Incoboto review

It’s Portal meets Super Mario Galaxy in this charming puzzle platformer…

I realise I may have slightly mislead you with that opening statement. So please don’t send me hate mail if you downloaded this game expecting a first person shooter where you must save a princess from a psychotic robot.

No, visually and thematically this game isn’t in the same league as those two games. However, it does share many core gameplay mechanics. The most obvious of these is the planetary structure of the levels. Similar to Mario Galaxy, each level – or system – is made up of planetoids with their own gravity, and are linked together by tractor beams and portals (oh, and there’s the Portal link!).

The story revolves around you being the last human alive, surviving a catastrophe causing all the suns in each system to fade and die. You are woken by a sad looking young sun (yes, suns are alive, didn’t you know?), who signals you in sun-talk that he his hungry. Nearby on your planetoid are small star pieces – or star food – which can be fed to the young sun. It transpires that if the sun eats enough star food (100) then he’ll have enough energy to re-ignite the dead suns and restore life to the galaxy.

As you can expect, retrieving these star pieces will not be a walk in the park, it’s not just a case of jumping from planet to planet and hopping on a few jump pads to collect them. Instead, each planet contains many intricate machines, with the majority of them dormant in some way. It’s up to you to work out how to initiate them, allowing you to do such things as activate lifts, shut off force-fields, and invert gravity beams, all in the name reaching those elusive star pieces.

The majority of these puzzling machines involves working with switches and portals, where time is often of the essence to bring the solution to a head. Just like the game ‘Portal’ you’ll need to use the portals to your advantage, sending both yourself and other objects from one place to another to complete the objective.

There are a few tools at your disposal to help you - though very much like Metroid you must retrieve them as you progress and return to previously visited systems to make use of them. These include the ability to pick up objects and throw them, and the art of swinging with a grappling hook.

The biggest tool though is the lens tool. This allows you to focus the energy of the sun into a beam of light. Using multitouch you can decrease or increase the size of the beam by pinching your fingers apart. This is used to activate certain types of switches in the game, as well as being used as a weapon against mysterious dark matter that hides star pieces.

The gameplay is first rate, with some truly devilish puzzles that will have you scratching your head one minute and then slapping it the other, once you realise how obvious the solution is.

However, the game isn’t without its problems. There are a few crash bugs here and there, but the main issue is with the controls. I applaud the developers for trying something different and creating a control scheme that requires only one finger, but unfortunately it doesn’t work so well in practice.

To control your character you tap and hold your finger on the screen. Dragging it over to the left or right side will cause him to march in that direction, and the further you drag the faster he will go. To jump, you flick/push your finger upwards. Doesn’t sound so bad does it? Well no, but the problem stems from the fact that far too often you will unintentionally cause him to jump, or when you want to jump you’ll just walk off the edge of a platform. With many puzzles relying on timing to be successful, it can be very frustrating.

There is a second control option selectable from the pause screen, but this isn’t much better. It gives you a set of left and right buttons in the corners of your screen, and the jumping is activated the same way as before. Again, it sounds good in theory, but in practice it is also problematic. The left and right buttons are fixed, so it’s too easy to stray off their origin and unintentionally activate a jump move.

In my opinion an easy fix would be to make the left/right buttons moveable to where your left thumb or finger rests (much like Gameloft’s virtual analogue sticks), auto centering each time. Jumping and performing actions could remain the same, but be set only to the right portion of your screen for your right thumb, or finger.

The graphics might be on the simplistic side but it’s a style that suits the game and allows for each system of planets to zoom in and out of view. This looks great and runs super smooth.

The writing for the game is good too, with the storyline and hints being told through witty texts from both government signage and remains of humans that tried and failed.

Despite the control issues Incoboto has a lot going for it. I found it offers up one of the best puzzle platformers on the AppStore. Even if it doesn’t feature a Mario and Glados face-off!


Final Rating


Incoboto $2.99 iPad only

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