Don't let the tedious "circle character" design put you off.
Mario Galaxy. Now there’s a game that thought outside of the box, or, to be more accurate, a game that sent the box hurtling through space into the orbit of various other planets. You see it turned out that toying with gravity is a hoot and, more crucially, a superb gameplay mechanic through which puzzles and platforming can be wed. While the chances of seeing Mario hop skip and jump his way onto the iDevices are slimmer than a pair of skinny-fit jeans tumble-dried on the highest heat setting you can at least take solace in Soosiz, a delightful platformer by TouchFoo.
Castle of Magic was pretty great wasn’t it? It looked wonderful and played pretty well too, for the most part at least. The problem with Castle of Magic, and indeed nearly all iPhone platform games, is that you never feel absolutely one hundred percent in control. The precision needed for pixel perfect jumping is just rarely there and no matter how fun the game is this fear would always reside somewhere in the back of your mind. Soosiz is different. The controls and movement are simplified and refined to the point of perfection. Combining this with the slower pace of the gameplay and a gravity based gameplay twist and you have an incredibly precise and deliberate platforming experience that stands out amongst its peers.
Soosiz, which I assume is the name of the orbicular player character (this is never explained), is tasked with rescuing his friends when an ancient evil suddenly appears and spreads darkness throughout the land. Indeed the “plot”, however slight it may be, is derivative and essentially non-existent; you should make peace with this now. If you buy Soosiz expecting any kind of story you will weep. Similarly, we’re getting very tired of playing iPhone games with character designs that are no more adventurous than a circle with eyes and feet (yes we’re looking at you Toybot). Of course I understand that not all iPhone developers are also talented artists but seriously, these “circle characters” have to die.
Moving past the tedious character design and the lack of any fiction (honestly, do you really care about compelling narratives in 2D platformers anyway?) Soosiz is a wonderful if somewhat slow paced game. The real spark of ingenuity comes from your ability to walk all the way around the “platforms” and then jump in any direction to the neighbouring “platforms”. You see each floating mass acts like a miniature planet with its own centre of gravity. Provided you can leap far enough you can escape your current planets’ grasp and, with any luck, effectively magnetise to the next. While it’s hard to describe it becomes sublimely obvious in practice after only a few moments. With this one mechanic Soosiz opens up entirely new gameplay opportunities in terms of both puzzle and platforming and they are a joy to explore thanks to the elegant control scheme.
As you play your heads up display couldn’t be simpler. You have a button to move to the left, a button to move to the right and a button that makes you jump and, later, a power up button. All are spaced far apart and tucked into the screens outer extremities helping to make sure your thumbs are never obscuring the action. Defeating enemies is, for the most part, as simple as jumping on them. The game is the polar opposite to the iPhone release of Duke Nukem 3D and in keeping “control clutter” to an absolute minimum TouchFoo have made an immensely playable game where death is nearly always your own fault and not the fault of clumsy touch screen buttons.
Everything I can say about the graphics can be replaced by looking at one of these screenshots. They are simple, elegant (if a little flavourless at times) and the frame rate never misses a beat. The audio throughout is solid but never stand-out. Jumping and landing on enemies etc are all accompanied by fun sound effects while the music tracks are serviceable in that they fit with the themes of each level but never quite stick in your brain. In ten years time you’ll remember the title screen music to Sonic but the title music to Soosiz will undoubtedly escape you.
Soosiz is a remarkable success, particularly as it represents the very first attempt by developer TouchFoo. Few iPhone games manage to nail a control scheme that marries perfectly with the movement of the player character and fewer still accomplish this while still innovating with new and interesting gameplay mechanics. The game is far from perfect, particularly with the at times bland visuals and amateur looking character design, but these aesthetic qualms are too superficial for us not to whole heartedly recommend the game. There is more than enough quality gameplay here to justify the modest investment and we couldn’t be more intrigued to see what TouchFoo create next.
- Sound: 7
- Graphics: 6
- Gameplay: 8
- Longevity: 9
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