Sunday, June 2, 2013

Little Luca [Glowingpine Studios] - $0.99

Physics puzzlers are one of a couple of genres that feel right at home on the mobile device’s touch screen. And while most of them have you using the environment to move objects around, there are a couple that take that sort of gameplay mechanic to another level. Games like Bumpy Road, Solipskier, Lazy Raiders, Night Sky and others do this in such a way that, even though some might not consider it incredibly original, they still do manage to feel fresh, unique and new while playing. And that’s where the new title from Glowingpine Studios, Little Luca, fits in. 

While looking out at the stars one night, Luca notices something strange happening. All of a sudden, the stars start falling out of the sky. Now it’s up to you to collect them all and restore the sky to it’s original beauty by collecting the 3 stars in each stage using the environment to maneuver a little ball around. As with most games, the beginning of the game acts as a soft intro to the gameplay mechanics, with only a couple of objects moving when you ‘activate’ them with the game’s simple one touch controls. As you progress further, more elements are added like whales, airstreams, gravity wells and more making the gameplay incredibly interesting as well as challenging. 

In each level there are certain objects that will activate when you touch the screen. Sometimes it’s a circle that will indent, launching the ball when you let go of the screen, other times it’s a platform that will move, knocking the ball into something else, slowing it’s momentum or even completely changing the direction of the ball. Some airstreams will always be active while others will be ‘dead’ until you touch the screen, activating them and some of them will even be rotating, requiring you to tap the screen at the precise moment to send the ball in the direction that it needs to in order to reach the end of level goal. Whales act as a sort of moving circle most of the time, swimming around in the water ready to launch the ball upward when the time is right. All of this put together has allowed the developers to come up with some incredibly inventive level designs, and even better, they’ve very clearly well thought-out level designs. I couldn’t help but be impressed throughout the game with how perfectly each and every level was put together. 

Graphically the game is a throwback to the days of retro gaming while still adding the sort of ‘modern retro’ graphics that iOS gamers have come to enjoy. It isn’t so retro that the pixels don’t have character and becoming attached to the little white ball is not hard to do. Throughout the 90 levels there are 3 different worlds, each with their own distinctive environments and while the graphics are inherently minimal because of the retro graphics used, they are also done incredibly well, adding a lot to the vibe throughout the game. 

On top of the challenge of collecting each of the 3 stars in every stage, there is also a nice scoring system that’s based on how many stars you collect and how quickly you do it. This is emphasized with GameCenter’s 4 leaderboards; one for your Total Score and a board for each individual world. And while there are no achievements, this adds to the drive of scoring better, and collecting every star while flying perfectly through each and every level. 

Priced at $0.99, being completely IAP free and not having one little negative thing that I can say about the game, it’s very easy to recommend Little Luca. It’s very clear that a lot of love, effort and time has gone into this incredibly polished physics puzzler. It also brings that ‘something special’ to the table, making it stand out in the sea of physics puzzlers that have infested the AppStore over the last couple of years. More levels are planned in the future, and I sincerely hope that the game sells well enough to make that possible, as finding a game like this, especially within it’s genre, is an insanely rare occurrence. 


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