The first Rolando from Hand Circus showed that gaming on the iPhone can rival that of the DS and the PSP. Rolando 2 takes that one step further and delivers a bigger and better sequel.
In one of our podcasts I stated that Rolando 1 was better than Loco Roco. This was greeted by gasps from my colleagues, but I still stand by that statement. I love Loco Roco, and I don’t think Rolando 1 would have even been creative without it, so strong is the visual link between the two, but I always felt that Loco Roco was missing something. It wasn’t until I played Rolando 1 that I realised what that was… tilt control. Many people see tilt controls as a gimmick, and will take d-pad or analogue over tilt any day of the week. But I simply have to disagree with that, and feel that it must depend on the gameplay. For both racing games and ball control games, tilt controls cannot be matched! And based on that, Loco Roco would have been better suited with tilt controls.
First off lets talk about the new look. As I mentioned above, the first game borrowed heavily from the flat colour look and feel of Loco Roco. Well, this style is still there in the new game, except this time they’ve taken it into the 2.5 dimension. While your Rolandos still have a flat look to them and everything is still flat coloured. The environments you roll through now have depth and look to jet out towards you. While it doesn’t add anything new to the gameplay, the added depth seems to make it that much more engaging and the environmental hazards such as giant boulders more threatening and believable. Not to put a dampener on things by saying that Hand Circus have once again ripped off another game, but I couldn’t help feel that they might have been inspired by the PS3 game Little Big Planet. Yes 2.5D is nothing new, but LBP took it further than ever before with realistic physics at work, and in certain parts Rolando 2 seems to lovingly echo that game, but I’ll get onto that later.
One of the elements I loved in the first game was the level hub/map. Which was presented in a pop up book style which fitted the overall art style beautifully. They’ve taken things further this time by presenting it in full 3D as if it was a paper mache style miniature model of the world… and while it’s not as original an idea as the pop-up book map, it looks fantastic and once again shows the love and effort that Hand Circus put into their games. Oh and I’m about to drop another game name in and say that this 3D map reminds me a little of Zelda Windwaker in it’s presentation [ed: You just can't help myself, can you?].
The sound in the game is once again great fun, featuring a mix of funky tunes and quirky hip hop beats. You can put your own music on in the game, but I don’t see why you would want to. Once again the Rolandos themselves are their usual chatty selves, often blurting out their own catchphrases, from the Pirate Rolando’s “Arr”, to Sir Richard’s posh quips. You’d think they’d get old but for some reason they always raise a smile.
Now onto the gameplay, and people fond of the original will be happy to know that the same great controls and gameplay of the first game are still present here. This time however, Hand Circus have added new puzzles and challenges to keep things fresh, and there is more of a story this time. Led by Sir Richard Smythe, you must journey to the island of Fontanis on a quest to retrieve the rare Golden Orchid. Only this flower can cure Rolandoland from the threat of a terrible disease. Joining you on your expedition are various sized Rolandos from small Lilly, to the fat ships crew members Fenny and Billy… and my favourite Rolandos the spiky commandos are back. Not to miss out on the action the lazy Royal Family are also along for the ride.
The game starts you out at the Castle in Rolandoland, and guides you through the controls in some tutorial missions. Once through these it’s time to hop aboard the Royal yacht and set sail for Fontanis. You arrive at the island at the majestic shores, and it’s here that you discover the first new gameplay element, water! Many levels will have puzzles relating to water, and you must work out which Rolando types to use for certain tasks, especially in later missions involving multiple puzzles and Rolandos. Remember the new fat Rolandos I mentioned earlier? Well this is where they come in handy. Due to their obese nature they sink like large rocks, and so it is only with these Rolandos that you can access under water areas and trigger the necessary switches to progress. Likewise, they are two fat to fit through some narrower door ways and caves, so you’ll need to utilise the smaller Rolandos like Lilly to solve those puzzles.
Once you get beyond the shores and into the Savage jungle you’ll meet the next new Rolando. An orange savage Rolando that has an allergic reaction to chillies. Feed him a chilly and he’ll puff up like a balloon, allowing you to float to previously unreachable areas which are key to you successfully completing that level. As I mentioned before, the commandos are back with there spiky edges which allow them to grip almost any surface and therefore access areas no other Rolando can. There are a few bonus-style levels, featuring the King in strange anti gravity sections, with you having to tilt the device 360 degrees or more, just like the game Rock’n'roll, to get through the maze and to the exit.
As with the first game, Rolando sees you using you finger to manipulate objects. This includes rising, lowering and rotating platforms, dropping bomb seeds, shooting crossbows and of course selecting individuals or groups of Rolandos. In Rolando 2 they have added the ‘Finger of Power’. This allows you to power up your finger and unleash it’s power on enemies and exploadable blocks which block the path. And finally, a brand new element and one which backs up my Little Big Planet point earlier, is the inclusion of vehicles. They are not used much, but where they feature they add a welcome change of pace. Hop your Rolando in, and speed down the hills and jump the ramps. Add all these elements together and you can imagine the challenges that await you in the later levels can get pretty mind bending. Hand Circus have added a cheat feature called an “Exit Idol” collecting these will allow you to complete a level if you get stuck. Personally, while it’s a nice touch, I don’t think they are really necessary.
As good as the new elements are, they don’t quite push the game to its fullest. I would have liked to have seen that 2.5D viewpoint put to good use in the gameplay itself and not just for eye candy. Perhaps adding some forward and back tilt puzzles as well as the usual side to side would have taken Rolando 2 above and beyond the original. Because of this I can’t quite give this game top marks [I have yet to give any game a full 5 Stars]
Presentation and Graphics
Betters the first game graphically through the use of a 2.5D point of view that looks fantastic. The bright colours seem to jump off the screen and it all runs silky smooth.
Just like the first game the music is as funky as hell. And the Pokemon style chatter of each of the characters are funny.
The great controls from the first game are still intact, as is most of the gameplay design. New level elements such as new bomb types, transport and environmental hazards keep things fresh. The story is more developed this time round with some very funny writing at times. However, not enough has changed for the game to get full marks.
47 levels to complete, with more on the way, plus you’ll need to go back and replay the levels to beat the time challenge and gem collection if you want to complete the game 100%. New iPhone OS 3.0 allows for push notification and ngmoco’s Plus+ system for online leader boards and achievements.
Rolando 2 one ups the previous game by half a point in most areas, but doesn’t quite beat it outright. It is the better game, but until Hand Circus take the franchise further, which I’m sure they will do, it sits up high with it’s older brother. Roll on Rolando 3!
Rolando 2 is out now for $9.99 (£5.99)