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iPhone  header logo

American McGee’s Crooked House

For: iPhone

Uneven foundation

Product: American McGee's Crooked House | Developer: Spicy Pony | Format: iPhone | Genre: Puzzle | Players: 1 | Version: Europe | App version: 1.0
American McGee's Crooked House iPhone, thumbnail 1
Hollywood tells our kids so many lies. If you work hard you’ll get everything you ever dreamed of - rubbish. Bad guys always come a cropper - no, they don’t. Millionaires marry prositutes - fat chance.

Topping such soul-crushing realities is the stupidest lie of all: that rodents are smart, resourceful creatures. They’re not. They’re as thick as their tiny brains dictate.

Rodent rescue

Happily, American McGee’s Crooked House doesn’t perpetuate this myth. In fact, it’s your job to create safe passage for a frightened and realistically dense mouse.

This is done by shifting blocks around a static, 2D screen, slotting them into place before setting the rodent free. If you manage to create a continuous path, he’ll find his way to the exit. If there are any snags along the way, though, poor mousey will be scoffed by a cat.

You shift these blocks via the accelerometer (by default, at least) so there’s no way of picking individual blocks out. The skill comes in getting the ones you don’t want to move snagged on a piece of level furniture while the rest shift position.

Mouse trouble

The trouble is, this default accelerometer control method tries your patience pretty quickly. You soon grow tired of having to tilt your device 360 degrees to solve each level.

Fortunately, there’s an alternative control method whereby you swipe the screen to shift blocks, which you’ll want to switch to as soon as possible. Once you make the switch, though, the whole ‘move every block’ conceit makes far less sense.

It simply doesn’t feel intuitive to shift all of the blocks when using the game’s best control method, which is something of a problem.

The setting is perhaps the best thing about the game. Taking its cues from the old nursery rhyme 'There Was a Crooked Man,' it’s a comically dark, almost Tim Burton-esque world filled with black humour.

Send a block towards mousey by accident and he’ll explode in a ball of gore that would make Itchy and Scratchy proud. The level furniture is similarly macabre, with creepy dolls and ghoulish pumpkin heads littered around.

Slightly wonky

Sadly, the game underneath it all doesn’t match this well-realised, detailed shell. It’s a rich universe that seems ill-served by the simplistic, mildly underwhelming block shifting at its core.

Beyond the reasonably generous 72 levels (set across three areas of the house) on offer, there’s not a great deal to keep you occupied. There’s Plus+ integration, but whether that’s enough to keep you coming back to save the mouse I don’t know.

The trouble is, there are so many iPhone games out there that pull off this kind of simple gameplay with far more verve. This is far from a crooked experience, but it's very unspectacular.
American McGee’s Crooked House
Reviewer photo
Jon Mundy | 7 April 2010
Crooked House is a competent enough puzzler, but overly simplistic gameplay and unsatisfying controls keep it from making much of an impression
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