Rovio's new physics puzzler ticks almost every box.
It would no doubt have been very tempting for Finnish developer Rovio to simply keep on cranking out Angry Birds expansion after Angry Birds expansion. Certainly that's the recommendation the accounting books would have made, and given the familiar physics action of Amazing Alex, it's clear that the developer would rather not stray too far away from the gameplay that's seen it dominate the assorted app stores.
Amazing Alex, previously Casey's Contraptions before Rovio acquired the rights to the game, begins with the titular character feeling rather bored. As a result, he finds himself idly eyeing up the objects around him in his world, thinking up increasingly complicated, Rube Goldberg contraptions that can be created so as to achieve arbitrary objectives.
At the beginning of each level, you're given a hint of this objective, such as rolling a ball into a tray, or untethering balloons so that they can drift off into the sky. You're presented with a selection of objects such as trays, scissors, and bouncing balls which you need to place carefully around the screen, rotating them if necessary, before you set the whole contraption into motion.
While each level has a main objective that you'll need to complete before moving onto the next, each level also has three stars dotted around it, and if you can grab all three of them before fulfilling the objective, you'll max out your score. You'll also need those stars to unlock both new levels within each stage, and new stages themselves, so it represents more than just a superficial hook to keep battling away.
The game's split into four stages with a generous 32 levels within each, so you're not going to be short-changed in terms of value for money. Each one introduces a new gameplay mechanic or two, so in The Backyard you're going to need to starting factoring jack-in-a-box punching gloves into your plans, or lay out that tubing just right in The Garden. The gradual introduction of new mechanics does just enough to keep the core gameplay from becoming rather repetitive, although you may experience some fatigue once you've placed yourself in the designer's shoes, and understood why you've been given the tools that you have.
It shouldn't surprise anyone to discover that the physics system Rovio has brought to Amazing Alex is an incredibly polished one, with no errant clipping, or inconsistency over repeated attempts. Everything works just so as balls slide elegantly down pipes, balls bounce of pinball bumpers and objects ping around the screen with reliable precision.
Rovio's clearly been paying attention to the likes of Trials Evolution and LittleBigPlanet too, as you can create your own levels within the game, post them online and grab other people's creations by heading to an external website that's linked to from within the game. With just a quick tap the download completes, and then you're whisked straight back into the game to make your first attempt. To weed out mischievously impossible levels, you won't be able to upload a creation of your own until you've beaten it yourself on three stars.
Rovio set itself a tough act to follow with Angry Birds. Fortunately, and with hints of the creativity of Scribblenauts in both the artwork and the imaginative gameplay, Amazing Alex definitely delivers, even if this something of an off-the-peg purchase for the studio.
With that said, the soundtrack could have used a little more variety, and you have to wonder whether the core gameplay, along with its origins, represents something of a comfort zone for the publisher. Still, the game is fun, challenging and good value for money.
What's Hot: A top-notch physics engine and plenty of content to get stuck into.
What's Not: Despite the introduction of new mechanics, the game can come to feel repetitive. You will delight and then despair at the soundtrack.