iPhone Life magazine

Review: Kona's Crate by indiePub

When UPS just won’t do, apparently the way to deliver packages is via a platform with little jet engines in it.  Silly premise aside, Kona’s Crate is an interesting physics game that takes the lunar lander concept to the extreme.  The game has 60 levels and the three star, two tier scoring system is sure to keep most patient folks busy for a while, but the control scheme is somewhat frustrating and the time to beat for three stars often feels a bit outlandish.  While at first I found myself willing to try and fight for that third star or a “no bump” run, it eventually got to the point where I just wanted to finish a level and move on to the next.

An Explosive Hallway
 

The chief wants his crates, and it’s up to you to make sure he gets them.  Apparently the contents aren’t important, however, because they explode as soon as you get them to the chief.  Anyway, your method of transportation is a board that has jet propulsion mechanisms on both ends of it.  You tap the left side of the screen for the left jet, and the right side… well, you get the picture.  You can have them both going at once, which will be necessary on a lot of occasions.  The trick is in finding a way to get to your destination as quickly as possible without actually losing control of the board along the way.  My problem is that I can rarely find that balance.

There is no “brake” button, so the only way to slow things down is to either completely release the jets for a bit or fire the opposite jet of the one you were using.  The net result is rarely what you’d hope for, however, since it’s a lot easier to speed up than to slow down in this game.  If you have relatively straightforward levels this isn’t much of an issue, but then relatively straightforward levels aren’t a whole lot of fun.  As a result you have many levels with twists and turns or objects to dodge that really require much more precise control than the current system affords.  I’ve managed to muddle my way through about half the levels, but now I find that more often than not I manage to finish a level by pure luck.  That tends to take a bit of the fun out of things.

Almost To The Chief
 

The tutorial levels, which comprise nearly a third of the game, really don’t do much in the way of tutoring.  Sure they are a bit less complex so that you can theoretically get a feel for controlling the board, but some tips on how to fly the thing as well as methods for keeping control and reach destinations quickly would have been really nice.  The level layouts as a whole have been kind of bland so far, though there have been a few interesting ones (which naturally tend to be the most difficult ones).  Levels have two scoring systems: you can earn one, two or three stars, depending on how quickly you finish the level.  You also earn a vine bonus if you complete the level without touching anything in the level.  Thankfully you can earn these separately, so take all the time you want to get the vine bonus and then book it through the level – if you can – to get the star bonus.

Kona’s Crate is a nice looking game.  The level tiles are detailed and the crate and board are well rendered.  The chief is fairly amusing when he dances, and kind of reminds me of a character from Jimmy Neutron.  Some of the effects like steam and flames are cool as well.  The problem is that there isn’t enough variety.  The tile sets for all three level groups are identical.  The backdrop changes, but you won’t really even notice that except for at the very beginning of the level.  If nothing else, they could have changed the look of the crate and board for each level group.

Block My Path
 

The sound effects are pretty standard, but they work well enough.  One thing that would have been pretty amusing would be to have the chief moan or cheer depending on whether you get the crate to him successfully or not.  On the flip side, the background music is quite good.  There’s even a unique theme for each level group.  Personally, while I don’t want the sound effects to sound weird or out of place (or to be completely absent), I’d rather the audio time be spent on decent music anyway.

I’ve never been a real big fan of the lunar lander style of game play, but conceptually Kona’s Crate is probably the game that would change my opinion of the sub-genre.  However, the current sensitivity of the controls is really keeping me from making that leap.  When playing games where you succeed by earning more stars, I like to earn those stars because I’m actually improving, not because I manage to fumble around and get lucky.  The game looks nice, the music is good, and the general game play is interesting, but until the controls are tweaked I’m ready to put the game aside and move on.

Overall Score: 6/10
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.