A charming game that doesn’t live up to its potential.
The premise is simple: you are a monkey in a zoo, and you want to go home. In true Jetpack Joyride meets Cut the Rope fashion, the game is not trying to tell a good story; rather its main focus is on gameplay. I was briefly entertained by the cute animations in the opening cinematic. What this game does right is its presentation. The artwork was fantastic in its simplicity and I was won over by the happy soundtrack that accompanied my play-throughs. Each scenario had appropriate soundtrack, and I never felt like the environment was disjointed while playing.
The gameplay in Swing Away is one touch, consisting of the player tapping the screen to jump while holding it to grab onto a rope. By letting go of the screen, the monkey flies into the air, and the player taps the screen again to make the monkey grab onto another rope. The object of the game is to obtain the highest score within the time allotted, and this is done by eating fruits while swinging from tree to tree. Time is increased by consuming a time-fruit: the only real power-up in the game. There are also missions consisting of specific actions for your monkey to do. Stages are unlocked after every 15th completed mission. I enjoyed the “achievement” system, and thought it implemented well.
In theory, Swing Away seems like an excellent game. However, what impressions won by the game’s presentation is offset by poor execution in gameplay. The physics engine does an annoyingly poor job of handling the collision between the monkey and rope. The ropes are programmed to move from side to side, but it takes into no account whether the monkey jumps on the rope or whether it crashes into it. Therefore, the reaction by the rope is pretty much indifferent to the actions of the monkey. If anything, it feels like you’re swinging on and crashing into metal poles, which makes it difficult to enjoy the game. (In fact, it actually looks a little painful for the poor monkey sometimes, and its cute squinty smile starts to look more like a grimace…)
The game also falters in the way timing works. For each session, you are allotted 30 seconds to grab as many points as possible. This can be increased by the consumption of time fruits. The idea is good for quick-hit sessions on the bus, but it misses the fundamental aspect of what makes a game addictive: longevity. The best examples of this phenomenon are the games Doodle Jump and Jetpack Joyride. Both games are extremely simple, with decent visuals and effortless controls. But what makes these games addicting is the fact that play-throughs don’t end until the player dies. Even the most legendary example of an extremely successful quick-hit iOS game – Fruit Ninja – has a survival mode. Survival games are traditionally addicting – they differ from other games because their main goal is not to“win”, but to play as long as possible. This is a natural stimulus for addiction where the player subconsciously tries to reach a goal which he or she knows is unattainable. Swing Away might have seriously benefitted from this aspect, which it currently lacks. The player is cut short of his play-through after just 30 seconds, which doesn’t make the play-through satisfying, but rather frustrating. This is heightened by the fact that the timer starts once the player presses ‘start’, and not when the monkey jumps first. This makes the start of every play-through very tense at times, as the player needs to jump immediately after ‘start’ to take advantage of the full thirty seconds. First-time players, unaware of this fact, have to content with the loss of time.
My last gripe about the game is its lack of depth. There is currently one mode in the game, which is a 30 second timed swing-fest… that’s it. As I explained earlier, the game lacks an addictive gameplay that could have easily been solved if there was a mode in which the game would end if the player misses a rope, rather than having a 30 second timer. I would have loved more available power-ups aside from the time fruit given. It definitely would’ve spiced up the gameplay and made it more enjoyable (a fruit giving the monkey temporary flight, double points, or farther swings is an instant seller in my book).
From reading this review you might be turned off by Swing Away. In its present state the feeling is very understandable. However what excites me the most about this game is that the problems I explained can be easily fixed. Modes can be added, physics can be tweaked, and gameplay can be smoother. Hence the idea of Swing Away is actually pretty good. If the physics engine did a better job of collision and recognizing force, the game would be entertaining. I played Swing Away a lot, and there were times where I had a blast playing it. When it works, it’s addictive; but unfortunately, this doesn’t happen frequently. With the App Store, it’s extremely easy to update apps if necessary, and I think the game could greatly benefit from this feature. So is this app worth $0.99? Considering the breadth of games that cost $0.99, I would say no. But there is so much potential in this game that I’d still keep it under my radar.
- Good soundtrack
- Great artwork
- Addictive when it works
- Nice achievement integration
- Physics needs some work
- Lacking in depth,
- Too quick