I used to collect those little mascots with company logos on the label. The little fuzzy things that could stick to surfaces and had googly eyes. I have no idea where they all went, but I think I've spotted some of them in the new game from Housemarque.
Chances are that you've played one of Housemarque's games in the past. From Super Stardust HD on the PS3 to Dead Nation and the stylish Outland. Now they've brought their incredible sense of style to iOS in their physics puzzle game, Furmins.
Furmins is a little like Incredible Machine or, more recently, Casey's Contraptions. You need to place objects before starting everything running and then let them do their work. With Furmins the objects aren't quite as varied as those other games, but they don't need to be. The level design is perfectly pitched to take advantage of the iPhone and guide the little Furmins home.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. First I need to ask the question that you're all asking (well, I'll just assume you're asking it because it saves time); What are Furmins, why do you need to guide them and where? Well, not that it's highly important to the game, but Furmins are little furry creatures who rely on a supply of water to their village. Their king has inadvertently stopped the flow of water and they need to get back to him to put it right. Got that? Good.
As is usually the case, what this really means is that you need to get the little bundles of fluff from one point to another through a series of contraptions, gaps and physics-based objects. Crates help fill the gaps, trampolines aid the Furmins in getting to a higher area or going sideways, long planks push them in one direction and so on. Whie not as varied as other games of this type, there are enough different objects dotted around to make each level unique and the design of each has been so well thought out that any repetition can be waved aside.
Housemarque's graphical flair has made it across to iOS intact. Furmins looks every bit as gorgeous as their other games, taking on a hand painted look that is not too dissimilar to Outland. It helps that the little creatures are all so cute. Though the play areas can be quite big and looking at the whole area can make certain objects very small, the detail still allows the player to see exactly what needs to be done to move from point A to point B.
Joining numerous other games in the scoring area, Furmins uses the three star system to ensure re-playability. Here it also allows you to unlock further courses too. The star ratings are achieved by collecting sweets along the journey, which adds another level of strategy to proceedings. At various times I found that there were easy paths to the exit that would have avoided these sweets entirely, meaning that I could finish the level but not gain the full three stars. Throughout the 70 levels, the challenges always seem perfectly balanced and often it's just a case of going back to the level again with a fresh set of eyes and re-thinking the route to the exit.
The levels at the end of each section take on a slightly different form in that you can control the Furmins by hitting pads to make them jump. This adds a new dimension to the game and I found myself wishing that there were more levels like this. The realtime interaction on these stages made it feel a little more like Lemmings, something I was all for.
Finally, bonus levels unlock as you play and these are well worth seeking out as they push your skills even further with more intricate puzzles. The extra levels can also be unlocked by In App Payment should you find yourself unable to wait patiently for the solution to each level. This is never forced upon the player though.
Throughout the game, the soundtrack adds another class element to the game, never getting annoyingly repetitive and, at times, actually providing a little soothing ambience to my aching head while I tried to move the Furmins to their goal for the umpteenth time. Sound effects match the Furmins' cuteness perfectly and only make you love them more.
With an eye for quality visuals and some great level design, Housemarque has managed to produce an outstanding game in a crowded genre. Furmins is perfectly balanced and yet challenging enough to keep puzzle fans happy.
- Sound: 8
- Graphics: 9
- Gameplay: 9
- Longevity: 8
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