Timetrap’s Emberwind harks back to the 16 bit golden age of Amiga/ST platformers, but how will it fare in the AppStore age?
Originally released for PC and Mac, and now available for iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad, the game sees you helping to free the city of Grendale from a gremlin invasion.
You play as Kindle, an old gnome warrior, and with the help of your trusty snowy owl you travel the land saving townsfolk, and must save the king from the clutches of an evil wizard called Candlefinger in a final showdown at Grendale castle.
Each stage features a large 2D, side-scrolling, multi-level environment in which your main objective is to seek out and free a quota of gremlin-infested houses and their occupants. Only then can you move through the over-world map, and on to the next stage. The freeing of houses is actually the easy part, however getting to each house through the hordes of gremlins is where it gets tricky. It’s easy to get overrun by the little blighters, but thankfully you won’t have to restart the level from scratch if you managed to reach a checkpoint. Even if you didn’t reach one, any house you free’d before dying will remain so.
Controlling Kindle is done with the usual virtual joystick and button combination. From the outset you can move Kindle left and right, and glide quite high through the air via a jump button. Dispensing justice on the gremlins is unleashed through your attack button, causing Kindle to wield his magical cane. Lastly you have an action button, this is used to chat to townsfolk, enter buildings and active items.
As you progress through the stages and defeat more and more gremlins, Kindle will level up and unlock new moves. These include the speed-dash which, when combined with jump action, will allow you to reach higher levels; the spin move is another unlockable move which, much like Sonic, allows you to roll into enemies. Another cool move, and one that in later levels is indispensable, is the rocket move. This sees Kindle covering himself within his helmet and, by continuously tapping the attack button, will then launch Kindle high into the air. Not only will it take out any nearby gremlins, but also allows you to get to out-of-reach places.
Platformers do not always fare too well on iOS, but Emberwind’s setup actually works well. However, I found the default setup not to be the best option. I advise customising the controls so that all the action buttons are positioned on the right. It’s up to you whether you want the jump action set to the joystick or a separate button. But I preferred the latter.
As mentioned at the beginning of this review, the game features a classic 16bit look, akin to games from the Amiga and ST such as Magic Pockets or Chuck Rock. It’s all sprite based and presented in a parallax sidescrolling viewpoint. The art style itself is very Scandinavian, which is understandable considering Timetrap are from Sweden. It’s not to my personal taste, but it’s well animated – particularly Candlefinger – and the worlds are lush and full of detail. The sound effects are a standout, with cheeky cackles from the gremlins, and a particularly triumphant, epic sounding, soundtrack.
The sheer amount of gremlin nasties is impressive. But, despite their numbers and some variety in abilities, as you progress things start to get a little repetitive. There are a few boss showdowns – which are genuinely challenging – and you can take to the skies on your owl for a couple of bonus stages. But, for the most part, the levels are essentially the same. If it wasn’t for the fact that I wanted to complete this game for this review, then I’m not sure if my, or anyone else’s attention would have lasted the distance. It’s a shame too because the last few stages at the castle are pretty intense.
Overall, Emberwind is a polished and enjoyable platform romp that translates well on the iOS platform. Its repetitive nature is the only thing that may hold it back for some, but both Kindle and the gremlins are endearing enough for most to stick with it. I certainly wouldn’t mind seeing them again in a more varied sequel.