First they took us to ancient Greece, then they thrust us in the middle of a war between the human / elf alliance and the Orcs (yeah, I know what story you’re thinking of). Get ready for their wildest adventure yet, as Pocket Monkey Games takes us deep into the heart of the jungle… to help an odd furry creature swing through the trees? You read that right. In Pocket Monkey’s latest game you help a cute little fuzzball with really long arms try and get as far as it can before it either misses a swing or gets stopped by other nasty forest dwellers. I like the simple, addictive premise, but overall the game feels a bit unfinished and doesn’t live up to Pocket Monkey Games standards.
The game starts out with the wonder Pocket Monkey Games logo screen (after recently going back and playing Sparta, I realized how far the Pocket Monkey monkey has come), and then drops you to the main menu. Conspicuously missing is a button labeled “help”. Not that the game is difficult to figure out, but it did take me a couple of tries to realize how I was supposed to control the little guy. The two most significant buttons are “play” and “challenge”. Being the curious type I clicked “challenge” and was subsequently dumped into mail with an email message stating my high score and challenging whomever I placed in the address line to beat my score. Exiting a program to go to another without any warning is a big no-no in my book.
After killing the email message and exiting mail I returned to the game and clicked “play”. Without any cut scene or anything I just had a jungle view with the main character sitting there, waiting for me to do something. I clicked the screen, and suddenly something shot out, which I later realized was its arm, and I was moving forward. Then I died. I think my score was something like 17 meters. After a couple more massive failures I finally figured out what I was supposed to do. Basically, you click the screen roughly where you want your creature to grab hold of the trees so it can swing. You hold your finger on the screen until the creature has grabbed a branch and then let go so it can complete the swing. The trick is determining when the best time to let go is to get the optimal height and velocity of your swing. If you can get the creature to sail above the branches you’ll get a longer run, but it might be harder to grab the necessary branch as the creature makes its descent. You just have to find a pace that works well for you.
Along the way you’ll run into three different types of creatures. There’s a disgruntled black furball that looks like it has had a really bad day. That guy just stays where it’s at and hopes you accidentally swing into it. Then there’s the slug with the makeshift bamboo propeller apparatus that allows it to fly. This creature just moves up and down to block you, but it seems that once it moves up it doesn’t come back down. Finally there’s the mutated red hornet type thing that will actually make an effort to hunt you down. This is by far the most deadly adversary, though I haven’t across it very often. Once you’ve hit one of these creatures, missed a swing, or swung so low that you drag across the bottom of the screen the game is over. You can enter in a name to be recorded on the high score table, which you have to fill in every time (I don’t know why it can’t use the one you supplied the first time unless you decide to change it). Your scores will also be submitted to OpenFeint if you allow it.
The control scheme is quite simple. Click where you want the creature’s arm to extend towards. The problem is that you have to play with your finger at the top of the screen, and as a result “finger creep” factors into play big time. The game is fast paced enough that you can’t really move your finger away between swings, and as a result it’s often hard to see the next branch so you know what you’re trying to grab. If you do try to play by pressing below the creature its arm will still go up, but your swings will be a lot less accurate.
SwingALing looks good. The main character is a bit small, but all the creatures are nicely detailed and animated. I particularly like how the black furball has a twitching red eye –it’s apparently been up too long and about to explode with some cartoon anger. The background looks good too, and has that traditional Pocket Monkey style where the foremost level is bright and colorful and the more distant layers start to get a washed out, almost pastel like look. The sound effects are good, particularly the snarl of the black furball and the whoop of the slug’s blades. However, it feels like there should be some more background ambiance, especially given that this takes place in a jungle. And where’s the music? I love Pocket Monkey music, and there’s none to be found in this game.
SwingALing has a lot of potential. It’s definitely one of those “Pringles” style games – I dare you to try playing it just once. That being said, I don’t think it’s quite fleshed out enough yet to have that “what do you mean it’s 4:00 am” addictiveness to it. I think it could get there, though. It just really feels to me at this point that SwingALing was rushed out the door a little ahead of its time. I have no doubt that Pocket Monkey Games will work their update mojo and turn this into the game it should be, but unless you love this type of game or are a huge Pocket Monkey Games fan, you might want to wait an update or two on this one.
Overall Score: 6/10
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