iPhone Life magazine

Review: Kickin Momma HD by Hothead Games

So what happens when a weird blue alien decides she needs a string of pearls but has no money?  Why she kicks her kids around the world, that’s what!  In this rather interesting take on the whole Pachinko genre, Kickin Momma has you catapulting your poor children around a variety of environments in order to collect gems that you can turn in for your desired jewelry.  Why not just wear the gems?  Who knows?  In any case, with excellent games like Peggle and Dog Pile on the iOS market, you really have to work hard in this genre to stand out.  There’s no question that Kickin Momma separates itself from the pack, but I just wonder if it’s a bit too over the top.

Three For One
 

Each level is a Pachinko style board with a ton of pegs (or things that pass for pegs) and 10 diamonds.  Your task is to collect a certain number of these gems to move on to the next level.  Your secondary goal is to collect enough points to earn a bronze, silver or gold medal.  Sound familiar?  This to some extent describes a vast majority of the physics based puzzle games that you find on your iOS device.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that, because I like the formula.  However, in Kickin Momma it can get a bit daunting far too often.  Collecting the diamonds is not quite so difficult, but earning the ribbons can be a nightmare.

To aim you drag your finger around the screen, and as a nice little aid a dashed line follows you to indicate where you are aiming.  There is also a handy little viewfinder in the upper left corner that shows precisely where your child will hit once you kick it.  As long as there are no pegs obstructing your way, this makes it easy to target individual diamonds.  Keep in mind, however, that the number of chances you get is usually less that the number of diamonds unless you happen to earn extra lives on a level, and while I do that regularly I still haven’t quite figured out what nets me additional lives.  And of course there’s the fact that generally speaking most of the gems aren’t left unobstructed.

Triple Triangle
 

You can bounce off of pegs and other objects to get rid of them, though some objects will take more than one hit and the objects don’t go away until a turn has ended.  Additionally, even though you hit a diamond, it’s not considered “collected” until it hits the ground and gets sucked up by your industrial strength vacuum cleaner.  As a result, it is possible to knock a diamond from its perch but never actually count it towards your total.  Then there’s the fact that the physics feels a bit outlandish, and while at times the crazy bouncing habits might work to your benefit, more often than not they don’t.  Eventually you get to where you can have multiple children on screen at once, and I have had occasions where there have been 5 children bouncing around and I’ve only hit one diamond.  That seems a bit ridiculous to me.

The other thing I struggle with is how difficult it is to get ribbons.  On most boards I’m lucky to get a bronze ribbon, but even if I do get a silver one, the jump I need to get a gold ribbon is crazy.  There are even a couple of boards that I didn’t manage to earn a bronze ribbon on.  It’s especially frustrating when you work really hard on a board a score a ton of points, just to find out that you didn’t earn a gold or silver.  It seems that the point levels are quite arbitrary, and like the points in the funny TV game show “Whose Line Is It Anyway?”, almost really don’t matter.

Nothin' But Blue Sky
 

Kickin Momma certainly looks good.  The objects on the playing field are pretty tiny, but there is still plenty of detail and the children are nicely animated.  There are also lots of nifty effects like vapor trails that follow the kids, flames atop their heads when they are “on fire” due to score multipliers, and lots of confetti and fireworks when things actually go right.  The best part, however, is watching the mother dance around when she gets gems.  Of course if you start accessorizing her she looks kind of goofy since all the accessories are for men, but I guess that adds to the quirky charm.

The sound effects are decent enough, whether it’s the exclamations of a child being kicked across the screen or an explosion because of some special peg that was hit.  I do like the tones the normal pegs make as a child is bouncing between them, especially if you hit a number of them all in a row.  The tube sucking up the gems sounds pretty cool as well.  The music starts off interesting enough in any given level, but to me it quickly degenerates into a repetitive melody that actually gets kind of annoying if you listen to it for any length of time.

Why So Blue?
 

I think Kickin Momma has a lot going for it, and I won’t deny that I’ve had some fun with it.  However, I think the goals for reaching gold and silver (and sometimes even bronze) ribbons are too lofty and the “physics” are too chaotic.  At the end of the day I’d be more inclined to spend time with Peggle or Dog Pile, but this certainly is an interesting diversion from those games.

Final Score: 7/10
App Store Link

Notes: A promo code for this game was provided by TriplePoint PR, and the game was reviewed on an iPod Touch 4G

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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.