Review by Matt Dunn
I fell for Loopy Laboratory the second I started the first level. No, it’s not cute and cuddly. No, it’s not ground breaking. But it IS based off one of the best original tile-based puzzle games of all time. Yes, I’m sure you were thinking it too… Chip’s Challenge! Don’t let that fool you though, Loopy Labs has some cool elements to offer the casual platform/puzzle gamer.
Chip’s challenge may be 20(ish) years old at this point, but the basic aspects of the game have stuck around to form the base-level standards of platform gaming. That is, push this box here, collect this key, use it to open that door over there, lather, rinse, and repeat. Loopy Labs takes these basic ideas and adds some fun twists. It even throws in a little Portal-esque flair for good measure.
The goal of the game is simple. You play as the (slightly creepy) victim of Dr. Heissenbad as she tries to escape his treacherous lab. You accomplish this by completing progressively more difficult levels as Lara, who continues to remind me of Daphne from Scooby Doo in the game. To complete a level, you must gather all the batteries in the area to remove the power sources of the electrical barrier blocking your escape portal. This, of course, starts proving itself more difficult as spiders, water, fire, lasers, and more are added to the mix.
Visually, Loopy has some colorful and clean graphics that remind me of older SimCity games. The animation is decent, and some stuff like laser beams have some nice reflection effects. One complaint, however, would be with the seemingly slowness of the game. There are tasks that take a really long time to do, and it’s especially frustrating when it’s something you can’t avoid, like puzzles that require you to slide on ice. You just kind sit there while Lara slowly slides around. There are some levels where this is really rubbed in your face, which is kinda lame. Still, the movements are generally smooth, as are the transitions between walking, push, swimming, etc.
I would say that the first 25 or so levels are fairly simple, and the experienced puzzle gamer won’t find much of a challenge (though can’t say the same for amateurs). The final 25 levels can be quite challenging, however. Some of them are quite large, and require you to use the games handy view feature. You can do this by tapping two fingers on the screen, and moving the over-head camera around the map. Unfortunately, there is no way to zoom in or out, which really would have made evaluating the levels a lot easier for larger puzzles.
Fortunately, if you are a loser like me, you can skip your current level at any time using the “cheat” option in the main menu. The downside of this, is that you’ll never be able to play that level again until you start a brand new game and progress to it. This is one of the puzzling (lol) downsides I found to this game. There is absolutely no selection menu for completed levels! I can understand the developer encouraging you to not cheat, but why not do so by providing a limited number of cheats? With these kinds of games, it’s easy to get frustrated after so many tries of a level, and it would be nice if you weren’t penalized so heavily for skipping a level. Being able to come back to a tough area when you have more time to spend on it would be great.
There aren’t any extra modes in Loopy Lab. No timer for the levels, or any sort of leader board. That’s generally OK for a game like this, which is meant to be a challenging once-through experience. Honestly, with 50 levels, and some of them quite difficult, this is a game that could take you a while to beat. There are also quite a few save game slots if some friends want to try it out. Depending on your experience with tile-based puzzle games, this could be a long, sometimes frustrating experience, or a shorter, but more pleasant one.
Presentation & Graphics:
Very professional presentation from the menus, to the quick tutorial, to the actual gameplay. Graphics are polished and clean. Animation is a bit choppy at places, but mostly top-notch stuff. Very reminiscent of a “made-for-Windows” type of game from back in the day.
Music is good, but loops a bit to often (short songs). Sound effects are high quality, and work well.
Touch controls work perfectly. I had absolutely no issues. However, the slowness of the game admittedly got to me quite a bit. Especially since some levels designs seem like they’re shouting, “Yeah I’m slow, and just for whining, here’s another big fat slow part!”
50 levels to beat isn’t a ton, but definitely enough to make you feel like you accomplished something. I would love to see new level packs become available, and maybe some user created content? However, there is really no reason at the moment to go back and play this after you’re done. Perhaps a level timer, with unlockable levels could have helped.
This game stands at an even 3.5 star if you average the scores. It was an easy decision for me to bump it up to a 4 star. There is a lot of shovelware out there right now, and not a lot of truly polished games, that come from tiny developer teams. Loopy Labs is an exception, as it is presented very well, and will instantly appeal to anyone who wants an easy to pickup and challenging puzzle-platforming game for their iPhone or iPod Touch. And if you were a fan of Chip’s Challenge back in the day, this will be a nice warm blast from the past for you.
NOTE: Loopy Lab is on sale for $2.99 for this week only!
NOTE 2: I just saw that there’s a snappy little game manual on the dev’s website. Cool!