A Far Cry from Crysis…
As most of you will know, Crytek are responsible for creating hardcore 1st person shooters on PC, PS3 and 360. The most famous of these is the Crysis series, boasting state-of-the-art visuals that push the latest graphics cards to their limits.
But, who am I to dictate what genre Crytek should stick too, even if I was slightly disappointed that we weren’t getting a hardcore shooter with amazing graphics on my new iPad.
In a way, there is no better genre with which to cut your teeth in the iOS gaming market than a puzzle game. And the end result? Well, it’s what you’d expect from Crytek. A solid puzzle game with off-the-chart production values!
Don’t expect super soldiers in mech suits here. Instead we have Fibble. An alien, knocked off course by a stray piece of space junk, that has crash landed in a country house, here on Earth.
Fibble isn’t your usual alien though, he’s tiny. About the size of a toy figure. And that is where the main crux of the gameplay comes in, with Fibble looking for lost parts of his ship and crew, amongst everyday areas of the house. To him these are large towering jungles of toys, furniture and everyday household objects.
Each level is made up of a maze of interconnecting pathways, winding their way through the household objects. These paths are strewn with coins, as well as the now standard ‘collect three stars’ mechanic – allowing you to advance to, and unlock, new areas.
The game is essentially a puzzle version of pinball, with Fibble himself becoming the ball. Touching, pulling back on Fibble and letting go will speed him on his merry way (interestingly the game is subtitled flick ‘ n’ roll – yet you don’t actually flick him). This momentum will only carry him so far, however. Speed pads will boost him further, as will spring-like bumpers. Should he come to complete stop, you can then nudge him (again, much like pinball) using the accelerometer of your device. The main objective is to get to the warp gate – star collecting is secondary.
Where the puzzle element comes in is with Fibble’s crew mates. Each new area unlocks a new one, each with their own unique ability, and vital to Fibble completing levels.
There are four in total: Byte, used as a spring board; Vroom, used for sudden speed boasts; Docto; for changing direction; and Ragno, for swinging. Each of these become tools, and require you to strategically place them in specific areas (markers) on the levels pathways.
For example. To reach high platforms or clear walls, you place Byte in position. Once Fibble reaches Byte, a quick tap anywhere onscreen will activate him and flip Fibble into the air. My favourite crew mate is Docto; a crazy octopus-like alien which you can use to grab Fibble and throw him in another direction.
Only once you have placed the right crew mate on the correct marker, will you be able to complete the level, collect all three stars, and find the bonus level key for each stage.
Although there are some devious puzzles in the later stages, they come too little and too late. I was able to get past all but a few levels of each stage, and collect all three stars with relative ease. While there is some trial and error for placement of the crew, I would have preferred more blank markers to make it more challenging – these only appear in the four bonus stages.
The visuals are where this game truly excels. It’s quite possibly the best looking game on iOS. I don’t personally like the character design of Fibble, but that aside, the level design and environments are stunning. Not since Zen Bound (which probably doesn’t look quite as good as I remember) have I wanted to reach in and touch the game – it has that tangible feel to it. The lighting and texture work is excellent, but much of this is down to the depth-of-field blur effects, that gives each level a tilt-shift look. The use of everyday objects – including Playmobile-like toys – boosts the miniature look and feel even further.
Initially I thought that the new found powers of the new iPad were responsible for this visual treat. But on booting it up on my iPad 2 the visuals were nearly identical (only the new iPad’s colour reproduction improved things).
While Fibble isn’t the game you’d expect from Crytek, it is a good example of the puzzle genre. By melding solid touch-screen controls, physics-based challenges, and state of the art graphics, it showcases what iOS gaming is capable of. Strip away the visuals, and you are still left with a solid puzzler which is great fun from beginning to end. It’s a little on the short side, no doubt lasting most gamers around 2-3 hours (I’m sure more levels will come). But, for the price, it’s easily worth it. Whether you opt for the iPhone/iPod Touch version or the HD iPad version, you are in for a visual treat.
I have a feeling that Fibble is just tip of the iceberg of what Crytek are capable of on iOS, and I eagerly await their next release.