Reviews

RockNRoll Review

Review by Matt Dunn

Tag Games is an up and coming gaming studio that has produced several games for other mobile platforms. According to their site, they have plans to develop for much larger platforms like the Wii and DS. Does their very first iPhone game cast some pleasant foreshadowing on their hopeful future? Read on to find out!

I’ll come right out and say it: Rock’n'Roll surprised me. I was really planning on a semi decent game. Simple graphics. Accelerometer gameplay. Been there, done that. Nothing special, right?

WRONG.

The folks at Tap Games have apparently done their homework (that or they’re fairly experienced in making cell phone games… yeah probably that), and Rock’n'Roll, although still with a couple bugs, really shines as a fun, and surprisingly long platforming game.

The game starts, surprisingly (you may see this word a few more times in this review… be warned), with a rather humorous comic-styled story. “Rock: This island is too hot!” “So they put the air conditioning on…” This builds an actual premise for the game, which you don’t see a lot of in iPhone games these days. Long story short, you messed up you enemy’s guitar hero/rockband/music game, and all the notes have scattered over the island. It’s up to you to roll through each level to collect these notes. Once all the notes are collected, you move on to the next level.

There is a nice world map, very reminiscent of the original Donkey Kong game for the SNES. There are 15 total levels in the adventure mode, and each one gets progressively harder… and progressively huger! (Yes, I’m making up a word.) Some of these maps are simply enormous, so there’s plenty of places to roll around, avoiding various enemies, crashing through rocks, and shooting through curving paths Sonic-style.

Unfortunately, the large levels come with a downside. Although Tag very smartly included an in-game map, it gets smaller and smaller the larger the level is. By the time you’re at some of the final levels, it’s extremely difficult to make out where the final few notes are to collect. A “pinch to zoom” feature would have been perfect for this problem. Still, it’s a helluva lot better than nothing.

The control for Rock’n'Roll looks pretty crazy from the videos I’ve seen. Honestly, it’s very easy to pickup. Rather than mose tilt-controlled games, you are controlling the level as it spins around Rock, rather than the character himself. The iPhone is used almost as steering wheel to spin the level and let gravity pull Rock through the mazes. This works extremely well, and I rarely had issues with controlling that loveable little guy.

And he is loveable. As are most of the other graphics in this game. The animations aren’t very smooth, and there’s not a huge variety in the level design. There are only 3 different types of levels: reef, jungle, and mountain. However, the cartoony sprites are done well enough to where you really don’t notice the animation shorcuts. Backgrounds are vivid, and different color themes are used for different level types. It works well enough, especially since the game starts off in comic-book style.

The sound in Rock’n'Roll has been well polished. I did enjoy the sound effects, but the music tends to get old quickly as there are only 3 songs, one for each level type. Luckily, you can control FX and music volume independently. Problem solved.

Another great option is the ability to switch between tilt or touch control. I have tried both, and I must say that tilt suites this game well. But for those that don’t like to look crazy in public as they twist and turn their iPhone, touch may be a good option!

Finally, the nice surprise, and big disappointment of Rock’n'Roll came after I had beaten the adventure mode. I was really expecting another funny comic at the end. In fact, I was really expecting more of the great dry humor through out the game. Sadly, there was neither. However, it was adventure mode that I launched into the “Rock the Clock” mode. I assumed this was just going to be the standard “beat-the-same-levels-you-just-played-as-fast-as-you-can” crap. I was quite wrong! There is another set of 15 different levels that must be beaten in the time provided. You can collect powerups that stop the clock temporarily to help you along, but some of these levels are even HUGER than the ones in adventure! What I thought would be quick little regurgitation of the main game, turned to be another 90 minutes of straight gameplay – and some tough gameplay at that!

Ok, so a lot of good for this game. Now for the couple bad things. Both myself and Nigel experienced RockNRoll freezing our iPhone when we launched it for the first time. Luckily, a simple restart solved the issue, and I haven’t seen it since. On a more serious note, with only 3 levels left in adventure mode, the game decided to randomly delete my save file. I have no idea how this happened. I had closed the game, relaunched, and… nothing. That said, I actually didn’t mind replaying through the game, as I was able to breeze through a bit more quickly the second time.

Presentation & Graphics: 7

Great cartoon artwork. Vivid colors, and nice backgrounds. Menus also look great. Animations leave something to be desired though, and would have liked to see more variety.

Sound: 6

Good sound effects. Music is ok… for the first 1-2 levels of each section. Luckily the advanced sound options give you control of what you hear! Would like to hear some more original tracks, rather than rehashed “rock” ballads from the 50s and 60s.

Gameplay: 9

Unique and fun game. Excellent level design makes it hard to get lost, and map and arrows in mazes help out. Controls are odd at first, but very easy to pickup after a couple minutes. Options for both tilt and touch controls is something more games should have. Very smooth frame rate 98% of the time. Can get a bit tedious at times when that last note can’t be found in a large maze. Should have used comic story/humor throughout the entire game.

Game life: 7

This would have gotten a lower score, but “Rock the Clock” mode was a ton of fun after beating the main adventure. Recovering from lost save data not included, this game probably took me about 3-4 hours to play through all 30 mazes completely, which is quite a lot for a simple arcade style game. You may return to this occasionally to beat your “Clock” times, but it’s primarily a single run-through game.

Game rating: 7
Final Word:

When a game can start out with a low score in my mind, and then exede my expectations with tight controls, fun gameplay, and a surprisingly fun extra mode of play, it deserves to be recommended. However, losing saved games is frustrating, and launch bugs aren’t much better. I’m hoping these will be resolved soon. I can’t imagine anyone being dissappointed with this game at it’s current $1.99 sale price, but it if it jumps back up to full price, this game could get lost in the crowd. So do yourself a favor and get it before that happens!

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