iPhone Life magazine

Review: Buganoids by Backflip Studios

This is the perfect example of how to do a freemium game right.  I'm not saying the game itself is perfect, but it is a lot of fun.  And, nothing pops up every five seconds asking you to pay to remove the ads.  In fact, the first time I played the game I thought the ad banner was just the top part of the framework.  I didn't actually realize it contained ads.  If you want to get rid of them you just go into the options, push a button, and confirm that you don't want any more ads.  In fact, this is only the second game I've ever felt compelled to purchase IAP from.  So enough about that, on to the game itself.

The Desert PlanetBuganoids feels kind of like a Tempest clone, but instead of a ship taking out geometric shapes you play a spaceman exterminating bugs from various planets.  To move you simply push buttons to rotate either left or right around the surface of the planet.  Another button lets you fire your weapon, and the last one sets of a bomb that destroys everything on the screen (I guess you'd call it a bug bomb).  There are just a few different kinds of critters that come out of one of three holes on the planet's surface.  When they get to the edge of the planet they'll travel the surface for a bit trying to get you, and then they'll head back towards the center.  Some will go back in the holes, while others will turn around and make another attempt at you.  If one of them catches you, all the bugs will swarm over you and you'll lose a life.  There's also a bird that looks kind of like a crow that shows up on each level, and eventually it will start shooting things at you as well to try and make you lose a life.  Once all your lives are gone, the game is over.

The main thing I don't like about the game is the rotational controls. It's not that they aren't responsive or anything, it's just that the whole panel at the bottom of the screen feels sort of cramped.  I think it would be nicer if the rotational buttons were spread out and you could just tap the planet to use a bomb.  Or maybe you could use the accelerometer to move.  Or at least have the option to configure the controls a bit.  I imagine they are trying to go for an arcade type look and feel, which is cool, but not necessarily practical on a small screen.  The other thing I don't care for is the flame thrower weapon, but that's just a personal choice.  It doesn't have a very good range, and I'm not sure how (or even if) you can kill the bird with it.

Nothing to complain about as far as the graphics are concerned.  The 80's console look is perfect.  There isn't tons of animation, but what's there works quite well given the motif.  On levels where the main character isn't wearing a helmet, I love the expressions on his face when he's getting eaten or when he beats the level.  The planet designs are cool, and kind of remind me of 2D pixilated versions of the Snake Galaxy planets.  The sound compliments the visuals quite well.  The only thing missing is some quality "chiptunes" music as you're actually playing the level.  Still, you only really miss it when you stop to think about it.

The game play is simple, the visuals are cutesy, and the sound is pure 80's console goodness.  All of this equals a great throwback to a time when we didn't need life like 3D graphics and 200 hours of game play to think a game was worthwhile.  Obviously this game won't be for everyone, though its casual nature and free price point might attract those who don't play that many games to begin with.  If you have a few minutes to spare, I'd highly suggest checking it out.  It's not like you've got anything to lose but a few minutes of time.

Overall Score: 8/10
App Store Link

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Eric Pankoke has been a gamer for more than 20 years. He began with arcade games, moving to consoles and eventually handhelds and Pocket PCs. Now he spends most of his time on one of his iOS devices. Eric has written more than 700 gaming reviews, which have appeared on a number of gaming websites as well as several issues of both Smartphone & Pocket PC and iPhone Life magazines. He regularly contributes to iphonelife.com and TouchMyApps. Ultimately he hopes to eventually develop games himself for whatever the hot mobile device is when he finally gets moving.