I have to admire the imagination of some developers when they come up with their plot lines. Take Krashlander, a fascinating physics-based puzzle game where you are asked to... ski down a mountain and crash into some evil, yet horrifically immobile, robots. Love it. Plot aside, does Krashlander make as good a game as it would a script for Doctor Who?
Version Reviewed: 220.127.116.11
Krashlander has both a paid for version and an ad-supported free version with no restrictions. Developer Jeff Weber is to be commended in reaching out to the two styles of market - those who want everything for free at the point of installation, and those who are happy to pay for a developer's work so they can continue to code more applications.
Viewed from the side, you don't have any direct control over your skier's speed or direction as they hurtle down the mountain. All you can do is move your body around to balance yourself against the slopes and jumps on the ground, and to balance against gravity while flying through the air.
Krashlander doesn't go with tilt controls - it uses pretty much all of the right hand side of the screen as a big click wheel. Put your finger in the middle of the circular hot spot, and your skier will move to the neutral position; move away in any direction, and your body will move in that direction, be it a crouch, leaning forwards or backwards, or a wee jump. You can toggle an on-screen guide to the controls, but after a few minutes I turned this off - the system is intuitive enough that I didn't need the extra icons.
Now I've spent some time with the game, I'm glad that Weber went with the on-screen controls rather than the accelerometer. It feels far more accurate, partly because I can make very fine movements with my thumb as needed, but also because so much of the game requires pixel perfect movements. Not having to keep twisting the phone around means you can focus on your skier's location on screen without worrying about the viewing angle.
The graphics are almost monochrome, with the white snow and black rock building up the majority of the level. There are hints of grey to provide shadow and depth, and you will get different spot colours as you move through the levels, which helps give a sense of progression and stops the whole concept of the game getting stale.
Plot wise, you have a special "Krashlander" suit which renders you invincible. Invincibility is just the ticket, because the only way to disable the enemy robots that infest your snow covered hillside is to (ahem) crash into them at high speed. You can take as many trips down the mountain side you wish. Perhaps you might want one as a sighter to see where everything is, and then take out one robot on each trip... if you don't care about your rating.
As well as clearing each level so you can move on to the next one, you have the "up to three merit marks" ranking system that is so popular nowadays. If you can finish the level in the "perfect" number of trips then three marks are coming your way. The OCD gamers will fight for the triples on every level, but I'll give up and just be happy that I can finish them even if it does mean a rating of "meh" or "really???"
Krashlander is hard. The level design is fiendish - and I love the touch of having hints written in the ground so you know what you have to do. Putting those tips into practice though is going to need the reactions of a ballroom dancer doing a tango coupled with the dexterous co-ordination of a drummer (incidentally, well done Harry on Strictly - [cough - Ed]). The controls are accurate but you'll need to be constantly changing your balance in advance of the obstacles on the screen. Even the placement of the robots leads to rather a lot of swearing.
Is it too difficult? That's a matter of opinion and how you like your games. I'm sure that many will simply give up as their jump misses by fractions of a second for the seventeenth time, but for me this is a game that is meant to be hard, one that rewards thought and elegance, and one where completing the game gives a real sense of achievement.
I know this won't be everyone's cup of tea, but Krashlander has a perverse attraction for me. I'm going to recommend it, and then run away as you curse me during your frustration at trying to get the last robot.
Reviewed by Ewan Spence at