Over the last five to ten years, how games are controlled has arguably been more of a driving force for the gaming industry than at any other point in its history. It’s also been a topic of contention among fans of gaming platforms of all kinds whether it be new peripherals for home consoles or the latest mobile device. For me, the subject hasn’t quite reached a point of fatigue. So when indie studio Feedtank touted an iOS game that would have players “jabbing the screen in a completely new way”, I was intrigued. What I discovered in playing Pangolin is a quirky, physics platformer with a fun, fresh method of play.
Gameplay aside, the first thing that will strike players is the stylistic direction. There’s an Asian feel to the artwork, music, and sound effects, which shouldn’t be surprising since the game features a bug-eyed anteater species found in the Far East. The backgrounds have a textured appearance to them almost like canvas paintings, and only a little of the fine quality is lost when blowing the game up from iPhone resolution to that of the iPad. I couldn’t help but get a bit of Pikmin nostalgia from the music with its nature-inspired sounds and upbeat feel. Everything about the presentation has a polish to it from the character design and animation down to the tutorials that periodically show up when new elements are introduced.
The platforming is fairly straightforward in that players must guide the pangolin from the start of each level to a target-like vortex at the end. Like any good tale, it’s all about the journey and this is where the addictive gameplay comes in. The pangolin must be bounced in the desired direction. This is accomplished by tapping the screen at two points below the creature which creates a trampoline spanning that range. The angle of the trampoline and strength of the bounce are both dictated by where the taps are made. The latter is based on how far apart the points are made. The longer the distance, the larger the bounce. It takes a bit of practice learning how to estimate the angle and intensity needed, and there’s certainly some trial and error when dealing with deadly obstacles like moving spikes. The only frustration I felt with the controls were a few instances where the UI buttons were in the field of play where I wanted to tap. These situations were very few and far between, and otherwise it’s a fun mechanic that’s easy for anyone to jump into on the early levels.
Just so the challenge doesn’t get too easy, each level has a predefined number of bounces allowed. Some levels will necessitate using every last bounce, but other stages provide the opportunity to rack up a higher score by managing to make it to the goal with bounces to spare. At the start of each level, a map is displayed in a sketch showing obstacles and other objects so that players can plan out their movements ahead of time. Of course, the plan can completely go out the door when factoring in the moneylust. Diamonds and coins are spread throughout the level that increase the player’s score. Pangolin includes GameCenter support for bragging rights.
The game provides three tutorial levels to get the player used to some of the initial gameplay elements. New obstacles and resources are introduced later, but consumers will need to pick up the in-app purchases to continue on past the 10 free levels. Feedtank has also made its future support plans known with “Coming Soon” notices for at least two more level collections.
I’m always a bit leery of trying platformers on a touch-based gaming platform, but Pangolin really took me by surprise. Feedtank has taken an easy-to-learn, hard-to-master control mechanic and wrapped it in an aesthetically pleasing package. Difficulty ramps up nicely meaning casual players can jump in without much trouble, and the more serious gamers will find some worthy challenge in the latter levels. The long and short of it is, no matter who you are, go download this game for your iOS device!
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