Making a platform game for a touchscreen-only device rarely works.
You only have to check out Sonic’s various incarnations on iOS to see what we mean.
While the speed, graphics, and stage design is all of the highest quality, there just isn’t that same level of pixel-perfect control with a virtual pad as with its physical brother.
Divine Robot’s latest title, Blobster, - which will be published by Chillingo - is looking to avoid this slippery screen syndrome though by offering up a platform game that both embraces the thrill of old, but benefits from being built from the ground-up as a touchscreen-only game.
Blob on the landscape
At first it seems more in the traditional camp than anything else.
As the titular blobster, your task is to navigate each level to the end pipe - picking up keys, power-ups, leaping on monsters’ heads, and generally being about as old school as you can get without putting on a pair of red overalls and announcing your name in a falsetto voice.
Movement is handled either by touching the sides of the screen or tilting the device, and we know this will sound odd, but during our hands-on we actually found the latter method to be the more precise of the two.
This is because the actual act of jumping is far from traditional, and is the first sign that Blobster is not your commonly garden Mario wannabe.
Instead of a virtual pad or a jump button, leaping is performed by touching your blob and pulling him back in a similar fashion to the catapult in Angry Birds. The further you pull, the more he pings away.
With hands firmly grasping the sides of the iPhone, this clumsy-sounding method actually turns out to be quite an ingenious way of avoiding the typical thumb-obscuring, non-registering pitfalls of the virtual pad.
iPad users have the added benefit from having a ‘remote’ jump button on the side, meaning you can pull the blob back without having to endure another trip to A&E for straining your thumb muscles.
Not so angry
It’s not just the controls where Blobster breaks away from the norm, though.
The levels are designed with the excellent physics engine in mind - creating puzzles such as using the bouyancy of balls to plug watery graves, or using boulders to crush potentially hazardous flying foes.
There’s even one that called ‘Angry Blobster’ that effectively turns the game into a platform version of (you guessed it) Angry Birds, with collapsing structures that rely on you eating special icons to make your blob bigger (and therefore heavier) before pinging into them.
Strangely, despite there being over 52 levels - with Divine Robot claiming the latter ones lasting up to an hour if you’re looking for all the secret areas - Blobster also comes with an unlockable Survival mode.
We say ‘strangely’, because it comes across as a fully-functioning game in its own right - Doodle Jump viewed from the side, as it were - complete with lines telling you how far your friends have got.
So while we came into the preview wondering if the iPhone and iPad really needed another attempt at the hardest of touchscreen genres, we came away impressed with how Divine Robot has gone about trying to adapt the genre properly to the platform.
We shouldn’t have too long to wait to see if the sling-shotting stands up to extended scrutiny, as the game is expected to be released this Thursday.