Back in the long, long ago of my childhood, a quarter was a gateway to many treasures. A huge gumball, two handfuls of M&Ms, and little plastic sculptures were all but a wrist turn on the handle of a vending machine. Probably of all these things, the ones that my parents regretted allowing me to have the most were the wacky wall crawlers. These little elastomer (elastic polymer, no really, it's a real word) toys shaped sort of like an octopus were coated in a slightly sticky chemical. When thrown against a wall, it would stick to it and then 'walk' down the wall like Spider-man after Mardi Gras.
These kids know 'what up'
These were the inspiration for developer First5 Games' new iOS game, Cling!. In it you play as a one-eyed, eight-legged, purple capsule toy named Edgar. His capsule broke on the way to his new owner. That adds up to having to navigate 90 of the most danger filled levels I've experienced in some time.
The gameplay is rather unique to the point where the developer had to create the portmanteau "pegformer" to describe it. Lil' Edgar navigates by grasping on to pegs. He will travel to where you place your finger on the touchscreen. Gravity is still as harsh a mistress as ever. If you take your finger off the screen, Edgar will release his grip and go into free fall.
Everything starts out simple for the first few levels. But before long you have to learn how to use your momentum to jump over pegless gaps. You then have to learn how to avoid electrified walls of death. Spiked pegs soon appear, which you can grab but will die on if Edgar's main body actually touches them. All these elements start to combine asking you to quickly master the controls in order to continue.
What starts off simple soon becomes simply devious and challenging. How challenging? There is an achievement that is unlocked for completing a level after you have died 20 times or more on. Death will come swiftly and often as soon as you move beyond the beginning levels. Luckily, the reloads are quick and the more challenging levels have fairly placed mid-level checkpoints.
Do you need walls of death? Why not Zoidberg?
Part of the challenge is in how not quite intuitive the mobility in the game is. You will be required to have very fine, nearly pixel perfect control, but that is hardly something touch-based controls have been known for. It does help to use the alternate control method of the virtual joystick. Not only is this a bit more precise but you are not blocking a portion of the playable area from view with your hand.
The game is aesthetically pleasing and has a clean animated style. Levels have a sort of mechanical feel to them, which makes sense given that you are trying to escape the world's most convoluted vending machine ever. The music is pleasant enough, but can quickly get repetitive if playing for long stretches. Like many other games these days, there are power-ups that can be purchased through optional microtransactions. You can also purchase purely aesthetic-enhancing digital hats (yes yes, I know... shocking), although many can instead be found hiding in difficult to reach parts of certain levels.
All in all it is a charming title. Its main fault is that a majority of your deaths will result from how loose touchbased controls can be verses how much finesse the level design requires of you. While the price is a bit steep for an app store game (regularly $2.99 but at time of writing is currently on sale for $0.99) it will work on both iPad and iPhone. Play it on the iPad if you have the option as the game is much easier to control with a larger screen. This is a unique, challenging little adventure game that is not for the easily frustrated. If you or your kids need something a little more rewarding, give Cling! a try.
This review is based on a review code of Cling!, provided by the publisher.