iPhone Life magazine

Review: Propel Man by Spiel Studios

I probably say this more often than I should, but it still amazes me that often the most basic concepts can be the most addictive.  Such is the case with the game Propel Man, which falls under the genre of “launch and watch” in terms of game play.  It’s certainly a concept you’ve seen many a time before, but Propel Man presents itself in such a way that it almost feels like a fresh take on the idea.  Slick audio and visual elements certainly don’t hurt the cause either.

Watch The Birds
 

You play a man who seems to have a need to get across town and a possible fear of public transportation.  Instead of playing it safe and taking the bus you decide to hurl yourself through the city sky via a series of rather large catapults.  The distance you travel with each level increases, and eventually you have birds to contend with, but otherwise it’s pretty much smooth sailing as long as you can pick up enough boosts to carry you through to the goal line.  Unfortunately that’s not always going to be the case, at which point you want to be sure to release your parachute before you end up eating some asphalt.

To launch Propel Man you simply tap and hold once to set the force of the launch, and then tap and hold again to set the angle.  Once you let go the second time there will be a three second countdown and off Propel Man goes.  If you have the rocket boost upgrade you can tap that button once for each level of upgrade you have, giving Propel Man a temporary speed burst.  The only other interaction you’ll have is tapping the screen when you’re ready to open Propel Man’s parachute.  In order to at least earn some money for the launch you must open the parachute, but in order to actually pass the level you have to cross the goal line.

Wind Beneath My Wings
 

Along the way you might run into red boosts that give you an extra burst of speed, or green boosts which increase your altitude a bit.  Eventually you’ll start having birds flying around the screen which are bad news if you run into them, but the laser upgrade will make fast work of these foul adversaries.  For each successful landing you’ll earn some money, and as you pass levels you’ll unlock upgrades which in addition to features already mentioned include things like parachutes that give you longer float time and fancier catapults that increase your initial thrust power.

There are a few “odds and ends” improvements that would be nice.  Being able to place the rocket button on the left side of the screen would be wonderful, and making the bird laser interactive to where you had to tap on the birds to use it would add a nice new level of functionality to the game.  While most are self explanatory, a quick description of requirements for each of the Game Center achievements might be useful.  Finally, a little more diversity in obstacles could make things a lot more interesting.

Prepare For Launch
 

The graphics are colorful, cartoon-like and nicely detailed.  The animation is decent, though Propel Man does look a bit like he’s having a seizure when he’s tumbling after a fowl collision.  I like how the four different styles of catapults look different and even change as you level up within the same style.  Too bad they couldn’t apply the same philosophy to the scenery.  The sound effects are pretty decent, and thankfully there are no overbearing, always-on noises to get on your nerves.  The one thing conspicuously absent is any commotion from the birds.  The music is enjoyable, and while not generally my cup of tea it seems to suit the game well.

I’m not going to suggest that you run out and buy every game of this type, because it’s not even particularly my favorite genre.  In fact, if you’re not a fan of this style of game then Propel Man probably won’t sway your opinion.  However, for those that do enjoy the “launch and watch” style of game play this is certainly one of the better ones I’ve played.  Cool visuals and catchy music will entertain you while collecting upgrades and achievements keeps you coming back for more.  I’m not sure about the game’s longevity once you’ve accomplished everything (free play mode is only amusing for so long), but it’s certainly fun while it lasts.

Overall Score: 8/10
App Store Link

Note: This game was reviewed on an iPad 2 running iOS 5.0.1.  The screen shots were provided from an iPad 3.

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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.