Review: Amazing Alex (Xbox Live)
Amazing Alex arrived on Xbox Live last week (for Windows Phone 8 users), but Rovio also released a standalone version for Windows Phone 7 users. Like many of the March releases around GDC, Amazing Alex has been available on iOS and Android, and was pushed heavily as the 'follow up game' to Angry Birds. Now it's here on the Microsoft platform, it's hard to see what the fuss was all about.
Version Reviewed: 184.108.40.206
Amazing Alex is a contraptions style game, where you have to use disparate objects to achieve a goal. Each level can have different goals, but in general you will be guiding something that moves into a stationary target. As you start these are balls into a basket, but you'll find more challenges as you go through the levels.
Get your Rovio style guide out, there's a lot to check off here. Levels open up when you complete the main goal on the previous level (tick), the levels are split into bundles (tick, it's four different room locations here), oh and each level has three stars for you to collect, by touching them with any of your moving toys once the action starts (tick, tick, tick). That completes your bingo card of things to look out for in a Rovio title.
Additionally, you can create your own levels in the game, and share them with your friends, or publicly. Don't look for it straight away though, as you will need to play through a number of levels before this option will open up for you.
Much of the fun in Amazing Alex is derived from the toys you have available. From shelving units and baskets as you start, you slowly gain items like helium balloons, scissors, radio controlled cars, boxing gloves on springs, all the sort of usual toys you would find in a child's bedroom, or at least one that you would find in a cartoon world that the graphics illustrate so well.
Pick these objects out of your toy box, and place them into the screen wherever you like, in such a way as to hopefully achieve your goal, and then press the 'action' button to see if your Heath Robinson contraption will achieve your goal.
The problem I have with Amazing Alex is that it's not exciting. While I have every respect for the coding effort that has gone on behind the scenes to create the world that is on offer here, a world where you can place objects anywhere, have them interactive with each other (and gravity), a good engine does not make for a good game.
Boiling it down, my time playing Amazing Alex was, frankly, boring. Many of the levels have an obvious solution, and while it might take a few turns to get something lined up with the pixel perfect precision needed to finish the level (which is frustrating in itself), I've not yet come across a level where it feels like I have to discover something new, where I feel challenged, or where I genuinely have to experiment and iterate a solution that leaves me feeling satisfied.
You might ask 'what am I talking about? This is a ''Rovio' game!' And while they did create the excitement of Angry Birds, the basis of Amazing Alex is actually an independent iOS game called Casey's Contraptions, which Rovio purchased and modded to the title that you see now.
Amazing Alex manages to feel fresh and new, yet staid and unadventurous at the same time. It's a few notches higher than another grinding game, which I think will mean that people who could be identified as 'casual gamers' will find something of value in this title. But those people who clearly identify themselves as 'gamers' may find that while all the toys and building blocks are present, the little spark of magic that makes a game into an 'amazing' game is missing.
Reviewed by Ewan Spence at