Gears in Review – Rollin’, Rollin’, Rollin’…

I’m sure many of you were like me and grew up with one of the greatest marble / ball rolling games ever, Marble Madness.  When I got my first iPod Touch there was no sign of Marble Madness, but I did pick up an interesting variant called HydroTilt.  This made me even more anxious for my childhood video game friend.  I’m still waiting for Marble Madness, but after spending some time with Gears that desire has been greatly subdued.  Granted Gears doesn’t have some of the features like enemies that are out to get you, but what it does have is quite an experience indeed.

There is actually a back story to the game, but to be perfectly honest I kind of skipped over it because I wanted to get into the game itself.  The story doesn’t really impact the game any, but it’s there if you want it.  As for the game of Gears, you know the drill – you roll an object (in this case a power collection sphere) around the level, trying to get it from point A to point B.  Along the way there are power gears to collect which affect your overall score at the end of the level.  There are also various items to use or avoid along the way such as moving platforms, buttons that activate certain things when you roll over them and trampolines that will bounce you around the level.  The most important thing to keep watch for is the checkpoint so you don’t have to start the level over from scratch every time you die.

There are 27 levels spread throughout three worlds, and 4 difficulty settings to choose from.  Easy (or Eric mode, as I like to call it) has unlimited lives and no time limit.  I’m still making my way through this one.  The next two difficulty levels add a time limit, with one being more stringent than the next.  There are still unlimited lives, however.  I kind of would have thought that hard might have introduced the concept of lives as a stepping stone, but I guess the developers were still feeling generous.  When you get to brutal you have to do the whole thing with one life.  You can expect to never see me there.

The control scheme is either swipe or tilt.  Of course it feels more natural to use the tilt mode, but oddly enough there is no sensitivity setting for tilt mode.  There are definitely times where it feels like the game is too sensitive.  On the other hand, at least it’s kind enough to recalibrate the sensors at the beginning of each level.  Swipe mode is actually not too bad, and there is a speed setting for this mode.  It just doesn’t seem “right” given that this is a ball rolling game.

What really sets this game apart from its peers is the level design.  It’s not just about rolling a ball through a maze.  These levels are extensive, and they stretch horizontally as well as vertically.  In some respects it almost feels like a third person runner where your person just happens to be an orb.  The nice thing is this adds some fresh mechanics to the game, though on the down side it can make things a bit more complicated to navigate.  Overall it’s a very welcome change from the norm.

The graphics are pretty amazing, especially when you are in areas where you can appreciate the depth of the levels.  There are places where clipping is rather noticeable, mainly revolving around falling down pits.  That’s to be expected from most engines that push the iOS devices to their limits.  The solution, of course, is to avoid falling down pits whenever possible.  The sound effects are okay, though I’m not going to try and pretend they are anything special.  That’s okay, though, because the music more than makes up for it.  I’ll describe the theme for world one as “playful”, while the music for the second world is almost haunting.  I can’t wait to hear what’s in store for world three.

Gears could quite possibly induce some hair pulling, though that will have to wait until you’ve taken just “one more time” to try and conquer a rough section on a level.  The level layouts are equally ingenious and infuriating, but there’s no question they are probably the best among any rolling ball game that is currently available.  This is one of the best games to grace the iPhone screen this year, and you’d be doing yourself a disservice not to take it for a spin.

Kiss it Rating - 5/5

App Summary
Title: GearsDeveloper: Crescent Moon Games
Reviewed Ver:1.0Min OS Req:4.0
Price:$0.99App Size:115 MB
  • This game rocks (and rolls)
  • Wonderful level design
  • Slick graphics
  • Excellent music
  • Can’t switch control schemes during a level
  • No sensitivity adjustment for tilt

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