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Attack of the Spooklings

For: iPad   Also on: Android, iPhone

Not da' bomb

Product: Attack of the Spooklings | Developer: Picaro Games | Publisher: Picaro Games | Format: iPad | Genre: Casual, Retro | Players: 1 | Version: Europe
Attack of the Spooklings iPad, thumbnail 1
Last week, Rovio published the excellent Icebreaker: A Viking Voyage, a distant ancestor of Fruit Ninja that calls for deliberate, calculated, surgical slicing. Attack of the Spooklings is another ancestor of Fruit Ninja, but it's as different from Rovio's game as you can possibly imagine.

The premise is that you have to defend a pixel-art fortress from an inexhaustible supply of pixel-art monsters.

You have the advantage of being able to kill huge numbers of them easily just by touching the screen. They have the advantage of being inexhaustibly numerous, meaning that one of them will inevitably reach the bottom of the screen and end the game.

Attack of the Spooklings lives or dies by one odd, brave, and not entirely unsuccessful design choice: it does away with what it calls the 'Bomb' mechanic from Fruit Ninja, meaning you can swipe away at the screen indiscriminately without fear of penalty.

This immediately creates a problem - if you don't have to be discriminating, you might as well just rub the screen frantically (with one finger, as there's no multitouch). To discourage this approach, the game awards extra points, combos, and multipliers for clearing waves cleanly.

Wave goodbye

Waves come in various shapes and sizes - including vertical lines, horizontal lines, diagonal lines, figures of 8, squares, triangles, and wavy lines - many (but not all) of which overlap with others, so you have to be a little bit careful if you want to maximise your score: swipe your finger across two waves at once and you'll forfeit points.

As you get better at Attack of the Spooklings you'll find yourself making the effort to pick out these formations. Playing in a discriminating way is more gratifying, and it allows you to reach high scores more quickly.

However, once the spooklings grow too fast and too numerous to prune judiciously you'll spend your last few seconds of each round rubbing the screen like a maniac - or like a toddler, which is pretty much the same thing.

The problem with Attack of the Spooklings is that it's too accessible for its own good. Yes, you'll amass a higher score more quickly if you're precise, but you can do pretty well by just rubbing blindly. You'll probably settle on something in-between.

The second best player of this game imaginable is a human being with very fast reflexes and an intimate knowledge of the scoring system. The best player imaginable is a sausage tied to a disc sander.

Attack of the Spooklings is perfectly enjoyable, and there's plenty of depth to its scoring system if you're willing to put in the effort. But it's also fairly slim, and it wouldn't be out of place - nor particularly outstanding - in a WarioWare-style mini-game compilation.

It's certainly not a waste of 69p, but you can get much more for your money elsewhere.
Attack of the Spooklings
Reviewer photo
Rob Hearn | 28 June 2013
Attack of the Spooklings is an enjoyable and accessible swipe-'em-up that needs more content and variety to make it worthwhile
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