
Having an ambitious vision is one thing, but it takes a fair bit of skill to realise it without a metaphorical four-car pile-up. Seal Force emerges intact thanks to a delicate game mechanic that’s buried deep beneath the exuberant characterisation and bombastic staging.License to Krill
The premise is a hyperactive concoction of Saturday morning kids' cartoons and several cereal packets of chocolate-frosted sugar bombs.
A megalomaniac krill named, er, Krillian has infected the seas with a virus, turning his fellow krill into mindless minions under his control. Conveniently, they’re classified into three colours: pink, orange, and green.
Arrayed in opposition are a crack commando squad of seals: Sarge, Milo, and Fonzie. Their job is to clear the oceans of the krill and stop Krillian from producing any more.
You assume control of the seals one at a time and then draw a path through the sea where they can attack the krill. You have to progress as far as you can through the onslaught with just one life - hence the infinite-running comparison.
The colour-matching aspect of the game is that the seals can only advance on krill that match their own colour, meaning you have to make snap judgements about which krill present the most pertinent danger.
They’re in constant motion, and at the moment they cross your line at the left of the screen it’s Game Over. “You Got Krilled”, is the punchline.Finding Nemo
Those are just the basics of the Seal Force. Where it becomes more rewarding to play is in the use of combos and power-ups to clear the screen.
Swoop through a minimum of three colour-coded krill and you set off a combo explosion that consumes all krill in the vicinity, regardless of colour. The power-ups, meanwhile, take the form of mecha riot suits, lasers, and rocket launchers, which you can use to attack from either up close or from a distance.
These are important because after a few rounds it quickly becomes evident that you won’t get very far without extensive use of mass-clearance tools.
Particularly irksome are the armour-plated krill that need two hits, or the electrically-charged ones that repel your seals on contact. You can collect power-ups on-screen, or you can buy them in the shop back at Seal Force HQ.
While the production values are incredibly high (the voice-acting alone must’ve cost a pretty penny), it’s interesting to note that Seal Force is completely free to download.
The developer is hoping to recoup its costs through in-app purchases that bypass the traditional grind of upgrading. The gameplay in itself is finely balanced and won’t really need additional outlay, but at a bare minimum you'll want to make a purchase to deactivate the frankly annoying in-game advertising which hovers along the top of the screen.
Seal Force is good. It’s very good. The homage to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and its ilk might not be to everyone’s taste, but it’s a brave experiment that combines several familiar genres to create something new and strategically demanding. A great start to the gaming year.