Jelly Cannon Reloaded
A physics puzzler that's packed to the brim with frustration.
I'm going to sound a bit grumpy this afternoon, but because I was raised to say nice things or say nothing at all, I'm going to do my best to be as even as possible. You see, I've been playing Jelly Cannon Reloaded, and it's not left a very good impression on me. And while I'm going to be as restrained as I can, in a few minutes it may become easy to imagine the gritted teeth I'm sporting for this review.
The concept of the game is familiar: you need to fire A from B, to hit C and cause D to happen. In this particular instance A is a black globule that exerts force on objects, B is a cannon, C represents little globules of sunshine and D is their coming together to form one massive whole. All of this takes place across a large number of levels packed with traps, hooks and destructible platforms.
So far, so familiar, and you would think the game should have no trouble standing comfortably alongside any number of similar App Store puzzlers. Sadly, the physics system underpinning the game is not just unpredictable and cantankerous, it's both of these things combined with inconsistency and pure, blind hatred.
You should never say never in life, but I am going to say now that I will never, not even at gun-point, play the final level of the first chapter again. Here, a series of platforms need to be tipped over, one after the other, so that they lie on top of each other, before you have to fire a cannon shot through the gap to tip a sunshine globule into play. It is excruciating, unfair, and irritating.
There's a way out of these most ridiculously designed levels and it arrives in the form of a device that magically draws all of the globules together without you having to do a thing. Here's the kicker. Each use of it costs $0.99, and given this game is clearly aimed at children I think Nickelodeon should feel ashamed.
As well as making cynical use of an in-app purchase system to bypass the worst moments of design, the game also commits a second unforgivable sin: placing the level reset button in the area of play, with no confirmation box before you're whisked straight back to square one. It's at this point you begin to question whether the game was ever handed to someone who wasn't involved in its creation before release.
The frustration grows by the minute. In the first set of levels I thought there might be something wrong with me, rather than the game. In the second set, I started muttering swear words under my breath. In the third, I ended up just hammering away at the cannon, spitting out globules one after another in the hope I would accidentally succeed at the level. I didn't go any further than this, because by the fourth stage I'd have ended up hitting myself over the head with my iPad until there was nothing left of me except glass, blood, electrical components and tears.
Here's another odd thing. For a game by Nickelodeon, the inhabitants of the world are remarkably lacking in character or charm, with barely a burble to add any personality to these globules. There's a single, grating yawn sample which is shared by every creature, and if you leave your device unattended for long enough, the sample layers over itself multiple times. I promise you this is as annoying as you suspect.
Does the game have any good points? It certainly does and I need to draw attention to them, rather than just lash out because of the frustration the game has filled me with. For one, the ingenuity to be found in the levels is to be applauded, and you couldn't possibly accuse the developers of forgoing variety when designing the individual stages. Some of them really are quite clever, and those that work well are enjoyable.
It also has that wonderful and necessary allure of the well-crafted physics puzzler, where the act of seeing through the Magic Eye picture, and understanding how the individual pieces are blended together is satisfaction in itself. It's just a dreadful shame that it's so often irritating to bring that solution to fruition, with gameplay mechanics that don't work nearly as well in practice as they no doubt looked on paper.
At it's worst, it's a terribly frustrating physics puzzler by anyone's standards, and I'm not sure what the presumed target audience of younger gamers is likely to make of it. If you can settle for some occasionally fun levels that are overshadowed by lengthy periods of frustration, have at it. Otherwise you'll be serviced much better by any number of the similar but superior games to be found elsewhere on the App Store.
What's Hot: On paper, the game has some excellently designed levels. When they work, they're great. When they don't, you'll weep.
What's Not: The gameplay will often but not always infuriate you beyond imagination. Sloppy placement of the reset button ices the cake. The in-app purchase offering is disgraceful.