iPad Game Review: Fun With Death HD Reviewed by Guy Dayen
Few people would dispute the fact that Angry Birds has been one of the most successful games to come along for the iPad; some might even say it is THE most successful game the platform has seen since its inception almost seven months ago. And the iPhone/iPod touch platform was witness to the same success before that. So, it's not surprising that other, quite similar games, would soon make an appearance. Something that successful is bound to inspire a host of imitations and variations. The majority of those later games were simply awful; either the graphics were sub par, or the physics engines were terrible, or, as was most often the case, both. They were hasty, hurried attempts to cash in on a good thing, and it showed. Painfully.
However, two recent entries in the genre are much, much better. In fact, they are worthy to stand in the company of the original phenomenon. One of them is Trucks and Skulls HD, and the other is Fun with Death HD, by Tornado Studios.
In Fun With Death HD, you are the Grim Reaper, an employee of Karma Inc., and you were literally asleep at the switch one day while the eternal sorting of the souls was proceeding apace. Good souls should go upstairs and meet their maker, while the bad souls should experience an afterlife of a much different, and much hotter, sort. Too bad you chose to take a nap, because while you were ?away from your desk?, everything got fouled up and the souls that were making their final journey in Purgatory are all mixed up on a metaphysical plane between Heaven and Hell. And now it?s up to you to sort the whole thing out before anyone really important (if you know who I mean) finds out about your little snafu.
Your primary objective is to fling your little helpers, called imps, into various puzzle levels, in an attempt to drive the bad souls down where they belong, while still preserving the good souls so they can go on to their ultimate reward. This is an interesting game twist on the catapult genre, because you can?t just blindly destroy everything in your path. The good souls must be saved. The imps come in different forms, each with unique abilities, as was the case with the various avian characters of Angry Birds. Using their abilities well will make your rescue attempts much more achievable. The puzzles include many interactive moving elements, like swinging hammers, falling spikes, cogs and conveyor belts. It?s a nice evolution from the mostly static puzzles that are typical of this type of game. There are hint windows that open up in the game to explain what the various game elements are, and how they should be used, so playing Fun With Death HD Is never marred by confusion and uncertainty about what you need to be doing in the game. That?s a definite plus in the gameplay.
To help you along with your task, you have a few elements in limited numbers at your disposal to place in certain predetermined spots in the puzzle layouts. This Rube Goldberg-esque spin is another fun innovation in Fun With Death HD; it allows for more creativity in solving the puzzles you encounter. The more items you put into play, the more you can affect how the imps will interact with the puzzle layout. I found I enjoyed the trial and error of placing different objects in different places, to see what would happen, before settling on the setup that would bring me the most points, and get me the three halos that are up for grabs in each level. Those halos are important by the way; you?ll need them to progress from section to section in the game.
Controls in the game are very natural, and extremely responsive. Placing objects is easy, and the mechanism for viewing imps is well done. The only little glitch I encountered is that when I would pinch and pan to zoom in and out to get a better view of a level, objects I had placed would sometimes disappear if I happened to touch them. It would be nice to be able to lock the objects in place once decisions are made, so looking around the level is a seamless and quick experience.
Collecting halos isn?t the whole point of Fun With Death HD. You also get points for completing each level, of course, and the more good souls you keep ?alive?, the more imps you have left, and the more you made good use of your arsenal of items, the better your score will be. There are sixty levels in the game, and they get pretty tricky, so you?ll be at this for a while! You can unlock achievements and battle your way up the leaderboards through Open Feint.
The graphic design is bright and colorful in Fun With Death HD, and there is a sly sense of humor throughout. One nice touch is the stubble on the Grim Reaper?s jaw. He?s in the same kind of shape I find myself in on a Monday morning after a poor night?s sleep. The character design is fun, and it will appeal to young kids as well as hip adults. The game backgrounds are fairly minimal, but it doesn?t detract from the game. The puzzle layouts and the added items are what are important here. I?d love to see a greater variety of items added in a future update, so that puzzles can be even more intricate than they are now. Half the fun of this game, in my opinion, is to add items to the puzzle and see how everything reacts. Taking a cue from The Incredible Machine would be a wonderful thing to do in order to develop the game even more. After all, why be inspired by only one game when you can mix two and come up with a terrific hybrid? The whole would truly be greater than the sum of its parts.
Music and sound effect are minimal in Fun With Death HD. There is music during cut scenes, but none during game play itself. Sound effects are very simple: wind noises, sounds made by the objects in the puzzle levels and grunts from the imps. It would be nice to have music playing during the game, either in game or from the iPad?s library. Perhaps this could be another area to work on for a future update.
Anybody who likes catapult games like Angry Birds will love this game. It adds enough new elements to keep the experience interesting, and the developers took their time to produce a high-quality game. The physics is the game is spot on, and game elements are very responsive in their interactions as you try to move from level to level.
Trying to achieve three halos on every level adds to the replay value of the game, and because each level has multiple solutions, it?s fun to go back and see what happens with a different approach to the puzzle, or with a new mix of items added to the puzzle layout. There will be many hours spent playing this game, so it?s a good value for the money.
You will enjoy the challenge of the game, as well as the topical sense of humor evident throughout. After all, in these days of economic downturn, it might be very pleasant for some people to confine their banker to the lowest pits of Hell. ;-)
The game is challenging, and even more so as you progress through the levels, but it is easy to pick up and play, and it will appeal to all ages. What?s more, it?s appropriate for all ages, which is always a plus when deciding what games will take up precious space on the iPad. I like a game that the whole family can play.
Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):
Graphics: - 4 - Bright and colorful, very cartoony graphic, suit the sly humor and flair exhibited by the developers of Fun With Death HD. More variety in backgrounds and objects would be a welcome addition to the game. Sound: - 3 - Minimal music and sound effects could be upgraded in a future update to add to this fun gaming experience. Controls: - 5 - Easy plunger-type controls to aim and launch your imps are responsive and very accurate. Choosing and placing objects is a breeze. Gameplay: - 5 - Fun With Death HD is really fun to play. Fans of Angry Birds will be happy to have something new to occupy their time; the experience will be familiar, but with enough differences to justify investing in this game as well. Appropriate for a wide range of ages. A quality title, and a worthy addition to an iPad game library.
Playing Hints and Tips:
- Spend some time exploring all the possibilities for solving each level. Add different elements, and place them in different areas. The game is not timed, so you can think and plan to get the highest score possible, and nab the three halos available at each level.
- Don?t get stuck on one approach. If it just isn?t working, try something completely different. Sometimes, you need to fling an imp straight on at an object or bad soul. But in other situations, Going up and over in a graceful arch might be a better solution to a tricky puzzle.
- Ricochets and rebounds are your friends. Use them frequently!
- If you experience crashes in the game, reboot your iPad. This was an issue for me the first time I played with Fun With Death HD, but the reboot seems to have taken care of that particular problem.