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Amazing Ants

For: iPhone   Also on: iPad

False advertising

Product: Amazing Ants | Developer: Pocket Gems | Publisher: Pocket Gems | Format: iPhone | Genre: Casual, Platform, Puzzle | Players: 1 | Version: Europe | App version: 1.6
Amazing Ants iPhone, thumbnail 1
This is a freemium game review, in which we give our impressions immediately after booting a game up, again after three days, and finally after seven days. That's what the strange sub-headings are all about.

I'm not sure in what way ants are supposed to be amazing. Sure, we've all heard about how they build colonies, protect the queen, and somehow communicate with one another using chemical signals.

Ultimately, though, they're puny. If you had the patience you could kill an entire ant colony with your thumb, and you probably kill a few hundred during the summer months without realising it every time you leave the house.

Perhaps freemium puzzler Amazing Ants will change my opinion of the formidable formicidae? There's only one way to find out: by playing it for seven days and compiling my impressions in a review. If only everything else in life were so simple.

First Impressions

Amazing Ants seems a bit low-rent. The menus are all nice enough, with simple but straightforward navigation, but when you hop into the game proper it's underwhelming.

It goes for a flat-shaded style that's full of colour but lacks signs of life. Similarly, the objects with which you interact feature very little in the way of animation, but there is at least a definite sense of physical weight to the things that you can move.

This lack of dynamism makes it tricky at times to differentiate between objects in play that will affect your path and background scenery that has no effect whatsoever.

The aim is to get your team of ants to the goal, collecting fruit along the way. They move automatically once you've set them in motion with a tap and, much like the stars of Lemmings they'll continue their journey until they hit an obstacle.

I've yet to encounter any hazards that might kill them, but you can easily run out of the limited number of moves at your disposal.

The actions your ants can take are constrained by the parameters of each puzzle-like single-screen level. You're given an allocation of jumps that you can make before running out - a handful of useful powers with which to navigate the world.

IAPs explained
A number of upgrades can be purchased for your ants, including additional colours and even costumes. If you need more jumps, you can pay for an unlimited number of them, either by level set or for the whole game.

Unlocking new level packs costs Coins of increasing amounts. As an example: set 4 costs 7000 Coins, whereas to unlock the entire game costs 495,000 Coins. When purchasing more, 40,000 Coins costs you 69p.
This places a good deal of emphasis on smart, thoughtful play, but it also means you'll have to restart areas constantly, as one of the few ways to make progress is through trial and error - learning where your ants will go if left unattended, and sculpting their path accordingly.

Day 3: hot ants

By day three I'm starting to warm to Amazing Ants. Looking past its bland exterior, there's a really solid puzzler here.

New play objects have been brought into the mix, making the basic play eminently more likeable. Speed Sticks - for example - can be laid on the ground to give your ants a turbo boost, flinging them up curved walls to new areas.

The Bubble is an interesting addition, too. When you place one of these your ants clamber inside and float on the wind in the direction the compass is pointing, so you'll need a keen eye to judge where they'll end up.

There are also special levels that occur after you've completed each individual set of challenges. These take the core system and mix it up with a new idea based on a theme.

The pinball table one is particularly cool. It involves ejecting a hundred ants from a tube at high speed so that they bounce around the interior of the table to pick up sugar cubes.

It's not mind-bendingly amazing, but it's a neat extra and a welcome change of pace to the head-scratching of the main game. Three Sets into the game and I'm eager to see more of what's in store, especially if this diversity continues unabated.

Day 7: ants in my pants

When a developer limits access to a game's content through the freemium model he needs to carefully strike a balance between making money and providing fun.

In a world-builder, you can close the game and wait for a construction project to finish, or you can pay money to hurry the process along.

With a game like Amazing Ants - in which the next set of levels is behind a wall made of a huge amount of the game's currency - you very rapidly need to start repeating levels so you can earn more money.

That means playing the exact same puzzles several times, with the highest rewards doled out on those you've mastered, since you get double Coins for completing them quickly.

One issue with this is that there's no on-screen timer and you're only told how quickly you got to the exit after you've finished. As some timings need to be perfect to achieve this bonus, that's a big oversight.

This is where I am on my seventh and final day with the game: repeating familiar content to scrape together enough money for the next bunch of challenges.

I'd definitely like to see more, but I'm reluctant to spend actual money on new levels - especially as large portions of their layouts have begun to repeat.

I still think it's a solid puzzler, and I've had fun with the areas I've experienced, but I haven't enjoyed my time enough to invest any money, or the extravagant amount of time required, to see more.

How are you getting on with the game? You can tell us and the rest of the PG Community about your experiences by leaving a comment in the box below.
Amazing Ants
Reviewer photo
Peter Willington | 21 January 2013
There's a decent puzzle-platformer in here, but it takes too long to grind out the game's currency to unlock later level sets and see it all
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