Will you help the Bandies avoid Midge's thumbtack death machine?
Band Together instantly reminded us of Sony's LittleBigPlanet, with its cardboard style graphics, quirky music and somewhat adorable characters, otherwise known as Bandies. On the surface, it's a well-designed and tricky iPad puzzler that'll make you think. Unravel the plot, and you'll discover a twisted tale involving one potentially messed up kid.
Said youngster is Michael Silverstein, also known as "Midge". Bullied at school for having unusually small hands, Midge retreats into his Great Aunt's attic to, as the App Store description clearly states, "make things with his tiny hands that no one else can." No, not dioramas populated with miniature (and expertly painted) figurines, but rather, a thumbtack death machine, thumbtack saw machine and other strange things that make us wonder just how screwed up he is. This is driven home upon his discovery of the Bandies, pint-sized critters yearning to be "tested", and test them Midge does, by crafting devices of such lethal cunning; thus concludes our brief Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade reference.
This is ultimately where you come in, not as Midge, but as the one who controls the Bandies and (hopefully) steers them past uncertain doom. Each stage tasks you with guiding the creatures to an easily identifiable exit, and it's in your best interest to keep as many alive as possible. This means gathering them up and moving the group when necessary, hitting switches to open doors, disarming traps and timing it just right as to avoid those aforementioned death machines. In fact, some puzzles will force you to sacrifice one Bandy to save the rest.
What makes Band Together especially challenging is this: once a Bandy falls off a platform, there's no way to go back. This is where much of the head-scratching comes into play, since you must plot several moves ahead to see how puzzles unfold. Sure, you could easily kill one or two Bandies and push to the exit, but here's the thing, the developers did an excellent job transforming them into believable characters. If one dies, the others shake with fear, while the corpse's eyes get replaced with X's. Even the puzzles that ask you to "off" one of the little dudes can be tough to complete, not out of sheer difficulty, but from coming to grips with the fact that, indeed, the little one must die; we often refused to accept its grim fate, and resigned ourselves to figuring out some other way. Powerful stuff.
That said, here's what we don't like, the price. The game currently sells for $4.99, which might as well be $19.99 on the App Store. Five bucks is a chunk when you consider that the app only comes with 30 "dioramas", with no added content like a level editor and/or some other feature. It's tough to part with that kind of dough when competing puzzle games routinely sell for $0.99-$1.99; don't forget the free ones. Sure, the game's of a high quality and it's obvious much love went into creating it, but $4.99 for a new IP doesn't make sense, especially with so many easy stages (you should have little trouble breezing through the first 15).
Sadly, the cost is Band Together's largest barrier to entry, a shame, as the game definitely satisfies. Give it a look, and you'll discover an imaginative world filled with possibilities. It all comes down to whether $4.99 is too rich for your blood.
Review code provided by Backflip Studios.
What's Hot: Thirty imaginative stages, loveable Bandies, creepy sketches, quirky music.
What's Not: Outrageously priced given the content, won't work on iPad 1.