I played two mobile games this week. The first is Splashy Slime, a superb 2D “impossible hardcore platformer” that was over too soon and made me want more. The second is Zelik Adventures, a casual platformer for iOS and Android that I actually found harder to finish because it’s so boring. The game’s concept is to “provide a new, entertaining way to perform a personality test,” but I would have been much more entertained by an actual personality test.
My first problem with Zelik Adventures is how hard it is to start a new game or continue an existing one. Its menu was pretty unresponsive on my Droid Razr HD running KitKat, and it wasn’t readily apparent whether it hadn’t registered my taps or was just taking its time responding. In Zelik Adventures, you play as an alien named Zelik who would have a hard time outrunning my girlfriend’s turtles. After you manage to start a new game, you’re dropped off on planet Earth by a small rocket to begin your mission of meeting five wise men and convincing them to share their wisdom with you. Your first task is to close all the tutorial hints as they tell you how to do things like “run,” jump, and open chests, usually a few seconds after you find out for yourself. Provided you have the patience and will to resist the urge to simply close the app and do something fun, the hardest challenge is jumping using the atrocious controls. As the ever-so-helpful tutorial hints will tell you without being the least bit intrusive, touching either side of the screen makes Zelik sprint towards that side with all the speed of a seahorse. Swiping upwards on the screen makes him jump as long as you swipe straight up. The slightest slant to your swipe will make it register as a tap on that side of the screen, often walking the alien into spikes or off a ledge.
Throughout whatever part of Earth Zelik Adventures takes place on, there are chests you can open by tapping them. Upon being opened, these chests will vomit up gold coins and a mixture of fruit and junk food the game calls treats. The game keeps track of how many treats you’ve collected, but they aren’t good for anything besides annoying your friends by telling them how many you have. Coins are used to buy disguises like cowboy hats and sunglasses. The human population of Earth is scared of Zelik, but humans are unobservant enough that they won’t know it’s him if he’s wearing one of these disguises.
Once you have a disguise, you must find a wise man, usually by doing some clumsy platforming. If your disguise is good enough, he’ll talk to you. I would have had a lot more fun with Zelik Adventures if the wise men didn’t all say the exact same thing. The only question on this personality test is “What attracts you?” and each time you are asked it, you are given three answers to choose from. From your answers, the game will assign you a trait like agreeableness or open-mindedness, which you can share with your friends on Facebook until they un-friend you for annoying them. On the game’s stats page, the game will tell you your trait as if it’s your only one.
This could be seen as a good thing in a game with such lousy controls, but Zelik Adventures has no failure state. There are spikes and enemies, but all they do is take away your disguises. This isn’t a big deal because chests can be looted as many times as you want. If you lose your disguise, you can just re-loot a chest and buy another one.
I kept playing, taking frequent occasional breaks to engage in more entertaining activities such as watching my girlfriend’s turtles race, until I found all five wise men and told them what attracts me. At this point, I expected the game to congratulate me for finding all five wise men and show me an endgame cutscene as a reward for putting up with it for so long. Instead, it told me to go find more wise men to learn more about my personality. What immediately followed was the most enjoyable part of my experience with Zelik Adventures: uninstalling the app.
Zelik Adventures is definitely one of the worst games I’ve ever played. The story is boring, the controls are horrible, and it doesn’t even have the decency to be over when you finish it. If you don’t believe me, download it and see for yourself. If you want a mobile platformer that’s actually good, check out Splashy Slime.
© 2014, The Indie Mine. All rights reserved.